In January 2023, the European Commission published its Web Accessibility Action Plan 2022-2025 (the Plan) as part of the European Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030 – a multiannual action plan which aims to foster accessibility in websites and mobile applications operated by the European Commission (EC). Specifically, the plan aspires to make texts, graphics, audiovisual – as well as other – material accessible to all.
The Plan has three main objectives: (1) to ensure that all public websites, mobile apps, and social media content of the EC are accessible; (2) to ensure that all EC services achieve established accessibility objectives; and (3) to promote the exchange, as well as the harmonisation, of practices within the EU of accessibility standards.
The Plan aims to advance web accessibility in the areas of:
- Rules & Guidelines – the EC will pursue accessible goals by updating, expanding and periodically reviewing the accessibility section of the Europa Web Guide.
- Accessibility statements, feedback mechanism – among the actions foreseen, the EC is committed to providing guidance to managers and a template for the publication of accessibility statement on EC sites. In addition, an accessibility feedback mechanism will be implemented to support users in identifying all potential issues. In this regard, websites owners will also have to submit a formal accessibility assessment and create a system to react to complaints.
- Compliance monitoring – to establish efficient monitoring, the EC plans to promote a systematic review of the accessibility conformity on its websites, as well as a review of the accuracy and content of accessibility statements on the EC websites. The EC will also complement the monitoring by sharing regular accessibility evaluations and specific recommendations.
- Awareness raising & internal communication – within this area, the EC wishes to share best practices on web accessibility and provide accessibility training courses among EC staff working on websites and mobile apps. Moreover, the EC will use existing networks in the domains of information and communication technology (ICT).
- Training – expected activities undertaken by the EC include creating training paths for different categories of staff to increase the level of knowledge in relation to accessibility requirements. The EC will also schedule informative sessions on tools and solutions for the compliance of accessibility requirements.
- Organisational coordination – by creating a task force on web accessibility, the EC aims to attract resources and expertise in order to define which actions to undertake. Moreover, the EC aspires to regularly report advancements concerning accessibility compliance to the Corporate Communication Steering Committee, an advisory body including experts in communication .
EUD welcomes the Web Accessibility Action Plan and recognizes its great potential. Nevertheless, it is relevant to stress that full accessibility for deaf persons when using EC websites and mobile apps can be achieved only by ensuring information in all the EU’s Member States’ national sign languages. This is fundamental for deaf persons to enjoy their right to political participation and of access to information.
EUD regrets that the current Web Accessibility Action Plan has not been developed in consultation with European organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and calls for the inclusion of deaf experts and deaf persons’ representative organisations in the next stages of development of the Plan