On 21st September, EUD followed the virtual event “Celebrating the Web Accessibility Directive’s Third Anniversary” hosted by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) and the European Disability Forum (EDF). The recording of the event can be watched itt.
The event was opened with a general overview on the Web Accessibility Directive (WAD) by EDF. Specifically, the importance of this Directive at making public sector websites and mobile applications more accessible was restated. The WAD provides tools to ensure more digital accessibility also by harmonising web accessibility standards within the different Member States of the EU. EDF Executive Director, Ms Catherine Naughton, emphasised the need for the WAD to further expand in the future. However, she also acknowledged the difficulties ahead due to the uncertainty of how digital services will evolve in the years to come. In order to ensure full digital accessibility for persons with disabilities, EDF Director stressed the necessity of including the involvement of organisations advocating for the human rights of persons with disabilities.
During the event, several panels highlighted the accessibility improvements, tools, and skills needed by persons with disabilities. Among the discussion topics, the panels focused on:
– the employment of ‘overlays’, IT packages that can include accessibility features. Mr Roberto Scano, Coordinator at the International Web Association (IWA), and Mr Jhonatan Hassel, founder and CEO at “Hassel Inclusion”, both highlighted the limited advantages of overlays in providing accessible tools for digital users. In particular, the lack of reliability of overlays in providing accessible answers for all users and their interference with assistive technology was highlighted (more info here).
– the need to educate digital professionals on accessibility should be further encouraged through specific training and the inclusion of accessibility requirements in the making of digital services rather than as an additional tool to be added later.
– the necessity of constructive dialogue between users and digital service providers should be granted on top of the web accessibility statement and the feedback system established by the WAD. In order to achieve this, public bodies should increase the chances to allow users to give more feedback and raise awareness on accessibility.
EUD celebrates and acknowledges the improvements accomplished in digital accessibility on the occasion of the third anniversary of the WAD. However, as already mentioned by EUD, it is fundamental to ensure digital accessibility on the grounds of the specific disability in question. For deaf people, barrier-free access to information, communication and knowledge can be guaranteed only through the access of sign language. Therefore, EUD calls digital service providers to ensure that ICTs provide assistive technology options such as national sign language interpretation or closed captioning.