Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Study report: Web accessibility in European countries: level of compliance with latest international accessibility specifications, notably WCAG 2.0, and approaches or plans to implement those specifications

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This report presents the results of a study to provide data and analysis to support the European Commission in the identification of EU-level measures that can help to progress the achievement of greater levels of web accessibility across the Member States. The aim was to provide evidence and analysis to help understand and compare the approaches followed by the European countries, with a view to identifying issues and challenges, good practices and future priorities in the web accessibility field. A core focus of the report is on the issue of transitioning to WCAG 2.0 guidelines against the current background where Member States have, in the main, being targeting their efforts towards the earlier WCAG 1.0 guidelines.
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The key overall conclusions that can be drawn from this study are as follows:

  • Levels of full compliance with existing web accessibility guidelines (generally WCAG 1.0 based) remain very low and, at current rates of progress, the web accessibility situation across the EU seems set to fall far short of the targets set for 2010 in the Riga Declaration; however, some more hidden progress towards accessibility (for government websites at least) seems to be detectable which is not being picked up by metrics that simply apply a 'pass/fail' logic
  • Web sites often fail to maintain compliance over time - sites that pass the accessibility tests at one time often fail when measured at another time
  • The scope of coverage of existing web accessibility legislation/regulations varies across the Member States: in most countries, central government websites are covered but there is a lot more variability as regards coverage of other levels of governance; also, coverage of websites of non-governmental services of 'public interest' is a lot more limited
  • WCAG 2.0 may well ultimately bring positive benefits in terms of the levels of accessibility that are supported but the process of implementing the new guidelines is seen in many Member States to give rise to new challenges
  • Careful consideration needs to be given to developing an effective transitioning process and timeframe, that interweaves as un-problematically as possible with existing efforts and timeframes associated with the current standards/guidelines that have been applied in the Member States
  • A variety of actions at EU-level that have been suggested by the parties concerned in Member States could help in the transitioning process as well as in supporting the achievement of web accessibility goals more generally.