Where is web accessibility headed in 2014?

As we move into 2014, plenty of policy movement is expected on web accessibility over the coming twelve months. From the completion of accessibility implementation plans, to refreshes of existing guidelines, to calls for greater accessibility, here is a snapshot of what we can expect around the world this year.

Australia

2014 is the final year of the National Transition Strategy, meaning that all government websites must be WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant by the end of this year. As of 1 January this year, all non-government Australian websites are also required to meet Level AA as per advisory notes for the Disability Discrimination Act.

The future of web accessibility standards in Australia is also likely to be laid out this year with the development of a Digital Design Standard. It is expected to provide a continuing web accessibility standard for government websites.

Canada

The Canadian province Ontario continues to make progress through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  The act has had yearly deadlines for conformance to WCAG 2.0 Level A, including Government compliance (start of 2012), large public sector organisations (start of 2013), and more recently small public sector organisations and larger corporates (start of 2014). Under the act, all websites should be Level AA compliant by the end of 2020.

European Union

As recently as two weeks ago, calls were renewed for accessibility standards to be rolled out across Europe. With elections of the European Parliament due to take place in May, advocates are calling for universal standards across all EU member states. A recent report completed by the European Commission identified that 21 member states currently have measures for web accessibility in place, and states an objective for all public sector websites to achieve “full web accessibility” by the end of 2015.

Hong Kong

In what is branded as a campaign by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer in Hong Kong, awareness raising of web accessibility in both the public and private sectors is expected to continue in 2014. Actions being taken on a government level include the continuation of a recognition scheme for efforts being made towards making websites and applications accessible, and the delivery of technical workshops and resources. It is already a requirement that government websites meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards (as of the start of 2013).

India

While there is no significant progress expected in 2014, web accessibility in India is likely to come under the microscope in the near future with the Techshare conference being held in New Delhi, India in the middle of February.

New Zealand

Web accessibility efforts are expected to be on the increase over the next four years as deadlines for New Zealand’s Web Accessibility Standards come into effect from July 2014. As of July, all home pages, contact pages, and pages considered to contain ‘high stakes information or services’ on government websites are required to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA, except where exceptions have already been outlined. Following the first deadline, attention will then turn to the leading quarter of government web pages visited. Any web page created, redesigned or redeveloped from July also must conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

Norway

With regulations being implemented only last year, Norway is only at the start of the eight-year timetable outlined to meet web accessibility conformance. Any new government websites will be required to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards as of the start of July, while existing websites (both public and private) have until the end of 2020 to comply with accessibility standards.

United States of America

Expected to be announced later this year is a refresh to Section 508, a component of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that specifies mandatory requirements to achieve web accessibility standards. Indications suggest that updates are likely to be approved in March before any legislative changes are outlined in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Initial discussion suggests that the first conformance date of any changes proposed will be in 2016 to allow time for the implementation of new standards.

Many other countries, such as France, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have existing web accessibility policies or mandates that will not (or are not expected to have) significant milestones or progress this year.