This is the fourth of a series of interviews with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). In this interview, we spoke with MEP Dita Charanzová about her expectations for the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act. She also shared her views on key regulations about digital services, digital gatekeepers, and artificial intelligence. We also discussed how to achieve a more inclusive EU for consumers with disabilities.
Question: The European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) was instrumental in adopting key accessibility legislation, such as the Web Accessibility Directive of which you were the rapporteur, and the European Accessibility Act. What are your expectations as for these laws?
Answer: Each of these laws was a step towards the full inclusion of persons with disabilities into the digital transformation. However, they were only the first steps. I hope they will mean that government and ‘essential’ private sector services are fully accessible and meet the highest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, going beyond what is the minimum in the laws. There are, of course, parts of the laws which must be addressed in the future, especially the disproportionate burden clause. But I expect them to be implemented as much as possible.
Question: Now IMCO is discussing key regulations about digital services, digital gatekeepers, and artificial intelligence. How would you ensure alignment with existing accessibility requirements? Do you think these regulations can help achieve accessibility for persons with disabilities not only as consumers but also as experts and employees in the digital sector?
Answer: I believe that these laws can move us beyond government and ‘essential’ services. For example, there is no reason why an online platform is not accessible. These are also ‘essential’ services to much of our society today. The more sites that are designed to be accessible, the more accessible will become the default and IT experts will have this as part of their basic training. I think this will help bring accessibility far beyond what is in the law alone.
Question: In addition to legislation, what other elements should the EU support in order to achieve a more inclusive EU for consumers with disabilities?
Answer: We must first support making Web Accessibility the default in all web design software and platforms. If it is the default to add Metadata to images or to use accessible typefaces and colours, it will be far more common. Even web designers do not change defaults.
Second, we need to make accessibility part of the training in computer science classes and public administration classes throughout Europe. If we want accessibility to work in practice, the right employees need to know they have to do it and how to do it.