E-Accessibility Success in the European Union

European Union countries have achieved excellent progress in digital accessibility. Collectively, they took practical actions during a ministerial meeting in 2003 towards creating an open knowledge-based society accessible to all citizens by adopting the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines for all public websites. In 2004, a comparative survey to assess conformance of websites to web accessibility guidelines in four European countries, namely, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, was carried out.[1] The survey included websites from different categories including arts and entertainment, education, government, science, and the environment. The overall conformance of sampled websites to web accessibility guidelines was poor. None of the sites satisfied the AAA WCAG level, and only 6 per cent met the A level. Notably, 1 per cent of sites in the United Kingdom passed the AA level, while 100 per cent of sites in the other three countries failed to meet it. Since ratifying CRPD, website accessibility has improved significantly, as shown by the Click-Away Pound research survey conducted in 2016 to measure the accessibility of e-commerce websites for persons with disabilities.[2] It showed noticeable improvements in many accessibility issues. The survey reported almost 50 per cent compliance of e-commerce sites with WCAG2 criteria but with significant inaccessibility issues, such as poor links, poor navigation content, poor access to screen readers, and poor keyboard access.

A 2019 survey by Click-Away Pound revealed major important setbacks in e-accessibility issues. Despite the fact that more than 7 million people have access needs (an increase of 1 million since the 2016 survey), many websites still suffer from accessibility barriers. Around 66 per cent of surveyed websites have crowded content that hampers navigation by people with needs. Similarly, filling forms, colour contrast, text layouts, and animated images are still challenging issues, with less than 50 per cent compliance. This indicates that full compliance with WCAG2 is a real challenge.