EC Addresses Web Accessibility
34 European countries have agreed upon an “Internet for all” plan of action that is intended to make sure the nations’ most disadvantaged groups have Web access. The European Commission (EC) created the agreement.
The EC encompasses 25 member countries, and 9 additional nations agreed to the plan. The EC found that Web accessibility in urban areas is quite high – it puts the figure at 90 percent. But rural areas lag behind, with only 60 percent penetration. Only one-third of European households are thought to have broadband access, and as much as 30 to 40 percent of the population may not use the Internet. The “Internet for all” plan targets 90 percent broadband coverage across Europe by 2010.
The agreement also aims to specifically benefit disabled people. Older individuals might reap the benefit of any changes, as well – only 10 percent of Europeans over the age of 65 use the Internet. With these groups in mind, the EC would like to create and enact mandatory accessibility standards by 2010. “It’s something that sector is aware of and (is) taking action on, but it is a challenging issue,” said a representative of the Society of Information Technology management. “Local authorities are doing better than the private sector by far.”
One recent report found that only 19 percent of sites in the U.K. are accessible to disabled people, and separate research indicated that only 3 percent of European public-sector Web sites meet the World Wide Web Consortium’s accessibility guidelines. There is obvious room for improvement.