European Commission proposes to introduce mandatory accessibility features

The European Commission sent out a press release on Monday to propose rules to make government websites accessible for all. That release went out the same day as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities organized by the United Nations. The two topics are intimately related with growing numbers of persons with disabilities not having equal access to online services across the world. The UN estimates that over 1 billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.

The European Commission observes that over 100 million citizens would find it easier to use online public service, outlining 12 areas where introducing mandatory EU standardized accessibility features would greatly benefit them. The websites falling under the proposed Directive span areas such as:

  • Declaration of income taxes
  • Job searches
  • Different types of benefits such as social security
  • Personal documents
  • Car registration
  • Public libraries
  • Health-related services

The press release mentions that only one third of Europe’s 761,000 public sector and government websites are fully accessible. That leaves a lot of room for improving access to those type of sites, not to mention for-profit and non-profit sites as well. It’s also noteworthy to see that the EU not only takes into account the 80 million European citizens with disabilities but also the 87 million Europeans aged over 65. The sense of urgency brought forward by the EU is welcome for persons with disabilities but also for all Internet users since accessibility features often deliver an overall better online experience.