European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, and Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, welcome the decision by the European Parliament to formally approve the Directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies.
Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger said:
"Everyone should benefit from the opportunities offered by the internet and fully participate in the digital society. Today's adoption is an important step in the right direction. New rules will ensure that people with disabilities – especially blind, deaf and hard of hearing persons – can more easily access and use the websites and mobile applications of public services.
Today's adoption is the culmination of several years of hard work with the European Parliament and Member States. We have particularly appreciated the strong engagement of associations representing the disabled community and consumers. Their help in preparing the Directive greatly contributed to the quality of the legislation. We will ask the European Standardisation Organisations to quickly develop the harmonised standard on the accessibility requirements required for the Directive.
The rules adopted today are part of the Commission's ongoing work to build an inclusive European Union. We proposed in December 2015 the European Accessibility Act - with common accessibility requirements for ATMs and banking services, PCs, telephones and TV equipment, telephony and audiovisual services, transport, e-books and e-commerce. More recently, we also proposed draft legislation to implement into the EU law the Marrakesh Treaty. The aim of this Treaty is to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. We rely on the European Parliament and Member States that to show equal support for these proposals and to adopt them swiftly."
The European Commission presenteda proposal for the Directive on the accessibility of public sector bodies' websites in December 2012 (press release). The negotiators of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed on the content of the Directive in May 2016 (press release). The Council adopted its position on a new draft in July 2016 to which the European Parliament agreed today.
Following today's endorsement by the European Parliament, the text will be published in the Official Journal and afterwards will officially enter into force. Member States will have 21 months to transpose the text into their national legislation.
Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities obliges Member States and the EU, who are party to the Convention, to take appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities, on equal basis with others, to inter alia information and communication technologies, including the internet.
The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 builds on the UN Convention and contains actions in several priority areas, including web accessibility, with the objective "to ensure accessibility to goods and services including public services and assistive devices for people with disabilities."
The Commission proposed in December 2015 a draft European Accessibility Act to help people with disabilities at EU level to participate fully in society, notably through a Design for all approach (press release). In its recent proposals to modernise EU copyright rules, the Commission also presented draft legislation for the implementation in EU law of the Marrakesh Treaty in order to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled (press release).
The Commission is strongly committed to ensuring the accessibility of its websites and of its mobile apps and has adopted high international standards as objectives to attain for them. These are reflected in the Information Providers Guide, the Commission's guidelines for internet publication. The Commission also continues to invest in raising awareness and training web managers on web accessibility.