E-accessibility initiatives undertaken in Belgium and on the demand of European Institutions in the field of e-accessibility

Les initiatives en faveur de l'accessibilité numérique en Belgique et la demande des institutions européennes

Marc Walraven
ASCII, Belgium.


Speaker's information

Picture of Marc Walraven1995 - 2001: Web Designer & Web Accessibility Consultant at DG PRESS (European Commission).
2001 - Present: Project Manager of ASCii's Web Accessibility & Usability Department Manager of ASCii's technical team Web Accessibility Consultant (DG PRESS, ...).

Information sur l'auteur

Marc WALRAVEN a été consultant pour la Conception et l'accessibilité des services Web à la DG PRESS (Commission Européenne) de 1995 à 2001. Depuis 2001 il est chef de projet au département Web Accessibility & Usability de la société ASCII où il est responsable de l'équipe Web Accessibility Consultant (DG PRESS, ...).

Short paper

EUROPA is the portal site of the European Union providing up-to-date coverage of European Union affairs and essential information on European integration. Users can also consult all legislation currently in force or under discussion, access the websites of each of the EU institutions and find out about the policies administered by the European Union under the powers devolved to it by the Treaties.
As the EUROPA web site is a public information server, it should be accessible to the largest extent of citizens, regardless of their ability.
A few points about SWORD/ASCii's core business:

Since the early 90's the EU launched different initiatives to combat discrimination based on disability and to promote an "Information Society for All". (some key dates are shown on slides "EU rules and policy in the field of e-accessibility") At the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000, Heads of State and the Government of the European Union launched a strategy to prepare the EU for the challenges of the new century. This has become known as the "Lisbon Strategy". The objectives set at Lisbon - higher growth, more and better employment and greater social inclusion - were ambitious and Information and communication technologies (ICT) were identified as playing a key role in achieving them. In response to this, the European Commission launched the eEurope initiative in June 2000 with the aim of accelerating Europe's transition towards a knowledge-based economy, and to realise the potential benefits of higher growth, more employment and faster access for all citizens to the new services of the information age. The first phase of eEurope was the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, which comprised a total of 64 targets to be achieved by end 2002. The majority of these were successfully completed, and in June 2002, the European Council launched a second phase, eEurope 2005, which focuses on exploiting broadband technologies to deliver online services in both the public and private sector. The mid-term review of the eEurope 2005 Action Plan has confirmed that its main targets are valid until end 2005. The European Commission's view of the challenges that need to be addressed in a European Information Society strategy up to 2010 are set out in a Commission communication on "Challenges for Europe's Information Society beyond 2005: Starting point for a new EU strategy", adopted on 19 November 2004.
This communication highlights the need to step up research and investment in information and communication technologies (ICT), and to promote their take-up throughout the economy. ICT should be more closely tailored to citizens' needs and expectations, to enable them to participate more readily in socially fulfilling and culturally creative virtual communities. The Commission communication identifies a number of challenges that will remain relevant for Europe's future Information Society policy, such as electronic inclusion and citizenship, content and services, public services, skills and work, ICT as a key industry sector, interoperability, trust and dependability and ICT for business processes.
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on how best to make information and communication technologies (ICT) available to all, including the disabled and the elderly. This consultation, unveiled on 10 January, suggests introducing new legislation to remove the technical challenges and difficulties faced by some EU citizens when trying to use electronic products or services such as computers, mobile phones or the Internet. The public consultation focuses on three areas identified by the Commission as key to promoting what it defines as 'e-accessibility': public procurement, certification, and the use of legislation The consultation document is available online, and interested parties have until 12 February 2005 to comment on these proposals. Responses are given anonymously. The results of the consultation and the various inputs will feed into a Commission communication on e-accessibility, to be adopted by June 2005.
So what is happening in Belgium?
There is no formal legislation in Belgium related to Web Accessibility. But thanks to a rather recent "law on Anti-discrimination" (voted on February 25th and published on March 17th 2003) stating that "Any lack of reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities will be considered as a form of discrimination", many initiatives were launched in Belgium to address the web site accessibility challenge.

Flemish Government

On June 11th 2004 the Flemish Government decided that the websites and (related) online services of its institutions (Flemish Parliament, the Flemish Government, the Ministry of the Flemish Community and the Flemish public institutions) should be made accessible before the end of 2007 (internet) and 2010 (intranet):

Federal Government

Since December 2003 the French and Dutch language versions of the Belgian federal portal site have been awarded the "BlindSurfer label". This label guarantees accessibility to the portal content for visually impaired users. The label was awarded after thorough evaluation by the BlindSurfer association (ONA , Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde). In Belgium, the BlindSurfer label has been proposed as the official Quality Mark for Accessible web sites. Sword/ASCii is currently working with the Federal Public Service of Justice to make their web site accessible. It is one of the first Public Services which is undertaking concrete steps to improve the quality of their web site. Negotiations have also started up with the Federal Public Service of Finance.

Walloon Government

On February 20th 2003, the Walloon Region in Belgium decided to actively start addressing the problems of their inaccessible web sites. Less than a month later (on April 10th 2003), the Walloon Government decided to take the necessary steps to make all of its (existing) public web sites accessible to people with disabilities. Accessible web sites will receive the BlindSurfer logo and all newly created sites must be accessible from the start... All activities are coordinated by "Wall-On-Line", a special project set up (and adopted) by the Walloon Government in June 2001 to draft and put in place a concept for a multiple-purpose and accessible online Portal for all local services.
"ONA ("L'Oeuvre nationale des aveugles") is responsible for the technical aspects.
A list of "priority sites" was dressed up in 2004 and made available on line. These sites should all be made accessible by the end of 2005...

Presentation material ppt - 730Ko - new window

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