Dissecting the WAD, part 4

In part 1 of this series about the WAD, we covered the title and heading sections.  In part 2 and part 3 of the series we continued by looking at the first 32 recitals. In this fourth part we continue going through the introductory recitals which give the background to the directive. The official text is available here.

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(33) Essential online administrative functions of schools, kindergartens or nurseries should be made accessible. When that essential content is provided in an accessible manner via another website, it should not need to be made accessible again on the website of the establishment concerned.

The administrative functions of schools, kindergartens and nurseries should be accessible on their websites, but not if the functions are already accessible on another website.

(34) Member States should be able to extend the application of this Directive to other types of websites and mobile applications, in particular intranet or extranet websites and mobile applications not covered by this Directive which are designed for and used by a limited number of persons in the workplace or in education, and to maintain or introduce measures in conformity with Union law which go beyond the minimum requirements for accessibility of websites and mobile applications. Member States should also be encouraged to extend the application of this Directive to private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public, including in the healthcare, childcare, social inclusion and social security areas, as well as in the transport sector and the electricity, gas, heat, water, electronic communication and postal services, with particular attention being paid to those services referred to in Articles 8 to 13 of Directive 2014/25/EU.

Member States may extend the directive to apply to other types of websites not covered by the directive. They are also encouraged to have stricter requirements than those in the directive and to apply the directive to private entities offering services open to the public, such as healthcare and childcare providers, transport services or essetial utility providers.

(35) Although this Directive does not apply to the websites and mobile applications of Union institutions, those institutions are encouraged to comply with the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive.

Institutions of the European Union are encouraged to ensure their websites comply with the directive.

(36) The accessibility requirements set out in this Directive are intended to be technology-neutral. They describe what must be achieved in order for the user to be able to perceive, operate, interpret and understand a website, a mobile application and related content. They do not specify what technology should be selected for a particular website, online information or mobile application. As such, they do not hamper innovation.

This directive is technology neutral and does not specify which technology to use in order to make a website accessible. It therefore does not prevent innovation.

(37) The four principles of accessibility are: perceivability, meaning that information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive; operability, meaning that user interface components and navigation must be operable; understandability, meaning that information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable; and robustness, meaning that content must be robust enough to be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. Those principles of accessibility are translated into testable success criteria, such as those forming the basis of the European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 ‘Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe’ (2015-04) (European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04)), via harmonised standards and a common methodology to test the conformity of content on websites and mobile applications with those principles. That European standard was adopted on the basis of mandate M/376 issued by the Commission to the European standardisation organisations. Pending publication of the references to harmonised standards, or of parts thereof, in the Official Journal of the European Union, the relevant clauses of European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04) should be considered as the minimum means of putting those principles into practice.

A recap the POUR principle, as defined in the WCAG recommendation, meaning Perceivable, Operable, Usable, Robust. This principle is is embedded in the European Harmonised Standard EN 301 549 (PDF), which defines the testable criteria behind the principle in more detail and thereby prescribes a way to test a website is accessible.

(38) If the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive are not applicable, then in accordance with Council Directive 2000/78/EC (8), the UN Convention and other relevant legislation, the requirements of ‘reasonable accommodation’ will still apply and should be provided for where needed, in particular in the workplace and in education.

When the directive does not apply to websites, there will be other legislation which does, particularly the requirement of “reasonable accommodation”.

(39) Public sector bodies should apply the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive to the extent that they do not impose a disproportionate burden on them. This means that, in justified cases, it might not be reasonably possible for a public sector body to make specific content fully accessible. However, that public sector body should still make that content as accessible as possible and make other content fully accessible. Exceptions to compliance with the accessibility requirements due to the disproportionate burden that they impose should not go beyond what is strictly necessary in order to limit that burden with respect to the particular content concerned in each individual case. Measures that would impose a disproportionate burden should be understood as measures that would impose an excessive organisational or financial burden on a public sector body, or would jeopardise the body’s capacity to either fulfil its purpose or to publish information needed for or relevant to its tasks and services, while taking into account the likely resulting benefit or detriment for citizens, in particular persons with disabilities. Only legitimate reasons should be taken into account in any assessment of the extent to which the accessibility requirements cannot be met because they would impose a disproportionate burden. Lack of priority, time or knowledge should not be considered as legitimate reasons. Likewise, there should not be any legitimate reasons for not procuring or developing software systems to manage content on websites and mobile applications in an accessible manner, since sufficient and advisory techniques are available to make those systems meet the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive.

