All countries should have central registries for accessibility statements of their public sector

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Without data we just have opinions. Having a lot of data in different formats can take time to process and sometimes also mean we can’t really compare state of accessibility if countries use different methodologies. If all countries had same data set or even better, central registry it would make data more accessible. And we could save time and money.

Ideally there should be a single template defined by organizations of people with disabilities and organizations of accessibility specialists, so that all accessibility statements would have the same structure of content.

That would make things easier for people with disabilities, for procurement, for authorities, for monitoring progress and when needed comparison on all possible levels (continent, country, region etc.).

There are some templates that can be used as a starting point, like W3c WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) Initiatives Accessibility Statement example (opens in new window). They even provide a simple Accessibility Statement Generator Tool (opens in new window), that I’ve used in couple of cases.

Comment on European public sector accessibility statements

WAD (Web Accessibility Directive) in Europe requires that public sector websites and native mobile applications have an accessibility statement (opens in new window), but unfortunately WAD doesn’t define it’s exact template and let countries define it’s final form. I understand the point of leaving things to be opened, so that each country can produce their own template, but at the same time I see this as a very counter-productive liberty when we need to compare statements between countries. Or when people with disabilities want to check the statement when in another country (free market and free workforce movement etc.).

I will go even further and suggest that countries have a central registry of all of their public sector accessibility statements. Ideally whole Europe should have a central registry, so that we could be able to compare accessibility between sectors, countries and more in the most effective way possible. A centralized database, based on same dataset and using same templates would make things much more transparent for everybody.

That would also save a lot of taxpayers money if we consider that data from all accessibility statements would be automatically collected in a central database, so that all member countries wouldn’t have to create their own reports and then join them in a central statistical report (if they can even do this in the current situation where all reports and data come in different formats etc.).

How did a central accessibility statements registry help Norway

Norway is one of the countries that decided to use a central registry that is also a tool to generate accessibility statements based on a predefined template. Check captioned video about Norwegian accessibility statement (opens in new window). Besides obvious benefits of a centralized template this solution also provides the authorities to check if some public sector organization don’t update their accessibility statements (as they must do at least once per year) and if they have an accessibility statement at all.

In my spring research of accessibility statements of Norwegian municipalities I discovered that 60 out of 356 municipalities didn’t publish an accessibility statement. It took me quite some time to check all of them, partially writing automated testing and partially checking manually.

Centralized accessibility statement enabled Norwegian authorities to get that number by a click or two, I would guess. And in autumn they did check the situation and found that 18 municipalities still hadn’t got an accessibility statement. They reached out to them with demand letters and from 25th of October 2023 all Norwegian municipalities now have their accessibility statements (in Norwegian, opens in new window).

I will not go into details about how good the data is here, let’s just say that automatic accessibility testing gets you only so far and that you need a lot of experience and knowledge to make manual testing efficient and correct.

What is the situation in your country?

I know that more countries use centralized solutions but haven’t got the time to analyze every EU country.

I know that at least Netherlands and Italy have some sort of central registries but haven’t researched them more at the time of writing this article…

Author: Bogdan Cerovac

I am IAAP certified Web Accessibility Specialist (from 2020) and was Google certified Mobile Web Specialist.

Work as digital agency co-owner web developer and accessibility lead.

Sole entrepreneur behind IDEA-lab Cerovac (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility lab) after work. Check out my Accessibility Services if you want me to help your with digital accessibility.

Also head of the expert council at Institute for Digital Accessibility (in Slovenian).

Living and working in Norway (🇳🇴), originally from Slovenia (🇸🇮), loves exploring the globe (🌐).

Nurturing the web from 1999, this blog from 2019.

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