The Web Accessibility Directive is introduced outside of the EU

Norway has legal requirements in the area of web accessibility since 2010, but soon they will need to update their legislation to harmonize with the EU's Web Accessibility Directive. There are interesting differences between the regulations and Funka is one of the official referral bodies.

The current Norwegian Discrimination Act applies to both the public and private sectors. It covers the "main solution" for each organization, not all websites. WCAG 2.0 applies and some success criteria around video are excluded (1.2.3, 1.2.5, 1.2.6).

Countries outside the EU with EEA agreements, ie Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, have a longer time to implement EU directives in national legislation than EU member states have. In Norway, the discussion about the introduction of the Web Accessibility Directive has been going on for several years. Another round of public hearing has just finished and mainly concerns two issues; scope and timing.

It is obvious that the public sector will be covered. But should the requirements also cover private companies? This would be an extension of the directive. But on the other hand, if private companies are not covered, there will be two different regulations in parallel, since the commercial sector is covered by the current law. The proposal from the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation is a compromise: private sector with more than 50 employees should be included.

The second question is when the requirements are to be introduced and applied. The proposal is that the new law will come into force on July 1, 2020, and that organizations covered by the legal requirements will have until 1 January 2021 to comply with them. It is the same date that applies in today's law for existing digital interfaces.

Funka's referral response:

Funka believes that all organisations that are currently covered by the regulations in Norway, public as well as private, should be covered by the EU's Web Accessibility Directive (Model 2). Setting a limit to 50 employees seems strange for a number of reasons. On the one hand, there are many important players for people with disabilities among the small companies, and on the other, such a scheme would mean that the monitoring body Difi would have to monitor compliance to two different set of requirements, which is both difficult and costly. Growing companies that go beyond the limit of 50 employees would also end up in a strange situation, where from one day to the other they suddenly have sharpened requirements. Difi would find it difficult to offer consistent information and support to those who wish to comply with the regulations if different requirements apply to different actors.

Furthermore, Funka believes that documents should be treated in the same way as in the EU's Web Accessibility Directive - thus considered as part of the website, which means that documents must meet the requirements at the same time as the surrounding interface. (some exceptions exist for archives, etc.). Setting date limits for documents other than for html can be very confusing for both users and the organisations covered by the law.

A transition period of 6 months sounds very reasonable, considering that Norwegian organisations are already subject to accessibility requirements, where January 1, 2021 is the target date. It may be appropriate to consider the possibility of extending the time limit if disproportionate burden is claimed. An (perhaps unlikely) example could be a very complex and comprehensive system that has been stepwise improved to comply with WCAG 2.0 (the minimum requirements if the Discrimination Act) in 2021. If the system would have to undergo a extensive new development or redesign in order to fulfill WCAG 2.1, 6 months may seem like a short period. But that would be a rare case.

Regarding the costs for accessibility, it is widely accepted that introducing the requirements does not entail particularly high costs, while retrospective adjustments can be costly. What is lacking in socio-economic analyses of the introduction of requirements for accessibility is the so-called "zero alternative". What is the cost of doing nothing at all? People who cannot use digital services need information and service in other ways, often handled at an individual level, which can be very expensive. This is well documented in countries like Denmark, where digitalisation of the public sector has gone very fast. Research projects have investigated the consequences for both society and individuals.


Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer (Susanna Laurin)

+46 8 555 770 61 (Susanna Laurin)