Content for which there is disproportionate burden (eg organisational or financial) to make it accessible can be exceptionally excluded from the directive. However this exclusion should be limited in scope to the particular piece of content in question and must be duly justified. However such a claim is not possible for procured systems to manage and create content, since there are now well documented techniques that can be used to ensure such systems meet the requirement of the directive.

(40) Interoperability relating to accessibility should maximise the compatibility of content with current and future user agents and assistive technologies. More specifically, the content of websites and mobile applications should provide user agents with a common internal coding of natural language, structures, relations, and sequences, as well as data of any embedded user-interface components. Interoperability thus benefits the users, allowing them to employ their user agents ubiquitously to access websites and mobile applications; they might also benefit from greater choice and reduced prices across the Union. Interoperability would also benefit the suppliers and buyers of products and services relating to accessibility of websites and mobile applications.

Use the standard web technologies to create your content so that it is future proof and can be understood by all current and future standards compliant user agents. This will result in a greater choice and reduced prices as well as benefit suppliers and buyers of web accessibility services.

(41) This Directive lays down accessibility requirements for the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies. In order to facilitate the conformity of such websites and mobile applications with those requirements, it is necessary to provide for a presumption of conformity for the websites and mobile applications concerned that meet harmonised standards or parts thereof drawn up and published in the Official Journal of the European Union in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council (9), for the purpose of expressing detailed specifications in relation to those requirements. Pursuant to that Regulation, Member States and the European Parliament should be able to object to any harmonised standard which, in their view, does not entirely satisfy the accessibility requirements laid down in this Directive.

There will be a standard published in the Official Journal which provides a presumption of conformity to the directive. Member States can object to the standard if they feel it does not satisfy the requirements of the directive.

(42) The European standardisation organisations have adopted European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04), specifying the functional accessibility requirements for ICT products and services, including web content, which could be used in public procurement or to support other policies and legislation. The presumption of conformity with the accessibility requirements laid down in this Directive should be based on clauses 9, 10 and 11 of European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04). Technical specifications adopted on the basis of this Directive should further detail European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04) in relation to mobile applications.

The relevant clauses of the published harmonised standard are clauses 9, 10 and 11. The harmonised standard EN 301 549 is available here (note that the current version is v2.1.2).

(43) The technical specifications and standards developed in relation to the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive should, moreover, take into account the conceptual and technical specificities of mobile devices.

Mobile devices need to taken account when developing technical specification and standards in order to meet the accessibility requirements of the directive.

(44) An accessibility statement should be provided by public sector bodies on the compliance of their websites and mobile applications with the accessibility requirements laid down by this Directive. That accessibility statement should include, where appropriate, the accessible alternatives provided for.

All public sector bodies must have an accessibility on their website stating their level of compliance to the directive.

(45) Mobile applications are available from a variety of sources, including private application stores. Information regarding the accessibility of the mobile applications of public sector bodies downloaded from third-party sources should be provided alongside the description of the mobile application which is presented to users before they download the mobile application. This does not require major platform providers to change their application distribution mechanisms, but instead imposes on the public sector body the requirement to make the accessibility statement available using existing or future technologies.

For mobile applications, the accessibility statements should be included in the description of the application in the “app store” from which the mobile application can be downloaded. It is up to the public sector body to ensure the accessibility statement is available to the user before installing the application. The platform providers are not obliged by this directive to change their distribution mechanisms.

(46) A feedback mechanism should be set up to enable any person to notify the public sector body concerned of any failures of the website or mobile applications to comply with the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive and to request information excluded. Such requests for information could concern content that is excluded from the scope of this Directive or otherwise exempted from compliance with the accessibility requirements set out in this Directive, such as office file formats, pre-recorded time-based media or the content of archived websites. By using the feedback mechanism linked to an enforcement procedure, it should be possible for users of websites or mobile applications of public sector bodies to ask for the requisite information, including services and documents. In response to a legitimate and reasonable request, the public sector body concerned should provide information in an adequate and appropriate manner within a reasonable period of time.

It should be possible for persons to request information from the public service body to which they otherwise do not have access for accessibility reasons, meaning a failure of the public service body to apply the directive to the content in question. Such a request should be adequately replied to in a reasonable period of time. This is an enforceable right of persons using the website.

This series on the web accessibility directive continues in part 5.

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