EUROPEAN REVIEW

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ISSUE 61 page 8

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Sites of Interest

Accessibility to be the watchword for public service web sites under new EU rules

 AS MORE AND MORE GOVERNMENT AND OTHER PUBLIC SERVICES have gone online, encouraged by the European Commission, the ability of all customers to use them has become crucial. There are 80 million EU citizens with disabilities and 87 million over the age of 65 so the Commission estimate that improving the accessibility of public web sites will help about 100 million people to look for a job, register a car, submit a tax declaration etc. By insisting on features like audio descriptions of images, captions for audio files and keyboard functionality on all pages the proposal for a new EU directive will ensure that all 761,000 public sector and government web sites are available for all. Currently only one third of them meet the standards for accessibility despite the development of technical solutions, some of them funded under the EU’s research programmes.  The new law will specify the services which must satisfy accessibility rules and exactly what this involves in technical terms although the Commission wants
Disabled computer user
governments to apply them beyond the fields of social security, health, education, job search and personal document issue where they will be mandatory. At the moment the internationally recognised guidelines are the the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) but a European standard is being formulated. If the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers approve the directive it should be implemented by Member States in 2014 and the Commission estimate that this will unlock a market worth about €2 billion as developers could offer their products and services across the whole EU without extra adaptation costs and complications. Commissioner Kroes commented ‘These days virtually all of us depend on Internet access to go about our daily lives in one way or another, and we all have the right to equal access to government services online’.

A disabled user accesses the web in the WCAG 2.0 video

 

 

 Web sites mentioned in this issue are available at:
 WCAG 2.0 theme song
OiRA online risk assessment tool
 Flight safety petition
 Spanish part-time pensions case
 Young people and NEETs
 Active inclusion of young people furthest from the labour market 
EU develops online risk assessment for leather industry
Moldova government swaps mobile signature for paper

THE EU’S EUROPEAN AGENCY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK has collaborated with the social partners in the leather industry, industriAll and COTANCE, to develop OiRA, the online risk assessment tool aimed at small and medium-sized tanneries. The sector typically uses chemicals and machines which can be dangerous without proper handling. The web resource covers safety management, buildings and floors, internal transport, emergency management, fire risk, environmental conditions, working with raw hides and skins, use of knives, use and maintenance of machines, and the use of chemicals. It takes the form of a number of questions with room for notes and references to relevant legislation. Eventually the details of identified risks and an action plan for dealing with them can be printed out. The agency urges companies to consult widely with the employees in identifying risks as they ‘are experts when it comes to answering questions on their working conditions’.

OIRA logo

IT HAS LONG BEEN AN AIM OF THE EU’s to encourage ‘e-Government’ whereby services such as car registration, tax declaration or registration of a new company can be accessed online instead of via a paper form. Now a country beyond its borders has gone the whole hog and abolished paper altogether. In co-operation with two ‘phone companies the Moldovan government has launched a mobile signature service which will allow all citizens to sign electronic documents. Orange and Moldcell will offer, initially free of charge, a SIM card and a unique PIN code to enable signing once a certificate from the Centre of Special Telecommunications has been obtained. All institutions are obliged by law to accept such signatures. Although paper forms will continue the authorities hope that as they become more popular mobile signatures will help the government ‘get rid of corruption, save time and become efficient’ in the words of Prime Minister Vlad Filat. Its e-Cazier service is planning to make more and more licences, reports and applications available online.  




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