EPRSLibrary By / March 20, 2013

Improving the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites

Updated on 28 October 2013 Web-accessibility refers to principles and techniques to be followed when constructing websites so that online…

@ASk / Fotolia

Updated on 28 October 2013

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@ASk / Fotolia

Web-accessibility refers to principles and techniques to be followed when constructing websites so that online content is accessible to all users, in particular those with disabilities. Despite the fact that many national authorities in Europe are committed to the accessibility of public websites and most Member States have introduced guidelines or regulation based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0, the level of accessibility of government websites remains very low. In order to improve the situation the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive on the accessibility of the public sector bodies’ websites which is currently awaiting IMCO’s committee decission at the EP (2012/0340 COD). The proposal foresees to introduce mandatory accessibility in 12 types of public sector online services, like social security and health related services, job searches, university applications and issuing of personal documents and certificates. It is important that basic services are available to the 80 millions citizens estimated to have a disability in the EU, number which is set to increase given the demographic change with the aging of the population.


Web Accessibility overview in the Digital Agenda for Europe Portal, includes an overview of the main support mechanisms at EU level in terms of legislation, research and innovation funding instruments, as well as information regarding the accessibility of EU websites: Since January 2010, all new EUROPA websites have been created in compliance with WCAG 2.0, level AA success criteria.


Study on economic assessment and evaluation of recommendations for improving e-accessibility services and products – Final report, Technosite 2012,: The main focus of the study was the analysis of the benefits and costs of improved e-Accessibility for society as a whole and for the organisations providing ICT based services.The three technology domains covered are Web Accessibility, Digital Television and Self-Service Terminals, with a predominant focus on Web Accessibility.

Commission Staff Working Paper Impact assessment accompanying the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites, SWD (2012) 402 Final: includes an analysis of the different policy options as well as information from the different stakeholder consultations undertaken.

EP initial appraissal of the EC impact assessment SWD(2012) 402 Final, 2013: provides an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the European Commission’s Impact Assessment accompanying the proposal for a Directive on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites (COM (2012) 721).

Stakeholder views and background documents

European Council conclusions supporting the Commission’s communication “Towards an accessible information society” (COM (2008) 804), 2009

Main four Digital Agenda actions which the EC has planned on eAccessibility:

  1. Action 63: Evaluate accessibility in legislation, for an update on the progress and next steps on this action follow the link
  2. Action 64: Ensure the accessibility of public sector websites, for an update on the progress and next steps on this action follow the link
  3. Action 65: Helping disabled people to access content, for an update on the progress and next steps on this action follow the link
  4. Action 67: Member States to implement provisions on disability, for an update on the progress and next steps on this action follow the link

eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 calls for the development of services designed around user needs and ensuring inclusiveness and accessibility.

European Commmission European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, this is the ten-year EC strategy for people with disabilities, including actions to make websites and more broadly ICT accessible to people with dissabilities.

European Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement of Products and Services in the ICT Domain: Final Draft of Mandate 376 for review

Relevant Parliamentary question on the issue in the current legislature: EP question P-3118/10

Towards an accessible information society,  Report on the Public Consultation on web accessibility and other e-accessibility issues COM(2008) 804 final: Includes the analysis and views of  161 responses received to the public consultation. They represent various stakeholder groups, including individual citizens with and without disabilities (12% each), research experts and centres (30%), public authorities (14%), business and industry associations (16%) and user organisations (12%). Some stakeholders also sent position papers.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: UNCRPD). Article 9 of the Convention requires that appropriate measures are taken to ensure access for persons with disabilities, on equal basis with others, to inter alia information and communication technologies, including the Internet.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 issued by the World wide web consortium (W3C) as part of the Web accessibility initiative.

Web accessibility campaign from the EUroepan Dissability Forum, EDF:  The European disability movement believes that only an EC proposal with a wider scope and a binding enforcement mechanism will bring a real change.

Free movements and equal opportunities for all (LivingAll) project: Work Package 4, detection of main barriers, Compass Sozial- und Gesundheitsverein, 2007:  it identifies complaints from users regarding accessibility.(broadly)


Monitoring eAccessibility in Europe MEAC studies, Technosite 2010 and 2011: Two annual reports have been produced in this study. The “2010 Annual Report”, includes comparisons by technology/policy and by country. The “2011 Annual Report”, includes also comparisons over time.

Study report on Web accessibility in European countries: level of compliance with latest international accessibility specifications, notably WCAG 2.0, and approaches or plans to implement those specifications, Empirica and the Work Research Center, 2009

EU programmes and projects

Research and Innovation – eAccessibility projects: Information on the EC programmes funding instruments, such as the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) and the Competitiviness and Innnovation programme (CIP)

Full list of EU research projects funded

WAI-ACT, a FP7 Cooperation Framework for Guidance on Advanced Technologies, Evaluation Methodologies, and Research Agenda Setting to Support eAccessibility. The project seeks to address critical areas of advanced accessibility support through activities that build upon the strengths of both past web accessibility work and harmonize existing work

Related legislative procedure(s)

Accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites – 2012/0340(COD): The proposal will complement the European Accessibility Act  that the Commission is preparing.

IMCO’s Committee draft report PE513.011 from 23/05/2013

Amendments tabled in committee PE514.740 from 18/07/2013

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