Joni Heinonen

The European Parliament approved the Web Accessibility Directive in late 2016. The directive regulates the minimum requirements set for the accessibility of public sector web services and the monitoring of how accessibility is implemented.

Digital service accessibility means that a service is accessible by all. Indeed, accessibility is an essential aspect of the digitalisation of public services and in improving the quality of digital services. If accessibility is not taken into account, many people will be unable to use the service. It is estimated that over one million Finns have special challenges when using web services: e.g. disabilities, aging, difficulties reading and writing, mental health problems and poor Finnish language skills can all pose difficulty when trying to do things online.

The directive is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard. The standard contains many different criteria that an accessible web service must meet.

Web service accessibility

Web service accessibility comprises technical accessibility and the accessibility of content. The usability of web services is also essential for accessibility.

  • Technical accessibility means that the web service can be used with technical aids (such as screen reader programs), for example. Technical accessibility requires, among other things, that the web service is coded flawlessly and complies with standards. WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines can be found on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) website.
  • Content accessibility refers to cognitive accessibility, which means that the content is understandable and easy to read and use. Content accessibility can be improved by using clear, simple language, avoiding specialist or difficult terms and by dividing text content into manageable segments. One method of improving content accessibility is to use simple language where possible. More information on simple language is available on the Selkokeskus website.

When must websites and other digital services be accessible?

The directive’s accessibility requirements will not come into effect all at once in Finland. Instead, there are transition periods which depend on when a web service or online content was published and on the kind of operator that published it.

The transition period for old web services published before 23.9.2018 is 2 years, and so they must be accessible by 23.9.2020. New web services must comply with requirements from 23.9.2019. In cases where the private sector is bound by these requirements, their websites must comply with the accessibility requirements by 1.1.2021.

Mobile applications must be compliant from 23.6.2021. Intranets and extranets used by authorities and bodies governed by public law must comply with the accessibility requirements after 22.9.2019 when a new intranet is published or the old intranet is completely modernised.

Develop your organisation’s web service into an accessible service

Accessible websites require expertise from the designer, implementer and administrator. We can help you to develop your existing service into an accessible service or take care of ensuring that an entirely new web service is accessible from release.

Fill in the form below if you have any questions about the accessibility of your web service!

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