Account services

Accessibility

Accessibility is fundamentally a matter of non-discrimination. According to article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation is not allowed. (Emphasis added for the most relevant grounds in accesibility for the web).

Additionally, while a commercial entreprise can make a cost-benefit analysis on whom to exclude from their website, an EU agency can not. Government is for all citizens.

In 2007 the Commission launched an e-Inclusion initiative.

On 12 June 2006, ministers of 34 European countries endorsed a pan-European drive to use information and communication technologies to help people to overcome economic, social, educational, territorial or disability-related disadvantages.

Two of the targets of this Riga Ministerial Declaration are to ensure that all public websites are accessible by 2010 and by 2007, make recommendations on accessibility standards and common approaches, which could become mandatory in public procurement by 2010. Full press release of Riga Ministerial Declaration.

On 13 September 2005, a new EC Communication on eAccessibility was adopted following a public consultation at the beginning of the same year. Following on from the Communication, a study spanning 2005 to 2006 will identify and evaluate measures that have a significantly positive impact on eAccessibility and support the Community eAccessibility strategy. The results of the study will be available in early-2007. An overall evaluation of all previous policy initiatives will follow in order to establish, if necessary, additional measures and legislation. It will also contribute to the upcoming 2008 European Initiative on eInclusion.

On 25 September 2001 the Commission adopted the Communication eEurope 2002: Accessibility of Public Web Sites and their Content on improving the accessibility of public Web sites and their content.

The aim is to make Web sites more accessible to people with disabilities and older people. We're talking about people who; may not have or be able to use a keyboard or mouse; may have a text-only screen, a small screen (think mobile phone), or a slow Internet connection; may not speak or understand fluently the language in which the document is written etc.

Tip

The commission has aligned its effort with W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative. You can therefore just follow W3C specifications.

Importance of Accessibility. What does this mean for you.

There are several reasons why Web accessibility is important:

(*)The disabilities that Web accessibility is concerned with encompass users who are: blind or visually impaired, e.g. various common types of poor eyesight, various types of colour blindness motor impaired, e.g. Parkinson’s Disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, stroke cognitively impaired, i.e. poor short-term memory (as commonly caused by senile dementia), dyslexia hearing impaired or deaf non-native speakers of the website's language(s) (including users of sign languages)

The estimates of the number of people in the European Union directly affected by some form of disability vary from 8 to 14 %.

Source: European Community Household Panel (ECHP) Survey

Picture of wheelchair inaccessible cashpoint
Accessibility is not always obvious for designers
Often a single design choice can create problems. What is wrong with this cash point? It is inaccessible for wheelchair users.

Benefits of enhanced accessibility

Designing websites with accessibility in mind can often enhance usability for all users; these users also include automated access to the site, such as search engines.

Major benefits:

Accessibility standards do not only involve handicaps like visually impared people but also make the information available to a wider range of devices and applications.

For example, it is now possible to access the home page via any mobile device and be able to read the latest highlights, look up an environmental term for explanation. or send a question to us. Other benefits are the better use of the screen width. Nowadays people use very different kinds of screens. Use of flat screens is growing more and more and also use of high resolution. An accessible design will use screen estate efficiently.

Policy and legislation documents

Examples of issues

How can language be an accessibility issue?
Eventhough most content here is in English, not all speak English equally well. Therefore avoid complex language. Another more technical issue is that the web is currently in a transition phase from 8-bit character sets to Unicode. If you are not developing with Unicode in mind, then people in most Eastern European countries will not be able to enter some of the letters of their alphabet. Bulgaria (България) and Greece (Ελλάδα) have entirely different alphabets.
How can colour blindness be an accessibility issue?
Colours are perceived differently by a person who is colour blind. In this case, his or her cone photoreceptors respond abnormally, or not at all. When using colour on your Web page, or in your images, charts or graphs, make sure that all information is clearly available without colour. Try to print the page on a black & white printer. If it works, you are already close.
Why should I not make a link around click here?
When blind people browse the web, they use a Braille reader or a text speaker. In most cases they have a tool to only speak the headings or links on the page. This enables them to make a shortcut through the "chaff". But if the text speaker only says "click here", then they can't discern what the link links to.

Awareness raising: Importance of HTML headings for accessibility

Watch as a blind person demonstrates the screen reader JAWS and explains how he navigates the web jumping from heading to heading. Duration: 8 minutes 41 seconds.

This video explains why headings are so important for blind persons. Watch it on YouTube.

Specifications and guidelines