Are your websites and mobile apps WAD compliant?
An EU directive from 2016 - the Web Accessibility Directive (EU 2016/2102) ("WAD") – will very soon require attention from owners of websites and mobile apps. WAD demands that people with disabilities have "digital accessibility", which means being able to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Internet. In essence, WAD states that no one shall be excluded from online banking and shopping, using public services online, and communicating with relatives and friends.
In this brief, we will look at the content and implications of WAD, as well as the next steps for the local implementation of the directive.
Content of the directive
WAD sets requirements for public sector bodies, however a white paper by the Norwegian government suggest including private companies with more than 50 employees in the Norwegian WAD legislation.
WAD has a limited number of exceptions and it refers to specific standards to make websites and mobile apps more accessible. Such standards for instance require that there should be a text description for images, or that users are able to interact with a website without using a mouse, which can be difficult for some people with disabilities.
Norway already meets many of the requirements in the directive through regulations on universal design of ICT. However, some requirements are new including the requirements for visual interpretation of multimedia content (video). The directive also requires the publication of an accessibility statement for each website and mobile app, describing the level of accessibility and indicating any content that is not accessible. Further, also new, the directive calls for a feedback mechanism, where users can flag accessibility problems or ask for the information contained in a non-accessible content.
The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency is currently working on developing a central digital solution for the accessibility declaration with a built in feedback mechanism. According to the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency's website, a beta version of the accessibility statement will be ready by the end of 2020. The development of this will take place in consultation with the reference group, which consists of representatives from NAV, the Tax Administration, DFØ, Norwegian Health Network, in addition to the municipalities Oslo, Bergen and Sogndal.
The purpose of the accessibility statement is, among other things, to make private companies and public bodies aware of any aspects that are not in accordance with the requirements for universal design and that need to be improved. Furthermore, the statement shall provide the users with guidance on how to obtain information in an accessible format and be a channel for the users to report difficulties with the solution.
It appears likely that WAD will be part of the EEA agreement this fall and thus that the directive will become a formal part of Norwegian law spring 2021.
WAD calls for technical changes to websites and mobile apps. It may take time to design and implement the required functionality. In Norway, it is likely that WAD will affect private companies with more than 50 employees. It is advisable to include the new requirements into your compliance program to ensure that website and mobile apps are WAD compatible.