What are the rules?


The new Web Accessibility Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/2102) sets out rules on making public sector websites and mobile apps accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Although the Directive does not directly apply to EU institutions, all European Commission websites and apps are encouraged to follow these rules.

WCAG 2.1, level AA is the recommended standard.

How to comply?


To comply with the Directive’s rules, you need to:

See also the accessibility checklist for tips on making accessible content.

There are different deadlines for doing this, depending on whether you have a site or an app, and when it was published.

Deadlines

New websites (published on or after 23 September 2018) – by 23 September 2019

Older websites (published before 23 September 2018) – by 23 September 2020

Mobile apps – by 23 June 2021

About accessibility

Accessibility means making sure that your site, tool, or app can be used by people with the widest range of capabilities.

Creating content in line with the latest accessibility standards means that all users – regardless of the device or software they are using and the environment they are working in – can use the information, services and tools we provide. Our content should be compatible with current and future browsers, devices, software and assistive technologies, ensuring we do not exclude anyone who needs to access it.

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been signed by the European Union, persons with disabilities include those who have ‘long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’.

Users can experience problems when using the web because of different kinds of disabilities, functional limitations, environmental factors or technology-related issues, such as:

Why is it important?

As a public sector organisation, we have a duty to ensure that we do not exclude people from accessing our content. This includes the estimated 80 million people in the EU who have a disability, which may make it harder to access information that does not meet the latest standards.

We should not make it hard – or even impossible – for people to learn about who we are and what we do, and to access the information and tools they need.

Part of that work involves ensuring we meet the current standards for our products and content, including those in the Web Accessibility Directive.

Accessibility is not just about helping people with disabilities. All users benefit from well-structured, clearly written, standards-compliant content, regardless of their physical and mental abilities and their familiarity with technology.

The added benefit is that accessible content is more easily found in search engines like Google, which promote well-written, properly structured content.

Meeting WCAG 2.1 (AA)

These resources may help you apply WCAG 2.1 (AA):

Exceptions

The Directive does not apply to the following websites and mobile apps (see Article 1):

Writing an accessibility statement

Under the Web Accessibility Directive, EU public sector websites should have an accessibility statement.

Typically, this statement:

You may find the following resources helpful:

Model accessibility statement – European Commission – sample statement from Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/1523

Accessibility statement generator tool – W3C

Usually, to write this statement, you would need to carry out an accessibility audit of your site. You should ask an accessibility expert to help you with this.

If that is not possible, there are some basic accessibility checks you can do yourself.

For the Commission’s website, DG Communication is responsible for creating and publishing the statement.

Documents

It is best to create your content as HTML webpages. But if you do need to upload documents, make sure they are accessible.

Structure your documents correctly (using headings and styles).

You can convert your files to PDF using the Commission's Document e-Services. If you send a properly structured Word file to this service, it will automatically email you back an accessible PDF version.

Avoid creating content in document form only.

Tools

You can use automatic accessibility checkers to help check your site or tool meets the required standards. But you should never rely on tools alone. They’re just the start. Think of them like running the spelling checker in Word.

Manual checking (by a human) and using assistive technology (e.g. screen readers) is also essential.

Some points to bear in mind:


You may find the following links helpful:


While DG Communication cannot endorse any specific products or software, here are some tools you may like to try:


Background

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as part of the web accessibility initiative.

They are intended for all web content providers and developers (including writers, developers and designers).

Accessible content should meet the 4 principles of web accessibility (the ‘POUR’ principles):

  1. Perceivable – your content should be available to at least one of the user’s senses. For example, is a transcript of audio-only content available for deaf users?
  2. Operable – make sure your content can be controlled by a variety of tools. For example, using the keyboard only, for people who are not able to use a mouse.
  3. Understandable – use clear and simple language and predictable and consistent interfaces. This helps people with cognitive or reading disabilities.
  4. Robust – your website or app should work well across different platforms, browsers and devices, including assistive technology.

Laws and standards

Directive (EU) 2016/2102 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (the ‘Web Accessibility Directive’) came into force in 2016.

All EU institutions should comply:

Although this Directive does not apply to the websites and mobile applications of Union institutions, those institutions are encouraged to comply with the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive.

The Directive requires that public sector organisations apply European standard EN 301 549 V2.1.2 (2018‑08) to their websites and online tools. This standard is based on the latest version of the guidelines, WCAG 2.1, conformance level AA.

Contact and support

Need further assistance on this topic? Please contact the Europa Web Communication team  (EU Login required)