Why Norway’s Digital Accessibility Deadline Is Something to Celebrate

On May 28th, 2021, a new EU web accessibility directive was admitted as Norwegian law. The new law requires all public enterprise websites and apps to follow the EU Web Accessibility Directive (WAD) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1. In addition, the law also requires that websites and mobile apps publish an accessibility statement, and calls for the creation of a feedback mechanism that allows users to flag accessibility problems.

The law officially came into effect in February of 2022, with a one year adoption period, meaning that it did not become enforced until February 1, 2023. 

With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at one of the new law’s main requirements: publishing of  an accessibility statement, and break down what they are, what they should include, and why legislation making them a requirement is a truly important step for web accessibility in Norway and far beyond.  

Creating an Accessibility Statement

With the advent of the new law, public organizations with an online presence in Norway must now publish an accessibility statement. But what exactly is this, why is it being required, and how is one created? 

Well, in very basic terms, an accessibility statement is simply a document that provides information about the accessibility of an organization's online content. They are also commonly used to demonstrate a general commitment to accessibility and social responsibility. 

In order to create a statement that provides visitors with useful and accurate information regarding the accessibility of its content, organizations will need to actively look into whether their content is currently living up to web accessibility standards by undertaking both internal checks and, where applicable, using external accessibility consultants.

Once this foundational research has been completed, a comprehensive accessibility statement can then be created that outlines any content that does not meet accessibility standards, and offers some explanation as to why this is the case. 

As mentioned previously, the law also requires that web accessibility statements clearly outline how people can get in touch if they spot something wrong, and recommends that enquiries should ideally be addressed within a reasonable time period of between 3-6 weeks.

Once published, organizations also need to bear in mind that their web accessibility statement will need to be updated at least once a year to remain in compliance.

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Why the Law Is Significant (And Not Just for Norwegians)

Legal milestones such as this are not just abstract technicalities or boxes that need to be ticked, but can in fact help to change the global digital accessibility conversation for the better. Accessibility legislation in countries like Norway gives other nations a good indication of how accessibility standards across the globe are likely to proceed, and sets a good example to follow. 

While the new law does not yet apply to private sector websites in Norway, who are currently only required to meet WCAG 2.0 standards, this should absolutely not discourage them from stepping up their game and helping people with disabilities by aligning with WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

At some point, and most likely sooner rather than later, laws of a similar kind will inevitably be passed that will apply to the public sector. As this is only a matter of time, all websites, whether public or private, would be well advised to start taking action now to stay ahead of the digital curve.

Looking to the Future

While Norway’s new accessibility legislation may at first glance appear to be just another technical hoop to jump through, the truth is that such laws are a necessary step in the journey towards digital equity. With so much of our day-to-day lives now lived online, the time where web accessibility and web design were two entirely separate concerns is well and truly coming to an end. 

But don’t panic! Good design and good accessibility are not mutually exclusive, and the process of ensuring the latter is neither as complex or as time consuming as many would have you believe. 

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