World Wide Accessibility – benefits of standardization

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Short reflection on positive and negative situations related to accessibility standards. Unification, or to say standardization of accessibility standards, should be our common goal.

Recent adoption of European accessibility standard EN 301 549 in Canada (opens in new window) made me think about world wide accessibility impacts. It all started with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (by the way – WCAG is now 25 years old), already an international standard, but now we can also see the benefits of European standard being adopted also in countries outside of Europe.

Thanks to Canada we now got EN 301 549 in HTML (and Word) format

There were many people and organizations that disliked the EN 301 549 only been available in PDF. I must say that I was one of them. Some tried to lobby to get HTML version and didn’t get the approval. Some enthusiasts tried to convert the PDF to HTML manually, but gave up due to licensing questions.

And then Canada just made the HTML version of EN 301 549 (opens in new window). I don’t know how they made it, but I am glad they did!

Countries outside of Europe that adopted EN 301 549

To my information Canada is last but not the only one that adopted the EN 301 549. We also have at least two countries (please let me know if you know about more) that adopted EN 301 549;

There are also signals that United States of America is also considering the adoption of EN 301 549 (opens in new window), which would lift the relevance of the standard to even higher level (and making digital products accessible to even wider population).

United Kingdom sadly went away from EN 301 549

UK abandoned European Union and UK also abandoned EN 301 549 (opens in new window), but that allowed them to embrace WCAG 2.2 as one of the first countries, as WCAG 2.2 is not a part of EN 301 549 yet.

I don’t see this as an advantage for accessibility when I consider that WCAG 2.2 will soon be a part of EN 301 549 anyway, but UK will not require all the accessibility requirements in the EN 301 549 that go beyond WCAG (quite a lot of them and EN standard also targets specific digital products beyond web).

Standardization of standards

We have WCAG and we have EN 301 549 that embraces WCAG A and AA (currently version 2.1, but it will follow up soon). I guess that saying we should just have EN 301 549 is not possible as it includes WCAG. To only have WCAG in current form also seems to not be enough as EN 301 549 upgrades it. WCAG 3 is still in brainstorming phase, so we can’t say we just need it.

My wish is that we can include EN 301 549 into WCAG 3 and only have a single standard – WCAG 3. It would make things easier. I already see negative consequences of having multiple standards, like for example in Norway that ignored additional accessibility requirements beyond WCAG for it’s public sector.

Standardizing standards would for sure make things simpler for all involved – for people with disabilities, for stakeholders and for people making the products and services.

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.

More about me and how to contact me:

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