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Next Step in European Legislation in Web Accessibility

Posted on May 31, 2018

Susanna Laurin

Chief Research and Innovation Officer, Funka and IAAP Representative to the EU

Europe is moving from recommendations to legislation when it comes to accessibility. In September this year, the Web Accessibility Directive will enter intro force, with requirements for public sector in all EU member states to comply with the EN301549 standard when it comes to websites, extranets, intranets, documents and apps.

On May 18, the European Commission published the draft implementing acts to go with the directive for public hearing. In the ensuing four weeks till June 15, comments are welcome on the proposed monitoring methodology as well as the model accessibility statement.

Proposed monitoring methodology

The draft implementation act consists of a combination of qualitative and quantitative testing based on ideas presented in the SMART (2014/061) study and recommendations from the WADex Sub-Group.

The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods are chosen to provide details on the level of accessibility of specific websites as well as trends supporting the member states in pointing to issues or sectors where more training is needed.

The qualitative in depth testing of compliance covers all success criteria in the EN-standard, and is to be performed on a smaller number of websites, intranets, documents and apps. In the in depth testing, stepwise processes and user interaction with forms must be tested, such as e-services. Also, user testing may be used to perform the in depth testing.

The quantitative simplified testing of non-compliance is to be performed as cluster sampling on a larger number of websites. In the simplified testing for non-compliance, the needs of all user groups covered in the EN standard must be tested.

Three key parts here are:

  • At least 20% of the websites selected for in depth monitoring will be decided in collaboration with end user organisations.
  • Simplified tests need to cover all target groups in the EN-standard.
  • In depth tests must include interactivity, and stepwise services.

Number of websites to monitor

  • The monitoring is to be performed annually.
  • The size of the sample is based on the population in each member state:
  • In the first and second monitoring period, two websites per 100,000 inhabitants plus 75 websites are selected for the quantitative simplified testing.
  • The third monitoring period and onwards, three websites per 100,000 inhabitants plus 75 websites are selected for the quantitative simplified testing.
  • The in depth testing is to be performed on at least 5% of the number of websites used for simplified testing, plus 10 websites.
  • For the in depth testing of mobile apps, one app per 1,000,000 inhabitants plus six mobile apps are to be tested.
  • If the number of websites or apps in a member state is less than the number required, at least 75% of all websites and 50% of all mobile apps are to be tested.

This means that a small country like Denmark would perform 246 simplified and 22 in depth tests every year from the third monitoring period onwards, whereas a large country like Italy would perform 1975 simplified and 104 in depth tests.

Selection of websites to monitor

The selection of websites and apps are to be diverse, representative and geographically varied. The websites are to cover national, regional and local levels of administration as well as a range of different sectors. At least 20% of the websites selected for in depth monitoring should be chosen after consultation with disabled persons organisations.

When it comes to apps, frequently downloaded apps are to be covered, as well as different operating systems and versions of apps.

The sample of websites and apps is to include at least 10% websites and apps monitored in the latest monitoring period, and at least 50% that was not tested in the previous monitoring period.

An industry perspective

First a disclaimer; I have been deeply involved in much of this work so I am not objective. To me, this proposal has many good components, even if it has been somewhat diluted and softened. There is, of course a lot of politics in this. And there are large differences in maturity, conditions and, frankly, will to do right, between in the member states. I am happy to highlight the combined testing methods, the end user involvement and quality criteria for simplified testing in the draft. This reflects some of the ideas Funka (and others) have been promoting.

From an IAAP perspective, the need for more experts in Europe is clear. Staying true to the IAAP mission, I think the draft is well thought through and balanced. The Accessibility industry will need more boots on the ground, everywhere.

And some critical points of view

Unfortunately, some crucial items have been taken out of the draft:

  • The recommendation is to change the simplified tests over time, to make sure all success criteria is taken into account. The draft has softened the requirement of the Sub-Group to the possibility for member states to alter the tests over time. That is a shame.
  • For the central monitoring agency to be able to use the evaluation done at website owner level, it cannot be older than three years according to the draft. Three years seem an extremely long time. In the Sub-Group recommendations, the maximum is one year.
  • The quality criteria recommended by the Sub-Group has been omitted. This means it will be difficult to make sure the evaluations are comparable to the member state level monitoring.
  • In the draft model Accessibility Statement, the link to evaluation is optional, which means the website owner does not have to publish it. This will not help either the end user or the monitoring agency.

One item that has been discussed for a long time is the number of monitored websites and apps. In the draft, the number is much lower than what the Sub-Group recommended. To me personally, this is less important than the quality aspects, but still there is – obviously - a need for policing. From a Funka point of view, the control mechanism will always be of less importance than promoting the positive effects of increased accessibility. I hope the final implementing acts will mirror that.

Susanna Laurin

CEO, Funka

Pennholder for the WADex Sub-Group on monitoring

G3ict and IAAP Representative to the EU

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