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What you need to do about the EU’s accessibility requirements by September 2020

Ben Long

July 22nd, 2020

Written by

Ben Long
Ben Long

Category

Product Management

If you manage web content for a public sector organization in the European Union, new legislation and obligations could mean you need to implement additional accessibility measures on your website, app, or platform within the next few months.

So, with increasing focus on web accessibility in the EU, let’s talk about these legislative changes, who they apply to, what you need to do, and some ways you can meet your obligations and make your web content more accessible.

The Web Accessibility Directive

A couple of years ago, the European Union legislated that all web content published by public bodies (including intranets and extranets) must be accessible. Many of these laws will be put in full effect, with a September 23, 2020 deadline.

The web accessibility directive outlines changes that public sector organizations need to make to improve the accessibility of their content. This includes content on websites, content management systems, apps, internets, extranets, and learning management systems.

The September deadline applies to legacy sites and systems - if you’ve created or launched your platform since September 23, 2018, you should already be compliant with the requirements. On the other hand, if you’ve got a mobile application, you have a little more time and need to be compliant by June 23, 2021.

Who does it apply to?

The Web Accessibility Directive applies to the public sector, which includes government-run or owned organizations or entities. In other words…organizations at the federal, national, regional, state, and local level. Public sector organizations include:

  • Education (schools and libraries)
  • Electricity
  • Emergency services
  • Fire services
  • Gas and oil
  • Healthcare
  • Infrastructure
  • Law enforcement
  • Police services
  • Postal services
  • Public transport
  • Social services
  • Waste management
  • The government itself

The directive doesn’t apply to the private sector, which is run by companies and individuals for profit (and isn’t controlled by the government). Although, many private sector companies who deal with government organizations may be indirectly impacted.

What you need to do

If you’re responsible for managing web content for a public sector organization in the EU, you need to get your websites, intranet, and extranet content up to speed by September 23, 2020. The requirements can be summed in two steps:

  1. Improve accessibility 
  2. Write an accessibility statement

Let’s expand on what’s involved in each of these steps. 

1. Improve accessibility

The European Web Accessibility Directive requires that you make your website or app content accessible to everyone.

This means you’ll first have to evaluate the accessibility of your content so you know what issues are present. Then you’ll need to improve your content to bring it in line with web accessibility standards. Most organizations refer to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 when evaluating and improving accessibility.

Note that the accessibility requirements don’t apply to all content. Exceptions include:

  • Most time-based media (content that is played/experienced with a duration), like audio and video content
  • Mapping services
  • Third-party content
  • Content published before September 23, 2019

That said, it’s still a good idea to gradually work through and improve the accessibility of existing content, as well as providing alternative ways to experience audio, video, and mapping services. You can also encourage accessibility on other sites by choosing more accessible third-party content to link to.

2. Write an accessibility statement

Organizations are asked to write an accessibility statement and publish it. It should be available on every page - for example, with a link in the footer.

This accessibility statement should include a brief statement that outlines your commitment to making your site or app accessible in line with local laws. It should also state your overall compliance status with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (whether A, AA, or AAA).

You also need to make it possible for users to report content that’s not accessible (embed a form or provide contact information) and outline your enforcement procedures for non-compliance and standards used for monitoring and reporting. Most organizations are including these elements on the same page as their accessibility statement. 

You can see some examples of websites that already have accessibility statements, like:

W3C has a useful Accessibility Statement Generator you can use to write and format your own statement.

Tiny and web accessibility in the EU

The team at Tiny have put a lot of work into improving web content accessibility for the last couple of years.

Our TinyMCE text editor builds accessibility directly into the websites, apps, and platforms of thousands of companies around the world, including many in the EU. EpiServer, a CMS that uses TinyMCE, is a good example of how our products enable built-in web accessibility for content authors. TinyMCE provides an accessible authoring experience straight out-of-the-box. Furthermore, authors who may have limited training and experience in accessibility (and who may not even be full-time content authors) can automatically create accessible content through built-in features and prompts.

As a result of our work in this space, Tiny was recently invited to be part of a research project on web accessibility. Fredrik and Joakim from our Sweden Tiny team have joined an EU project called We4Authors Cluster. They’re acting as observers and advisors to help CMSs produce more accessible content, alongside other experts and organizations, including Funka, who is managing the project. Funka is a Swedish company that works with accessibility in digital interfaces (across content, design, technology, web, apps, ATMs, and more). They do a lot of testing and research to develop methodologies and measure the status of web accessibility in Europe and other parts of the world.

We’ll share more about this project soon, but we’re excited to be part of something that will have a significant influence on accessibility for web authoring tools, content authors, and end users around the world.

Using Tiny’s accessibility plugin

Tiny

Need to improve your content accessibility and bring it in line with standards, ready for the September 23 deadline? Our web accessibility plugin can help your content authors efficiently evaluate and improve your content before it’s published.

Accessibility Checker will inspect your content and make it easier to resolve any issues that are found. With an intuitive user interface, content authors can fix many common problems with a single click. The checker assesses the content in line with the WCAG and WAI-ARIA standards (even exceeding them) to keep your website or app ahead of current guidelines.

The plugin also solves a big problem with adhering to accessibility guidelines: most content authors are simply unaware of them. But with Accessibility Checker, you don’t have to be (or hire) experts in web accessibility to get stuck in and start bringing your web content up to speed. Accessibility Checker enables all your content authors to check the content for various WCAG & Section 508 accessibility problems using a simple in-editor dialogue. The built-in repair feature also takes users through any identified issues and may even automatically correct the error on their behalf.

Make your content more accessible with TinyMCE

While changes are coming for many organizations in the EU, using accessible software can help make the transition much easier.

The good news is, if your software is already using TinyMCE as its text editor, you’ve already got an accessible authoring experience. It’s a straightforward process for a developer/admin to configure the editor to include the Accessibility Checker - available to purchase here

The Accessibility Checker helps ensure the content you produce is accessible and compliant with the new rules. It provides a handy step-by-step guided workflow for your content creator, helping to fix non-compliant HTML, ALT tags, and other tags with a click of a button - no developers needed.

If you’re not yet using TinyMCE, consider:

  • Incorporating TinyMCE into your existing software
  • Using alternative software that already includes TinyMCE
  • Building your own solution with TinyMCE (like this blog which is built with TinyMCE in Contentful)

Start with a 14-day free trial of our Cloud Professional plan, which includes support for TinyMCE and advanced features like the Accessibility Checker.

TinyMCE is already providing excellent content creation experiences in millions of products (from apps and websites to intranets and LMSs) while improving accessibility. Contact us if you’d like to find out more about how TinyMCE can help and how to get started with it in your applications.

Read more about accessibility

If you’d like to read more about accessibility, check out some of these articles we’ve shared previously:

Accessibility
Ben Long
byBen Long

Developer Advocate at Tiny. Computer scientist turned storyteller. Reminisces about programming on the MicroBee. Writes picture books for kids. Also the wearer of rad shoes. “Science isn’t finished until you share the story.”

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