Continuing our discussion on the laws dealing with web accessibility around the world, this blog focuses on the legislations and regulations in the European Union (EU). It should be mentioned here that the European countries have been one of the key funding contributors (besides US and Japan) to the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). To that extent there is an acceptance of the recommendations of the WAI across the EU. But the efforts are not limited only to passive contribution to the WAI. The EU has independently adopted several recommendations from councils and commissions set up especially to address the issue of an inclusive global information society.
The following section lists some of these recommendations and policies.
- The earliest of such effort was in 2000 when the Feira European Council adopted an ‘eEurope Action Plan 2002’ with an objective to improve web accessibility for people with disabilities. In September 2001, the European commission formally adopted the “eEurope 2002: Accessibility of Public Web Sites and their Content”
- This was immediately followed in 2002 by the Seville European Council which launched the ‘eEurope 2005 Action Plan’. This had an objective to provide all citizens of EU an opportunity to participate in the global information society. The action plan aimed at “stimulating secure services, applications and content based on a widely available broadband infrastructure”.
- In the year 2005, on the conclusion of the above program, another initiative was introduced by European Commission named i2010 Strategy Framework. It was the EU policy framework for information society and media and aimed at promoting “the positive contribution that information and communication technologies (ICT) can make to the economy, society and personal quality of life”.
- Also in the year 2005 a report titled the European Commission’s Communication on eAccessibility was adopted. This report proposed a set of policies to foster eAccessibility and exhorted its members and stakeholders for a voluntary positive action for making ICT products and services accessible to far wider group of people in Europe. This report also intended to contribute to the i2010 Strategy Framework.
- In 2007 a study “Measuring progress of eAccessibility in Europe" (MeAC) was commissioned as a follow-up to the European Commission’s Communication on eAccessibility of 2005. The report assessed the then prevailing status of the eAccessibility situation in the member states; state of development of the policy in member states, and the future needs of a new policy or enhancements into current policy.
- Also in 2007, the European Commission’s Communication on “European i2010 initiative on e-Inclusion - to be part of the information society” was adopted. This communication proposed a pan European initiative to create awareness and integrate efforts (to be rolled out in 2008) and a strategic framework for implementation of the Riga Ministerial Declaration on eInclusion.
- The latest on the eInclusion initiative is a best practice report prepared on the entire campaign, which provides a snapshot and some illustrations of the activities and the outputs of this campaign.
This list and the frequency with which the initiatives are being proposed and followed through, should indicate the serious awarded to the issue of web accessibility in the EU. In the Part 2 of this blog i will cover the legislations in some European countries over and above the EU legislations.