Public sector bodies' websites and mobile applications will have to be made accessible to everyone, under a provisional deal struck by Parliament and Council negotiators on Tuesday night. Over 167 million EU citizens have a disability (either medical or due to age) which prevents them accessing data and services on the Internet, e.g. to file a tax declaration, apply for an allowance, pay fees or register a child at school.
"We live in the digital age, where most of us can hardly imagine our lives without access to the Internet, whether online on a computer or via a smartphone. Yet even today, a number of EU citizens do not have this possibility - and I do not mean for entertainment, but rather to access information provided by public institutions. All citizens should be treated equally both offline and online", said the lead negotiator from Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, Dita Charanzová (ALDE, CZ).
"For me, this is a great victory. I think it is a disgrace that many persons with disabilities are, in the 21st century, still cut off from information on the Internet. Inaccessibility belongs in digital prehistory, not in today’s world", she added.
Mobile apps covered
Mobile applications - i.e. application software designed and developed, by or on behalf of public sector bodies, for use on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets - are included within the scope of the directive, thanks to MEPs’ efforts during the three-way talks (trilogues) with the Council and Commission.
Parliament and Council negotiators also widened the scope of the directive to include all public sector bodies, beyond the twelve categories initially proposed by the Commission.
On-demand access to certain types of content
Certain types of old content will be excluded, but only if they are not needed for administrative procedures, such as office file formats, pre-recorded time-based media and archives. MEPs ensured that public sector bodies will have to make this excluded content accessible to any person "upon request" (on-demand access).
Essential administrative functions of schools, nursery and kindergartens' websites should be made accessible, says the provisional deal.
Feedback mechanism in the event of failures
Public sector bodies will have to provide and regularly update a "detailed, comprehensive and clear statement" on the compliance of their websites and apps with this directive, including an explanation concerning those parts of the content that are not accessible, and the reasons for that inaccessibility.
This statement will also have to explain how to request an accessible version of non-accessible content upon request and provide a hyper-link to a "feedback mechanism" to enable users to notify any failures of the website or app to comply with the requirements of this directive.
The public sector body concerned will have to give an "adequate reply on the feedback within a reasonable period of time", and provide that person with a link to an "enforcement procedure", to which recourse may be had in the event of an unsatisfactory response to the feedback or on-demand request.
Member states will have to designate an authority tasked with monitoring and enforcing these rules.
The provisional deal still needs to be confirmed by the Council Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) and by the European Parliament. Once approved by the co-legislators and published in the EU Official Journal, member states would have 21 months to transpose the directive into national law. The new rules would be applicable to new websites 12 months after transposition, to all websites 24 months after transposition and to mobile apps 33 months after transposition