Skip to main content

Procure Accessibility – Think Big!

Posted on November 19, 2019

Susanna Laurin

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

Content management systems, CMS, can make a huge difference when it comes to accessibility. It is extremely important to choose a tool where functions and templates don’t create accessibility problems. However, almost equally important is the potential the CMS has to help the web authors to do the right thing.

Each time someone is out there shopping for an authoring tool, the buyer can influence suppliers by requiring built-in accessibility features and support systems. In public sector, even more can be done, because of the enormous purchasing power.

Since 2017, the EU Procurement Directive makes it easy to require accessibility, which is increasingly done, despite the lack of enforcement mechanisms. With the Web Accessibility Directive, focus is on compliance of the websites, extranets, intranets, documents and apps – existing as well as new ones. This regulation will be monitored, with those agencies that do not comply risking to face a fine. Many public sector bodies in the EU are currently struggling to make sure everything is accessible in time.

Funka has recently led a research project, funded by the European Union (EU), where we investigated the potential for authoring tools to both provide accessibility features by default and to offer support when it comes to the manual work of web authors who publish online.

Great potential for accessibility in CMS but top-down support is needed

To make it hard or impossible for the web authors to make mistakes would be much more efficient than training them to do the right thing. I am certainly not against raising the knowledge and awareness when it comes to accessibility, but the sheer number of people who need to be trained and kept up to date makes it clear that training alone won’t be the answer.

The result of this project shows that there is a lot of potential for built-in accessibility in CMS. All of the tools that were tested during the project had the possibility to increase their level of accessibility when it comes to technology and user-support systems.

This is of course encouraging, but it will never be put in practice if there is not sufficient demand. So here is my suggestion: Why don’t the governments in the European Member States make nationwide framework procurement contracts with suppliers and providers of CMS who comply with accessibility standards (in this case, relevant parts of EN301549)? Make accessibility by default an award criterion, or a minimum requirement (if you dare).

If any government has the guts to do this, we are more than happy to help. Pushing the market towards accessibility by default in CMS has disruptive potential.

About the project

The We4Authors project is a pilot action funded by the European Parliament. Funka has led the 1.5 year-long project, partnering with CTIC and collaborating with the European Disability Forum (EDF), the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN), the consumer voice in standardisation ANEC, as well as producers and suppliers of CMS.

we4authors project website
About the Web Accessibility Directive