The EU Accessibility Directive

On 1st April 2019 the national law concerning digital services, Laki digitaalisten palvelujen tarjoamisesta (306/2019), came into force. According to 2§, all universities and universities of applied sciences are included into the law’s definition of authorities. This law brings the Directive 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies into effect (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32016L2102). There are no sanctions stated in the directive, but the national legislation gives the supervising authority the right to use penalties.

In the directive, accessibility means:

that websites, mobile applications and their content are such that everyone can use them and understand their messages. Accessible services use techniques and methods that make them available through different types of data equipment and assistive technologies. Accessibility can be described as easy accessible digital services that are available also for persons with disabilities.

Accessibility is an essential part of the “design for all” principle. According to this principle all types of users and their needs are taken into account already when planning the service. The goal is to guarantee equal possibilities for all users to make the most of digital services, despite sight and hearing capacity, disruption of motor functions or other functional limitations. (Free translation of Finansministeriet: Vanliga frågor om tillgänglighet och tillgänglighetskrav, https://vm.fi/sv/vanliga-fragor-om-tillganglighetskrav)

The schedule for meeting the demands in the directive is as follows (Free translation of Finansministeriet: Tillgänglighet. https://vm.fi/sv/tillganglighetsdirektivet):

  • Websites published on 23th September 2018 or later must meet the accessibility demands no later than 23th September 2019.
  • Websites published before 23th September 2018 must meet the accessibility demands no later than 23th September 2020.
  • Mobile applications must meet the accessibility demands on 23th June 2021.
  • PDF-files and other documents:
    • For websites published BEFORE 23th September 2018
      • PDF-files published 23th September 2018 or later must be available in September 2020.
      • PDF-files published before 23th September 2018 do not need to meet the accessibility demands with the exception of PDF-files in administrative processes, e.g. applications.
    • On websites published on 23th September 2018 or later the PDF-files must be available in September 2019.

Besides websites and mobile applications, the academic libraries must overlook the production and publishing processes of theses, as well as videos and other audiovisual material presenting the library’s services.

The university library is usually managing the institutional repository where theses are published. In order to fulfil the accessibility demands these PDF-files must be readable with different types of technical devices. Celia – a national center for accessible literature and publishing in Finland – has collected some instructions for how to create PDF-files, and other office programme file types, so that assistive technologies can make use of them: https://www.saavutettavasti.fi/saavutettavat-tiedostot/ (only in Finnish). The recommended PDF-file format, PDF/UA, is compatible with the PDF/A-file format used for archiving.

According to the information on the website of the Ministry of Finance, all audiovisual material that will be made available for longer than 14 days on the websites of the authorities, must be subtitled in Finnish and Swedish, and when necessary, also in other languages, e.g. Sami, English and sign language. This applies to, for instance, video recordings and podcasts. If subtitling is not possible, the content should be explained in another manner, e.g. in text format. Exceptions are made for live broadcasts and video recordings made available before the directive took effect on 22nd December 2016. Read more about the accessibility for time-dependent media content in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/.

In May there will be more information available on the website of the Regional State Administrative Agencies: https://www.saavutettavuusvaatimukset.fi/. Libraries find valuable information on Celia’s website: https://www.celia.fi/. In addition, the blog https://saavutettava.fi/ contains current information from the Finnish forum Design for all.

Text: Tua Hindersson-Söderholm


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