Web Accessibility Policy Making:
An International Perspective
This document is an excerpt from the G3ict White Paper “Web Accessibility Policy Making: An International Perspective,” (Revised Edition 2012) researched and edited by Nirmita Narasimhan of Centre for Internet & Society, India, in collaboration with accessibility and disability policy experts from around the world. The paper seeks to identify some of the initiatives and best practices which have been adopted by 14 countries and the European Union as a first step towards policy formulation for countries.
Portugal has put in place web accessibility guidelines for public websites, while no specific legislation has been enacted. The guidelines do not refer in particular to the WCAG. However, it may be inferred that they are broadly on the same lines at a high level. Portugal has also instituted some initiatives for compliance by the private sector with the accessibility guidelines. Further, there is a mechanism instituted to evaluate compliance and to receive suggestions and resolve complaints for improvement. Portugal is a signatory to both the UNCRPD and the Optional Protocol.
Portugal does not have any specific legislation mandating web accessibility but has taken several measures to put accessibility guidelines for public websites in place and has passed a resolution in Parliament on accessibility. The measures taken by Portugal are outlined below:
• Accessibility of Public Administration Websites for Citizens with Special Needs (Resolution of the Council of Ministers Nº 97/99):
There is no direct legislative measure in Portugal that imposes a clear legal requirement for website accessibility. However, as far back as 1999, the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No 97/99 stated that information layout and presentation in public administration websites (central and local) should allow or facilitate access by persons with special needs. The resolution stated that accessibility should address, at a minimum, the relevant information for understanding and searching the website’s content. The principles behind the resolution are providing benefits of the information society to all; giving priority to develop products and services for persons with special needs; promoting universal design, carrying out requisite R&D to integrate persons with special needs in society; reinforcing co-operation between users and the public and private sectors in developing accessible products; and raising society’s awareness of the need to integrate people with special needs.
Other measures: Under Axis 1: Accessibility and Information, Strategy 1.2 of the 1st Action Plan for the Integration of the Persons with Disability or Incapacity (PAIPDI) (2006-2009) there is a measure to guarantee the application of web accessibility standards to all public websites. Action 2.5(b) of the National Plan for the Promotion of Accessibility (PNPA) 2007-2015 refers to electronic access to public services. This action is intended to ensure access for people with a disability (namely, people with vision and hearing impairments) to public services available in electronic format. Action 7.2 of the National Program for the Inclusion of Disabled People in the Information Society is to promote training and incentives regarding internet usage by disabled people. In 2000, the team of the ACESSO Unit (i.e. unit dealing with accessibility) of the Ministry of Sciences, Technology and Higher Education’s Unit for Innovation and Knowledge (UMIC) published a brochure about “visibility requirements” to support the improvement of existing public websites.
It defined a set of basic accessibility requirements and the inherent technical specifications that allow for visiting the site. Since then, UMIC has also carried out several activities like publishing technical specifications, guidance papers and CD-ROM toolkits (Portuguese translation of WAI guidelines), providing training on web accessibility, etc.
2. Compliance with WCAG:
The Portuguese law does not mention the WCAG explicitly but there is a broad reference to the general guidelines of the WCAG in the resolution.
Article 1, Point 1.1 of the Resolution provides that the information made available by General Directorates and similar agencies, departments or services, as well as that rendered available by any public corporations must permit or facilitate access thereto to all citizens with special needs. These General Directorates and agencies include universities, schools, and state held corporations like state television, radio, and banks.
4. Protocol for evaluating and monitoring:
Article 5 of the Resolution makes the Minister for Science and Technology responsible for monitoring and evaluating the enforcement of this Legislative Act, and informing the government regularly of progress. Action 1.2 of the National Program for the Inclusion of Disabled People in the Information Society (2003) established a mechanism for monitoring and receiving suggestions and claims concerning public website accessibility and general ICTs used in public administration services. In 1999, the Minister of Science and Technology set up a support unit, ACESSO, to monitor the implementation of the National Initiative for People with Special Needs in the Information Society and propose appropriate measures and technical solutions. It is the responsibility of this task force, for example, to support the government and public services in the designing of accessible websites for persons with disabilities.
1. Resolution of the council of ministers concerning the accessibility of public administration websites for citizens with special needs
2. Portuguese Web Accessibility Legal Resources
3. Overview of accessibility of ICT in Portugal