The Internet has become a part of everyday life and digital inclusion efforts by the European Commission remain key in order to ensure that everybody can contribute to and benefit from the digital economy and society. Web accessibility supports social inclusion for people with disabilities as well as other disadvantaged groups such as the elderly and people with disabilities, to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Internet.
As from September 2018, all public sector websites need to conform to the new European accessibility directive. The directive ensures that all public sector organisations’ websites and apps are accessible, using existing accessibility standards. It aims to unify the standards throughout all EU member states, and requires that all members have a process in place for testing, and ensuring an on-going commitment to accessibility moving forward. All member states need to comply with the directive from September 2018.
The Directive sets forward a minimum base standard for compliance, monitoring, and evaluation across Europe. Member states will be permitted to introduce additional requirements for public sector accessibility on a national basis as they see fit.
The Malta Communications Authority, as the designated entity to implement the EU Accessibility Directive, is currently establishing an audit framework which will include a methodology for the monitoring, reporting and enforcement of the regulation. Using existing guidelines which form part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), public sector entities will be expected to ensure that as much content as possible is accessible to all users of desktop and mobile devices, including website and app content respectively.
The accessibility directive is staggered across three deadlines. First, member states must apply the Directive to the web sites of public sector bodies created after 23rd September 2018 by 23rd September 2019 and second, member states must apply the Directive to the web sites of public sector bodies created before 23rd September 2018 by 23rd September 2020. Finally, member states must apply the Directive to mobile apps of public sector bodies from 23rd June 2021.
Any questions relating to the practical application or implementation of the directive should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to Directive
The Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies may be accessed here.