EDF, Age Platform Europe & ANEC urge the Council to support the Parliament’s position on web accessibility

26 February 2014

Today Members of the European Parliament have shown their strong commitment to a more inclusive internet for all. The Parliament's report on the proposal for a Directive on the Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies' Websites has introduced extremely valuable changes to the Commission proposal. These will benefit the majority of citizens across the EU and will boost the web-developing European marketplace, giving a perfect example of how a piece of legislation can contribute to inclusive growth in the digital field.

Unfortunately, the Council is lagging behind and has not started the negotiations on this important piece of legislation yet. For this reason, EDF, Age Platform Europe and Anec call on all Member States, and especially the Greek Presidency, to prioritize this dossier and endorse the Parliament’s position.

Currently, less than one third of public websites are accessible, while over 60% of the European population accesses the Internet everyday. Many citizens, especially persons with disabilities and older people, are excluded from taking full advantage of the internet since the websites are not properly designed for them. The European Parliament has understood that it is certainly feasible to change this situation by following the worldwide acknowledged accessibility guidelines which are already incorporated in a European Standard (EN 301 549 from Mandate M/376). Developing websites in compliance with the accessibility requirements will enable everyone living in the EU to access all the information and functionalities available online regardless of their age or disability. This is even more fundamental for those websites belonging to the public sector and providing essential services to the public.

The Parliament’s vote today has widened the scope of the Directive to cover all public websites as well as those services of general interest provided online and has proposed the necessary institutional mechanisms to enforce this legislation with the main stakeholders involved in the process. We are thankful for this strong support and we want to remind both the Council and the Commission that it is time to take the lead on inclusive policies like this and fulfill previous political commitments regarding web accessibility such as the the 2006 Ministerial Declaration of Riga in which the European countries committed to ensure accessibility of all public websites by 2010; the Digital Agenda for Europe which stated that web accessibility would be delivered by 2015, the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the EU in 2011, in which accessibility is one of the general obligations.

80 million Europeans with disabilities, 150 million aged over 50, and many citizens without high ICT skills would benefit from this legislation. Furthermore, the market of web-developers, which employs more than 1 million people, will be able to work across the EU, and governments will not need to establish costly alternative means to provide information or services because of the inaccessibility of their websites.

Once again, we urge the Council and the Commission to push for this legislation and start the negotiations as soon as possible. Those millions of citizens have waited long enough.


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