Alongside the main sessions of the EU Accessibility Summit, a number of side events were also held. EUD attended the event on “end user involvement – how does the feedback mechanism work in real life?” as well as on “the European Accessibility Act ‘to maximise the foreseeable use’, but how?” If you are interested to learn more, follow the link below to the articles.
Session: End user involvement – how does the feedback mechanism work in real life?
The feedback mechanism is an essential part of the Web Accessibility Directive (WAD). The WAD requires this so users can flag accessibility problems or request information published in a non-accessible content. But still, not all public sector bodies are taking care of the user feedback in a constructive way. This session included a presentation of results from studies and research projects on how persons with disabilities are contributing to the enforcement of the directive. Good examples were presented, and a panel of key stakeholders discussed the current situation and how the process can be further improved.
The moderator began the session by asking, ‘what would encourage public sector bodies to promote the feedback mechanism to users and how should they do this?’ One panellist answered that their tactic to ensure higher levels of feedback, was to implement the feedback mechanism in the accessibility statement. They encourage public sector bodies to also take this approach. Another panellist replied that from the Finnish perspective, the feedback from end users has shown that this can be used to easily fix any problems to make things accessible for all users. This helps public sector bodies to avoid dealing with enforcement bodies if they aren’t fully accessible with their resources. Therefore, the feedback mechanism is hugely important for this. However, awareness must be raised about the feedback mechanism by public sector bodies so that end users know it exists. Additionally, an effort must be made to put a process in place for how accessibility feedback is dealt with in the organisation. A further panellist pointed out that, in the public sector, an awareness of how valuable it is to understand the user and their journey is needed in order to capture much more of the experience and gain a full appreciation accessibility. Finally another problem is the lack of data about the number of users with disabilities using certain websites, and this data is required to understand the accessibility needs.
The moderator then asked, ‘if you had the power to make the changes to the feedback mechanism when the directive is reviewed, what changes would you make?’ One panellist stressed the need for guidance on the feedback mechanism, and that this guidance must be standardised in the public sector. In this way, there would then be a consistent format available, and users would be familiar with it. Another argument was that the WAD needs more time to mature as the feedback mechanism is good, so it’s too early to start regulating it more.
Panel: European Accessibility Act – “to maximise the foreseeable use”, but how?
As large and small market players prepare for the new legislation, the need for detailed requirements is increasing. A set of new and updated standards will be developed to support the act, but while we wait for that result, what can be done in the meantime? In this session, the upcoming standardisation work was presented, and practical use cases were discussed in a panel of industry representatives, policy makers and standardisation experts.
Susanna Laurin, Chief Research and Innovation Officer, Funka, opened the session, introducing the topic – standardisation and designing for all.
Enrique Garcia Cortes, Accessible Technologies Senior Technician in the ONCE Foundation / Inserta, was asked ‘from your perspective what would you say are the most common problems for instance on e-commerce solutions as a person with a disability?’ Mr Garcia Cortes replied that in Spain when different standards are presented to different companies of the third sector or public government, from the perspective of inclusion, the problem is that people working there do not have the training or requirements to apply these accessibility requirements. The moderator then asked Enrique, ‘the EAA is a big step but there’s still a long way to go, so what would it take to make a real difference in everyday life for persons with disabilities?’ Enrique replied that the needs must be made clear in order to create the best standard, and so that companies to understand standards properly. Secondly, the standards exist, so it is important that products are created with the needs of persons with disabilities from the beginning.
Emaculada Placencia Porrero, Senior Expert on Social Affairs, Disability and Inclusion Unit, DG EMPL (Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission) mentioned the issue of low compliance in governments. In order to ensure that the legislation has an effect and that there is good enforcement, it is essential is to have clear requirements.
Dr Leon Molenberg, Senior Policy Advisor, E-Commerce Europe, outlined that in terms of businesses’ knowledge of the EEA, it’s twofold, as they started to inform their members on this last year, however national associations are at different stages – some are progressing well with monitoring tools, but others are not. Dr Molenberg emphasised the need for easy monitoring instruments, for businesses to discern how they are improving in accessibility. The importance of input from persons with disabilities to test the services of websites was stressed.