On 18 September 2015, AGE Platform Europe co-organised an event on web accessibility at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. The event was organised in the framework of the European Internet Inclusion Initiative (EIII), an EU project on web accessibility in which AGE is a partner.
Arnoldas Abramavičius, vice-president of the Committee of the Regions and the host of the event, provided welcoming remarks noting that the organisation oversees some 300 regions and 90,000 municipalities in Europe. In light of the event he spoke about the demographic challenges facing Europe and the need to create a society for all ages.
AGE members involved in user testing
Several AGE members have helped to collect a long list of public websites that are important for older people as well as to test the user testing tool that was developed in the project.
Liz Mestheneos, the key note speaker and founder of 50+ Hellas and past president of AGE Platform Europe, also spoke about demographic ageing in Europe and noted that websites that don’t operate easily often fail people as they act as disincentives. She called on governments to test websites on older users and noted specifically that web inaccessibility “is not an older people’s problem, but a website problem” and added that the difference in the user experience is that older people often give up in trying to use e-government services if they don’t work.
Mikael Snaprud, the coordinator of the EIII project, announced the preliminary benchmarking results based on 1,065 websites and 540,000 pages checked. He noted the underlying motive of the project was to create harmonised web accessibility evaluations, methods, tools, and results through an open approach to accountability and participation. In this equation, automated testing fulfils an important component because results can be verified and more efficient; however, many tests cannot be automated and this is the role of the user testing tool. In preliminary benchmarking results the Netherlands leads the way overall.
Web accessibility for older and disabled people
In a panel on the benefits of web accessibility from the perspective of older and disabled citizens, David Sinclair at the International Longevity Centre UK and AGE Platform Europe expert, spoke about the role for inclusive design, inclusive of older people and argued that there is a business case to be made for greater accessibility and inclusion. Bart Simons from AnySurfer pointed out that although the analogue world was worse than the digital world to persons with visual impairments, there remain lots to be done. Similarly, Barbara Martin at the European Blind Union gave a practical example of what it means to be blind in everyday life and also discussed the potential business opportunities for companies to be web accessible in terms of e-commerce.
The event attracted more than 60 participants from all over Europe, and coordinator Mikael Snaprud concluded the conference by noting that the EIII service will be available until at least the end of the year and that there is a software development wish list which interested people can contribute to.