Accessibility Directive in Digital Services

by Mar 16, 2023

The EU Accessibility Directive on digital online services entered into force on 23.9.2018. The new online services to be released after this had to be accessible. After the transition period, the old websites had to start complying with the Accessibility Directive by 23.9.2020 at the latest, and mobile services had to be accessible by 23.6.2021.

The aim of the Accessibility Directive is to enable everyone to use digital services regardless of a person’s functional limitations. Websites and mobile applications must be equally accessible for everyone, i.e. anyone can use them and understand what they say. The directive applies to online and mobile services of public administrations and the content contained therein. This includes, for example, schools, agencies and municipalities, the post office, and water and energy supply. Although the Accessibility Directive primarily requires that the accessibility requirements of public service websites be met, it would also be a good idea to take accessibility into account when building all sorts of websites.

Content requirements

Website design should take into account the specific needs of different groups. Visually impaired people must be able to hear the text on the website audibly. Podcasts and videos should be subtitled for the deaf and badly hearing. In addition, it must be possible to access web pages without the use of a mouse. It is important that digital services present a feedback channel where users can report accessibility problems if necessary. The website must also contain an accessibility statement, describing the measures implemented in the digital service to improve accessibility.

Some of the most important requirements for the accessibility-content:

  • The content is written in an understandable and plain language
  • Content can be scanned quickly
  • Headlines tell you the most relevant facts about the content
  • The links on the web page are descriptive (the link text describes the destination of the link)
  • The service has images and tables that makes it easier to understand the content

The four principles of accessibility

An accessible web service must meet the requirements of the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). It must take into account four principles:

  • Detectability: The text on the site must stand out from the background and be easily read. Videos and podcasts must have subtitles.
  • Manageability: You must be able to access the site not only with a mouse, but also with just a keyboard.
  • Intelligibility: The texts must be comprehensible and the titles descriptive. The text should not require literacy that goes beyond primary school education.
  • Reliability: The website must be reliable and readable on many different devices.

Benefits of the Accessibility Directive

Everyone must have equal opportunities to use different online services. The accessibility directive will particularly benefits people with impaired vision or hearing, physical limitations or dyslexia. Plain language also benefits those whom native tongue is non-English. It is estimated that more than one million people in Finland need accessibility, i.e. that information is available online clearly and taking into account their needs. It is important to note that accessibility still serves everyone. When things are presented simply in plain language, they are easier to understand, which makes it easier to use the website and, for example, reduces the number of emails and phone calls due to ambiguities.

Read more:

  • Krug, Steve 2014. Don’t make me think, revisited: A common sense approach to web usability. San Francisco: New Riders.

Translated from the Finnish blog post by Simon Isaksson.