7 answers on the new Austrian Act on Web Accessibility

von d.schindelboeck@gentics.com am 17.1.2020

With the adoption of the Act on Web Accessibility (WZG), the Austrian National Council transposed an EU guideline passed in October 2016 into national law. The act entered into force on September 23, 2019 and requires the Federal Government to design websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies in a way that allows for unrestricted access to all users. Read this blog article to learn what the new act means, whether it concerns you and what you need to do. 

Barrierefreiheits Schild mit Rollstuhlfahrer Icon
Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

Who will benefit from “web accessibility”?

“Web accessibility” means that everyone can access information and use the services of the Internet in the way that is best suited for them. The benefits are not limited to people with disabilities or the growing number of elderly people: Web accessibility is a topic of growing importance in these days when “digitisation” is no longer a buzz word. Public authorities are offering an increasing number of services aimed at making the life of citizens easier, for example services to apply for passports. As a positive side effect, this also saves money in the area of administration. Nor should we forget that the services offered by Google, M2M applications, Alexa, Siri and others also require good web accessibility to process information in a better way. 

How accessible is the Web 2019?

The question of accessibility is almost as old as the web itself. The requirements relating to the accessible use of it are governed by the internationally recognised W3C guidelines, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Even though the first guidelines were published 20 years ago, web accessibility still cannot be taken for granted – despite several legal provisions such as the Austrian eGovernment Act (E-GovG), the Austrian Federal Act on the Equalization of Persons with Disabilities (BGStG) or the Directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, (EU) 2016/2102.

A further step has now been taken with the newly adopted Act on Web Accessibility (WZG). It transposes the EU guideline mentioned above into national law and has been in force since September 23, 2019.

Which tasks do website operators have to carry out now?

The Act on Web Accessibility governs the tasks of website operators of the Federal Government and its bodies (for example public authorities, agencies). Operators not only need to ensure that web accessibility is fully provided but also have to take measures that it is maintained. The act also deals with the way in which accessibility shortcomings reported by website visitors have to be handled. It foresees deadlines for some cases where the measures to be taken or intended have to be communicated within a period of two months.

What are the tasks of the new monitoring and complaints office on accessibility?

The act also defines the tasks that are in place to ensure and further improve accessibility of websites and mobile applications provided by the Federal Government and its bodies, such as providing public information, trainings or measures to raise awareness as well as monitoring and complaints management. The Federal Government has therefore entrusted the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) with the responsibility of establishing a body which will monitor the institutions that are required to implement the act. FFG has also set up a complaints office to ensure that the act is implemented as comprehensively as possible on all levels of the administration. 

Which requirements have to be fulfilled?

The legal framework points directly to the requirements of W3C’s Level AA conformance Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – WCAG 2.1. 

Welche Fristen sind zu beachten?

According to FFG, websites and mobile applications related to the Federal Government and its bodies have to be accessible no later than the following dates:

  • New websites (published after September 23, 2019) as of September 23, 2019
  • Old websites (published before September 23, 2019) as of September 23, 2020
  • All mobile applications as of June 23, 2021

How can Gentics products and services support you in implementing the act? 

Gentics has been a successful implementation partner in the environment of Austrian authorities for many years. Side by side with supporting our customers in the design and technical implementation of their web portals we also benefit from a wide-ranging network of partners. 

In the area of web accessibility we have a long-standing partnership with Wolfram Huber, founder of doloops (web-tech). Together we have supported many customers such as the Constitutional Court of Austria or the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection in improving the accessibility of their websites. 

The company doloops (web-tech) and its founder not only offer consulting on web accessibility but also carry out accessibility tests of existing web applications. The service portfolio is however not limited to automated test tools. Applications are equally checked from the perspective of users with restricted possibilities. 

In addition, doloops (web-tech) also supports customers who want to gain a certificate from Web Accessibility Certificate Austria for their websites.

The Austrian Economic Chambers WKO (www.wko.at), a customer of both Gentics and doloops (web-tech), have already benefited from this service and have convinced the auditors: 

„“The website of the Austrian Chambers of Commerce meets the accessibility requirements according to WCAG 2.0 – AA at a good level and has been awarded the bronze certificate. Congratulations to the developers – this was not an easy task since the website is extremely comprehensive and very complex. The Austrian Chambers of Commerce have set a good example and are a role model for their members.”  

Source: https://waca.at/zertifikate

Let’s get started into an accessible future!

The Act on Web Accessibility (WZG) requires the Federal Government and its bodies to design all websites and mobile applications for accessibility. It constitutes yet another step into an accessible future. With initiatives such as the European Disability Act it is only a matter of time until such requirements will also apply to private companies. It therefore already makes sense to design new projects for accessibility since accessible websites with a logical structure and foreseeable processes reach higher SEO performance and conversion rates. 

If you are planning a relaunch of your website or a new online presence with the aim of improving user experience and complying with the new legal framework, contact us at  office@gentics.com

*Mag. Wolfram Huber is an active member of accessiblemedia http://www.accessiblemedia.at, a platform that strives to ensure better web accessibility and organises the annual A-Day, an event which offers exciting presentations on issues relating to accessibility. 

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