Web Directive: every exclusion in the scope ultimately excludes persons with disabilities

17 November 2015


EDF had access to the last document outlining the provisional position of the Council regarding the proposal for a web accessibility directive. The text is dated on 23 October and aims at stirring the discussion about the scope of the web directive in view of the meeting of the Member States delegations tomorrow. EDF would like to highlight some of the most worrying proposals and explain what these mean for persons with disabilities, and remind them that every aspect delegations exclude from the scope, ultimately excludes the people that will not be able to access it.

The Presidency has introduced the concept of websites “available to the public at large”, excluding intranet and extranet sites. What are these? Non-public websites of an organisation used by the people belonging to it (intranet) and those non-public websites shared with authorised people (extranet). What does it mean for persons with disabilities? This exclusion is extremely counter-productive since many times the most important parts and functionalities of websites for users are in intranets or extranets, for instance, the private profile of citizens in some e-administration portals to request public services or follow your dossiers; online banking services to manage your bank accounts or make transfers; the internal e-learning portal of many universities where professors and students interact and share documents, or the internal website of a company in which employees work together. Persons with disabilities should not be excluded from these under any circumstance.

In this regard, EDF strongly opposes this exclusion, as well as the intention of limiting the scope of the Directive to websites of “state, regional and local” authorities, excluding those websites of services of public interest outsourced to private entities (electricity, water, transportation, education, health services...). The disability movement and the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities clearly stated that persons with disabilities have the right to access services provided to the public, regardless of the nature of the provider. Public funding should never fund non-accessible websites.

Furthermore, the Presidency keeps excluding audio and video (the so-called “time-based media”), including the audio and video that are pre-recorded, meaning prepared in advance. EDF does not understand why this exclusion of pre-recorded media is proposed, when providing transcripts or captions for people with hearing disabilities is extremely easy nowadays, even in commercial worldwide platforms such as Youtube.

The text also points at the exclusion of non-web documents (such as PDF or Word format files) published before the date of entry into force. EDF would like to encourage delegations to find a different solution: the most useful documents which are already uploaded in the web should be made accessible or replaced by accessible ones. The timeframe for this should be discussed by the Council.

Finally, EDF welcomes the position of the Presidency promoting the inclusion of digital collections in the area of culture and the importance of accessing the web through mobile devices. Unfortunately, delegations remain against the inclusion of apps and third party content making many websites and e-services not usable by persons with disabilities.

EDF wants to remind all delegations that the approach of the Italian Presidency, using definitions of “public sector body” from the e-ID Regulation and “bodies governed by public law” from the Public Procurement Directive was much better aligned with EU existing law and with a scope that does make a difference for people’s lives.

See EDF last position paper on the Web Directive


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