How accessibility policy decisions are made, with the European Disability Forum

Date of webinar: 
19 Jan 2021 - 13:00

"Accessibility is not a black and white issue, it's a huge range of things. The Accessibility Act helps to draw the line with clear accessibility requirements that will then be supported in the health, safety or environmental sectors with standards. Then industries will have a clear view on what they need to do to make sure that an adequate level of accessibility is ensured," said Alejandro Moledo, Policy Coordinator at the European Disability Forum (EDF).

Alejandro was discussing accessibility policies in our Accessibility Insights webinar series, hosted by Robin Christopherson MBE, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet.

Watch the captioned webinar recording (and download a transcript): 

Highlights from the webinar

During the session Alejandro discussed the recent EU legislation on accessibility (the European Accessibility Act) in further detail, and accessibility issues across media, telecoms and emerging technologies (AI, robotics, smart environments) and more.

Alejandro coordinates EDF’s advocacy work towards the European Parliament, and focuses on policies concerning political participation and accessibility for persons with disabilities to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Alejandro also has a background in journalism and communications, and is a member of the Spanish Blind Organisation (ONCE), for which he worked as a journalist and regional representative of young visually impaired people inside the organisation (2008-2011).

Webinar transcript, podcast and slides

A transcript, slides used in the webinar, podcast, and follow up Q&A responses are available below.

All of our webinars are recorded and you can find them on our website. For additional information read answers to frequently asked questions about AbilityNet webinars.

Questions and answers from the webinar

Alejandro and Robin have been able to provide their answers to questions posed by attendees during the webinar:

Question: Now that Brexit has happened does the UK have to follow any European Accessibility guidelines? 

Answer (Alejandro Moledo): In addition to the EU Directive which is UK law already, the UK has also transposed the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, and the European Electronic Communications Code. Unfortunately, the Accessibility Act falls into an EU Internal Market legislation, which is not part of the EU-UK deal. Nevertheless, I’m sure it will have a positive impact on UK too (we’ll need to see trade agreements, etc.). I also hope disability organisations in the UK will advocate the UK government to be aligned with the EU when it comes to accessibility legislation, as this is what industry wants, and it will be good for users.

Robin: There is UK legislation (Equality Act 2010) and, for public sector (including universities and public media etc) the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR) 

Q: Following the question above, I would love to hear in particular whether the UK will have to adopt the European Accessibility Act by June 2022 like other EU countries, since that was published on the EU side before Brexit.

AM: See above.

Q: Maybe Apple as a UX and design driven company culture also a factor? Together with the fact they build from Hardware, OS to software integrated systems.

AM: Certainly. A universal design approach brings both accessibility and usability. 

Q: I am the CEO of a small Dementia Charity and Digital Inclusion has been our number one priority during lockdown as a means of supporting our service users.  Do you recognise Dementia as Disability within the remit of the workd of the EDF?

AM: Absolutely. One of our European members is Alzheimer Europe.

Q: Does the Accessibility Act require back-dated remediation of ePubs etc from a specific date or just going forward from enactment?

AM: From the moment of the implementation date (2025).

Q: Will the EU be taking necessary steps to educate industries about the new policy (and highlight the benefits therein!)?

AM: Yes. The Accessibility Act foresees the creation of a European Expert Group in which Member States, industry and users will be represented, and we hope tha one of the objectives of this working group will be to work on building the capacity of industry. This is why we are also calling for an EU Access Board which could lead this work more consistently for all accessibility legislation and not just the Act. Let’s see if this proposal is included when the Commission releases the Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030 (coming soon!).

Q: Does the Act govern online services as well as hardware products?

AM: Yes, although you will need to see if these are included in the scope of the Directive. Hardware like: smartphones, computers, tablets, e-readers, smart TVs, payment terminals, ATMs, ticketing machines. Online services like: e-commerce, e-books providers, online services related to audiovisual services, to transport services, to banking services…

Q: Have any public sector organisations been sanctioned in any way in UK/EU under PSBAR?

Robin: Not to my knowledge as yet – but the government is finally proactively monitoring and enforcing so it may be only a matter of time. It’s certainly massively raised the level of engagement in that sector.

Q: I am interested in Alejandro’s views on the need to make documents (PDF, PPT etc) accessible under the law change?

AM: The law is technologically neutral, therefore no specific format is mentioned as for digital documents. What the Act sets out are the accessibility requirements that those documents will need to comply with. For example: perceivable, understandable, operable, robust… (WCAG prinples). In the end, they will need to respect the standard which for documents will need to fulfil more or less what we already have today at the EN 301 549. A different story will be e-books, as these have their specific standard (ePub) which already includes accessibility guidelines in its latest version.

Q: Now many groups have moved to zoom to meet, many are not using accessibility features such as a live transcript. Are there any strategies that I can use to nudge them into being more accessible?

AM: No platform is perfect. I recommend you to take a look at the recent webinar of the US Access Board on this issue, as they compare the pros and cons of the most important ones, and they give tips and guidance on how to hold an accessible online meeting (soon to be uploaded here).

Further resources