Article in Agence Europe, published on 14 March 2016 - on AGE joint letter to EU Council:
(AE) DIGITAL: Alarm sounded over web accessibility
Brussels, 11/03/2016 (Agence Europe) - Pressure is mounting over the draft directive on web accessibility. Parliament and Council negotiators are planning to hold a final inter-institutional meeting on 26 April. As this date approaches, a group of some 20 civil society associations published an open letter on Thursday 10 March criticising what they see as Council attempts to water down the directive.
The proposal presented in December 2012 establishes the technical provisions to facilitate access to the content of 12 categories of public sector body websites, which provide essential information and services for the public (such as, for example, job search services or enrolment at university). In general terms, Parliament wants the new provisions to apply to as many websites and applications as possible while the Council argues the opposite. Two trialogue meetings have already taken place since negotiations were opened at the start of the year and the third is scheduled for 26 April. The Dutch hope to have this issue settled before the end of its presidency.
However, the European Blind Union finds that negotiations have taken a disturbing turn. With other civil society organisations, such as the European Disability Forum (EDF), AGE Platform Europe and ANEC, it has published an open letter stating: "It is not acceptable to adopt legislation that would potentially deny millions of citizens access to the digital world we live in today. It is not acceptable to legalise digital barriers to employment". The Dutch negotiating mandate excludes for the definition of "public sector body website"intra/extranet, sites that are no longer updated, the websites of NGOs that are funded by the public sector and other specific content, such as the downloading of documents.
According to a source close to the matter, negotiations are progressing slowly, particularly on the inclusion of applications. "At present, the Council is no longer against the inclusion of applications and has asked the Commission to study the feasibility of such a system". Similarly, the Council is believed to have agreed not to fully exclude schools' websites from the directive. There remains, nonetheless, work to be done on the scope of the directive and on the issue of derogations. According to our information, Parliament has proposed that a list of derogations be established, while at the same time any persons or associations wishing to have access to specific content should be able to make a formal request for such access. These issues are expected to be discussed at a technical meeting in the course of the week.
(Original version in French by Sophie Petitjean)