How the European Accessibility Act will affect the UK

"There are so many positive things around the Accessibility Act," said Susanna Laurin, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Funka, and also Representative to the EU for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), sharing her insights into the European Accessibility Act on our webinar.

Highlights from the webinar

Susanna Laurin speaking on our webinar

"Many people in the user community or the disabled person organisations are disappointed that we didn't get everything into the Act," said Susanna.

"I mean, from the UK perspective you will be affected even if you decide not to include this... This will cover so many products and services, and if you want to sell to the EU, which your industry will, you will be affected," she continued.

Susanna was chatting with Robin Christopherson MBE, AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion, in our monthly Accessibility Insights webinar series with individuals who are each working to improve digital accessibility and digital inclusion. 

Watch the webinar recording or download the transcript:

Susanna, has more than 20 years' experience in working with disability-related issues in senior roles, with several assignments for the European Commission. 

On the webinar, Susanna and Robin discussed topics including:

  • Development of the accessibility profession in Europe 
  • User testing for accessibility
  • The challenges for accessibility enforcement
  • The gap between technical appliance and real users
  • IAAP's role in promoting the accessibility profession
Webinar information

The webinar is part of AbilityNet Live! and is FREE of charge. We also offer paid role-based accessibility training. 

The webinar included captions for those who are hard of hearing or d/Deaf, and a transcript, slidedeck and podcast recording are available below. Find out more about AbilityNet webinars in our webinars FAQs.

Questions posed by webinar attendees

Question: Can you provide any pointers as to where to get a substantial training or qualification as a web/software developer?

Susanna Laurin (SL): There are several good training providers, I would certainly recommend choosing an IAAP accredited training provider (so you can get your IAAP certification). 

Robin Christopherson (RC): AbilityNet also runs a number of accessibility training courses for different roles, including web developers. Find out more on our training pages.

Q: Can you suggest any strategies to include end users in accessibility testing? Platforms, recruitment strategies?

SL: In general I would say: try to build a network of testers. It is important to reach out to both disabled people's organisations and individual people with disabilities. It is also important that your test panel is heterogeneous, not only when it comes to abilities, but also to assistive technology (AT) used, age, gender, educational background and level of tech savviness. During the pandemic, we have improved our online testing capacity, but there are still barriers, especially when it comes to cognitive impairments and people who are not familiar or comfortable with technology. An eye tracker is fantastic tool/platform for user testing! We use Tobii technology, but there are other brands on the market as well. For strategy, I would say: test the basics with technical experts or even automatic tools first, there is no benefit in letting five screenreader users get frustrated by an interface that is excluding them completely. Better to focus the user testing part on objects/items where you are either not sure because you haven’t seen the kind of solution before, or where there are different options. Make sure to measure both subjective and objective results, (ie measure how long it takes to perform task A, without letting the tester know, and then ask the tester if he/she thought it was smooth and easy or cumbersome. You may be surprised by the different results you can get from these two perspectives).

Robin Christopherson (RC): AbilityNet has a training course that might be of interest: How to do inclusive user testing

Q: How can I start accessibility learning project here in my country (Brazil)? Any advice? I mean "best practices"

SL: Unfortunately, I have never worked in Brazil, but I could connect you to the right places in Mexico and Columbia, or I could put you in contact with some really good people in Portugal if you are looking for material in your language – do reach out to me if you would like me to make the connection. The beauty of being an IAAP member is that you get to know brilliant people all over the world ☺

Q: I’ve come across a lot of demand for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPATs) from the USA but have not yet come across similar requests under EN301549 in Europe. Are you seeing these requested in practice in Europe?

SL: No, and I am happy about that. I don’t like the way VPATs are (mis)used U.S. From a policy perspective, that is not the way the EU is going to go. But I agree there is a need for procurement support, and there are a couple of ongoing initiatives to support that. Slow business, though…

Q: I am building content for a “web” audience is people with MCI (mild cognitive disability) to advanced dementia. Can you give us examples of existing websites (not simply “broad guidelines”) with the same audience? I am especially interested in “reading level” and site navigation.

SL: My English is far from good enough to be able to assess reading levels. And unfortunately, I can’t say I have many good examples of well-made websites for the MCI target audience either. 
One type of content that has proven to work well for a broad audience can be exemplified by a Swedish rehab centre for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and AT called DART. The content is in Swedish, but hopefully you may be inspired by the simple set-up of text + image (showing examples and explaining how the testing of AT works). Multimodality doesn’t have to be more fancy than this to make a difference.

For navigation, that is, according to our research, mostly dependent on what is most commonly used in that context and geography. We can “prove” that one type of navigation is preferred by a vast majority of users in one specific region – but when we repeat the same research in a neighbouring country or for another type of content, the “winning” navigation concept may well be something else. It really depends on what people are used to. If you cover both young people with MCI and elderly with advanced dementia, I am sorry, but my experience is that it will be extremely hard to find a concept that suits both ends of that spectrum. Providing as many different formats (text, easy to read, video, illustrations, audio …) would be the way we would go.

Listen to the podcast of this episode:

Date of webinar: 
7 Sep 2021 - 13:00