Chronicle

Legal requirements for accessibility - a big or small step for mankind?

September 23 is approaching fast. Suddenly, loads of European organisations are in a great hurry to meet the legal requirements of the Web Accessibility Directive. It seems to be in the nature of humanity to postpone things until the last minute, and the pandemic has hardly helped in the planning.

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

The demand for accessibility skills is enormous; we are training more and more IT generalists and we are steadily gaining new customers among municipality owned companies and healthcare organizations. Our colleagues in the industry provide similar stories from all corners of Europe - the market is hot!

Among authorities and municipalities, many seem to see the law as something positive: "Finally, we have a good argument so we can get resources for this work." The questions about how best to escape from the requirements are not as many as we had feared. The biggest risk I see right now is that organizations that have misunderstood the requirements of video completely stop producing multimedia. That is not the intention of the legislator and would be very unfortunate.

New conferences, tips and manuals appear in unexpected language areas and more and more people are becoming certified and joining the international industry association IAAP. Sometimes it can feel both lonely and daunting to propagate for accessibility, but right now we enjoy the tailwind.

And then there are the no-sayers

Of course, there are exceptions. Organisations and individuals who think that the directives requirements for accessibility are far too strict. That it is almost impossible to meet all the requirements and that it is unreasonable for the public sector to receive these levies without the requirements being accompanied by increased budgetary resources.

With all due respect to difficulties and lack of resources, I wonder where that reasoning would end if you finish the thought. Since we do not have the means / opportunity to create accessible information, people with disabilities simply have to …. cope with it? Or what is the alternative?

The Web Accessibility Directive can be seen as a big change as we go from soft recommendations to sharp legislation. Since most authorities have worked with accessibility for many years, it should not be so upsetting. But apparently it sometimes is.

The big step actually comes when private companies are included in the regulations through the European Accessibility Act, which should be transposed to the member states by 2022. Selected products and services such as computers, ticket machines, e-books and banking services must then meet accessibility requirements. Even though we already receive inquiries about the Accessibility Act, I assume there will be a rush again then, when companies without previous experience of the subject realize that they "suddenly" must meet requirements for accessibility.

"Why haven’t we heard of this until now?" a participant in a webinar was asking me the other day. I still wonder what the correct answer to that is?