Web Accessibility Directive 2016/2102

The Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies requires that public web sites in Europe should comply with the European Norm EN 301 549.

The scope of the Directive - what is included and what is excluded?

Some kinds of public sector body are not in scope of the Directive:

  • Public service broadcasters
  • NGOS with non-essential services
  • Schools, kindergartens or nurseries (unless they provide essential administrative functions on their sites)

Some types of content only come into scope of the directive when released after 23 September 2018, such as Office file formats and pre-recorded video.

Some types of content are excluded from the scope:

  • Live broadcasts
  • Online maps (but there must be an accessible alternative for directions)
  • Heritage collections
  • Archived content
  • Third-party content that is not funded, developed, and controlled by the public sector body

As to third-party content, note that Social Media Content is in principle considered to be in scope. The public sector body develops and controls the publication of social media content. To a large degree, it can also control how accessible the content is — take, for example, the option to create (and edit) open captions in video that is uploaded to YouTube, or the option to include alternative text for images posted on Twitter.

From 23 September 2019 onwards, the Directive also applies to intranets and extranets of public sector bodies.

The requirements

For web content and web applications as well as intranets or extranets of public sector bodies, the benchmark for accessibility is the EN 301 549, which basically reproduces the requirements of WCAG (currently, WCAG 2.1). The Directive also applies to mobile applications (native apps, currenly for iOS and Android as th edominant mobile platforms).

As to checking the compliance of mobile applications, the baseline is set in the requirements for general software in clause 11 of the EN 301 549. These requirements are similar to those for web content, but leave out some aspects that may not apply to software.

The Accessibility Statement

The Directive also requires public sector bodies to publish a dated Accessibility Statement on their website (or in the shop where its mobile apps can be downloaded). The Accessibility statement shows whether the site is fully or only partly accessible, and must be regularly updated. Where content is not fully accessible, the Directive requires Public Sector Bodies to list the parts of content that are not (yet) accessible. The Accessibility Statement should link to a report that shows the results of an accessibility test or review, but this is not mandatory.

Importantly, the Accessibility Statement must contain a "feedback mechanism enabling any person to notify the public sector body concerned of any failure of its website or mobile application to comply with the accessibility requirements".

The Accessibility Statement must also link to an enforcement procedure that users can engage in case they had no response, or an unsatisfactory response, to their notification of accessibility failures.