Brussels - Saint Lazarus Foundation endorses Equal Access to Web Open Letter (March 2016)
An Open Letter from 20 civil society networks, representing consumers, older people and people from a range of representative organisations of persons with disabilities strongly opposed Council’s proposals to water down the Web Accessibility Directive.
Web accessibility means that everyone - including people with disabilities - can use the internet independently to browse, navigate and interact. In 2012, the European Commission released a proposal for a Web Directive on the accessibility of the public sector bodies' websites. The proposal has been discussed at the European Parliament and at the EU Council.
The Council, which is composed of representatives of all EU member states, has proposed to significantly reduce the scope of the Web Directive, excluding websites of public broadcasters, schools, kindergartens, universities, nurseries or NGOs. The Council also proposed to exclude some web content such as the live audiovisual, as well as intranets and extranets. Excluding intranets and extranets will prevent persons with disabilities from being able to work in organisations that rely on the use of these types of "private websites" in their everyday work.
These exemptions will mean limited access and unfair treatment for many people- including older people and people with disabilities. Because of this situation, the European Disability Forum - of which Saint Lazarus is a member - has worked together with a range of partners and members to advocate for the EU to adopt a meaningful Web Directive.
Our open letter, launched today and signed by 20 civil society networks, representing consumers, older people and people from a range of representative organisations of persons with disabilities, expresses our strong opposition to the far-reaching exemptions proposed by the Member States. These exemptions will prevent millions of citizens from accessing digital information and online services which are nowadays taken for granted. The websites of private entities used to deliver a public service such as postal services or transportation, should also be covered by the Directive. These online public services, such as paying taxes, accessing academic materials or buying a train ticket, are increasingly accessed through mobile devices and applications, therefore to the Directive must ensure accessibility of both mobile web and mobile applications.
We call on the governments of all EU member states to ensure that the 80 million persons with disabilities and the 150 million older people who live in Europe, have access to the online public services that are provided to other citizens in the EU, and that public money never funds inaccessible content. Equal access to information and communication technologies is a human right enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).
It is not acceptable to adopt legislation that would potentially deny millions of citizens access to the digital world we live in today.
It is not acceptable to legalise digital barriers to the right to work because of inaccessible employment web editors, intranets, extranets, etc.
It is not acceptable to exclude millions of people from fully participating in society.
As society, the economy and public services become more and more digitalised, it is critical that no one is left behind. Governments have an obligation to create a level playing field, with equal access for all.
We call on the EU member states to not miss this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities and older people and to adopt a meaningful Web Directive.
The open letter is signed by: European Disability Forum, European Union of the Deaf, AGE Platform Europe, European Federation of Hard of Hearing People, ANEC, European Network of Independent Living, European Blind Union, Autism Europe, European Alliance of Neuromuscular disorders association, International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, European Federation of Parents of Hearing Impaired Children, Inclusion Europe, European Dyslexia Association, European Network of (Ex)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, Action Europeenne des Handicapes, International Federation of Persons with Physical Disabilitity, European Deafblind Network, Disabled Peoples' International European Region, European Association of Cochlear Implant Users, Retina International.