The United States introduced strong legislation in the 1980s to ensure that e-accessibility is a requirement for all procurements of IT equipment. Initially, the Commission also considered this to be a possible approach. However, the results of a public consultation held at the beginning of 2005 showed that 'soft legislation' using standardisation would be more appropriate. Europe-wide accessibility requirements would concern first of all public procurement, the biggest customer for IT equipment. This will, the Commission hopes, boost a wider market for easily accessible goods.
E-accessibility concerns devices as well as software and services.
The EU approach rests on three pillars:
- Accessibility requirements in public procurement: The revised directives on public procurement contain specific references to using 'Design for All' and accessibility requirements as possible selection criteria for tenders.
- Certification and assessment: The Commission plans to set up a certification mechanism for accessible products and services.
- Exploration of legal measures: Existing member states' and foreign legislation on accessibility will be examined. The introduction of appropriate measures may be part of a planned overhaul of e-accessibility legislation due in 2008.
A set of complementary actions in the field of standardisation comprise:
- Increasing skills on how to create e-Accessibility and how to avoid creating new barriers, and foster its translation into member states' law.
- Design for all: A widely known prerequisite for IT products, which is still not widely enough applied.
- Web accessibility for all online services of public interest will be assessed and certified according to the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Guidelines.
- Awareness-raising among key stakeholders.
- Benchmarking and monitoring. The Commission will set targets for accessibility and monitor progress.
- Research and technological development on e-accessibility has already been an important element in the 5th and 6th Research Framework Programmes and will stay on the Commission's research agenda.