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.
Sweden has national guidelines, ordinances and bills requiring web accessibility of public sector websites as well as stipulating that government products and services are accessible to persons with disabilities. Further, Sweden has passed laws requiring that IT products and services should be accessible to and usable by everyone including persons with disabilities, as far as this is at all possible, and this is applicable to all in Sweden. The guidelines are not mandatory and apply primarily to public agencies with responsibility for the procurement, development and maintenance of websites. Sweden has both signed and ratified both the Convention and the Optional Protocol.
Though Sweden was one of the first countries to introduce legislation covering IT accessibility, there is no law in Sweden specifically addressing websites or web accessibility. Swedish policy on web accessibility is a composite of the following laws, policies and guidelines:
• Swedish National Guidelines for Public Sector Websites (24 hour agency web guidelines, 2002): Published by Verva, the Swedish Administrative Development Agency, these guidelines draw heavily from the WCAG and from the legislations listed below. The purpose of the Guidelines is to support the procurement, development, and maintenance of a website by a public administration so that it offers equal opportunity usage for all citizens. Subsequent versions have taken later EU Action Plans, e.g. i2010, into account. Verva, which was a central advisory agency, was shut down at the end of 2008 and no other agency has been empowered to look into e-accessibility. While these guidelines are not mandatory, they are followed by a significant proportion of the public sector agencies.
· Swedish Ordinance 2001:526: Ordinance (2001:526), which is concerned with the responsibility of national authorities for the implementation of disability policy, states that government agencies are responsible for ensuring that their activities, premises and information are accessible to citizens with disabilities. This work includes conducting inventories and drawing up working plans.
• Swedish Government Bill 2004/05:175 – The Government bill entitled “From an IT Policy for Society to a Policy for the Information Society (Government bill 2004/05:175)” says that IT must be accessible to everyone. Infrastructure and being able to utilize technology are important factors and necessary for success.
• Swedish Government Bill 1999/2000:79: This is the Government’s Working Plan for Disability Policy “From Patient to Citizen” and was passed by the Swedish Parliament in 2000. It says that IT products and services should be accessible to and usable by everyone as far as this is at all possible, including persons with disabilities. It is applicable to everyone in Sweden.
· Disability Ombudsman Act (1994:749):
The Disability Ombudsman shall work to ensure that inadequacies in statutes and other enactments as regards people with disabilities are remedied. The Disability Ombudsman monitors the rights and interests of people with disabilities. The objective is that people with various kinds of disabilities should be able to participate fully in the life of the community and live on the same terms as others.
• Prohibition of Discrimination in Working Life of People because of Disability Act (1999:132):
This legislation safeguards the rights of the disabled in the workplace, ensuring that a disabled person is accorded the same position and treatment as any other employee and that disabled persons are not discriminated against in the grant of employment and in other aspects of employment.
2. Compliance with WCAG:
The Guidelines draw heavily from WCAG 1.0, and are almost completely compliant with them (only three guidelines are not included).
The Guidelines are not mandatory. The main subjects of the Guidelines are those people in Swedish public administrations with responsibility for the procurement, development and maintenance of websites. However, these can be used by the private sector as well. The Swedish Government’s Action Plan, encapsulated in Government Bill 1999/2000:79, applies to one and all — authorities, county councils, municipalities, companies and organizations.
4. Protocol for evaluating and monitoring:
Until it was shut down in 2008, Verva regularly performed automated testing on over 900 public administration websites, checking specific pages against various criteria from the Guidelines. The most recent benchmarking study was performed in April 2008 and clearly showed that the Guidelines were also being applied.
1. Swedish National Guidelines for Public Sector Websites
2. Prohibition of Discrimination in Working Life of People because of Disability Act
3. The Disability Ombudsman Act