All websites managed by public sector bodies would have to be made accessible to everyone, including the elderly and the disabled, under a draft law endorsed by Parliament on Wednesday. Over 167 million EU citizens have difficulty in accessing public websites to use online public services, e.g. to file a tax declaration, claim unemployment benefit or enrol a child in a kindergarten.
"In our increasingly digital world, accessibility is very much a human right. All people are entitled to use the Internet in order to exercise their fundamental rights", said rapporteur Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE, DE).
There are over 761,000 public sector websites in the EU that offer access to information and services. However, only a third of them meet international web-accessibility standards, e.g. by enabling the user to enlarge texts and images, enriching videos with sign language, underlining clickable links or making the website navigable with a keyboard alone.
Accessible to all…
MEPs endorsed the law’s more ambitious approach, which would require EU member states to ensure that all public websites are fully accessible, not just in the twelve categories proposed by the Commission (which deal, for example, with social security benefits, personal documents or enrolment in higher education).
Parliament also wants the new rules to apply to websites run by private entities performing public tasks, such as providing gas, heat, electricity and water, or transport, childcare or health services. However micro-enterprises (employing up to 12 people) could be exempted from this requirement if member states so wish.
... within three or five years
MEPs suggest giving member states one year to comply with new rules for new content and three years for all existing content, with a further two years for live audio content.
The new rules were approved by 593 votes to 40 with 13 abstentions. This vote constitutes the European Parliament’s first reading position, which the Council of Ministers may accept or adopt its own position, for further discussion with Parliament.
Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), first reading