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Towards an accessible information society

European society is generating more and more technology-based products and services. Certain sectors of the population however, such as disabled and/or elderly people are still excluded from e-access. The European Commission therefore intends to strengthen a common approach to e-accessibility and web accessibility.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - ‘Towards an accessible information society’ [COM(2008) 804 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

In view of the large number of European citizens who are still excluded from information technologies, the Commission considers it necessary to strengthen the common approach to e-accessibility and web accessibility.

E-accessibility

E-accessibility means the integration of disabled and/or elderly people with regard to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Disabled people represent around 15% of the population of the European Union.

Within the framework of the information society, European citizens should have equal access to:

  • computers;
  • telephones;
  • televisions;
  • online administration;
  • online shopping;
  • call centres;
  • self-service terminals;
  • automatic teller machines;
  • ticket machines.

Whereas the lack of e-accessibility can exclude significant sectors of the population.

In order to counteract this lack, dialogue is to be reinforced between relevant stakeholders such as:

  • consumer organisations;
  • representatives of disabled and elderly users;
  • enterprises in the ICT sector;
  • assistive technology and service industries;
  • academia and relevant authorities.

These stakeholders will define guidelines on priorities and a coherent approach in terms of e-accessibility, related to:

  • the web;
  • digital television;
  • electronic communications;
  • a single European emergency number;
  • self-service terminals;
  • electronic banking.

Under the 2009 Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP), the funding of a network on e-accessibility and web accessibility is provided for, in order to further enhance stakeholder cooperation and good practices.

The Commission intends to support e-accessibility more actively within the framework of research and innovation policy.

Moreover, work on the development of standards for e-accessibility will be carried out, based on cooperation between stakeholders concerned and an exchange of good practices.

Web-accessibility

Accessibility to the web means the possibility for disabled and/or elderly people to navigate and interact in this field. This type of accessibility is still underdeveloped in the European Union.

Strengthening web accessibility has a clear advantage, not only for disabled and/or elderly people, but also for the whole population and should also increase the competitiveness of enterprises in the long term.

Member States should improve web accessibility by 2010, in line with the undertaking made in the Ministerial Declaration on an inclusive information society adopted in Riga in 2006. However, the Commission has a role to play, in particular by supporting efforts in Member States and by improving accessibility to its own websites.

Recommended actions in terms of promotion of web accessibility are:

  • providing clear information and guidelines;
  • supporting training programmes;
  • sharing knowledge and to exchange good practice;
  • acquiring accessible tools and websites;
  • to designate a contact point for web accessibility;
  • to monitor progress.

Context

The information society is part of many European citizens’ daily lives. However, disabled and/or elderly people are still suffering from a lack of accessibility to technology-based products and services.

The question of e-accessibility and web accessibility has gained in political visibility in the last few years, in particular following the 2006 Riga Declaration . It is therefore important to form a common approach in these areas to make the information society accessible to all citizens of the European Union as announced in the Renewed Social Agenda.

Last updated: 17.03.2009
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