In its recent newsletter, Funka, Swedish leader in accessibility and design for all, published an interview with PROGRESSIVE partner, Roberto Scano, who is an ICT accessibility expert and has been working in standards, guidelines and laws in Italy since 2002:
Italy is the first country to publish translations of both the EN301549 v. 2.1.2 and the WCAG 2.1. How did you succeed in this and why are translations important?
We published the official translation of the last EN 301549 (called UNI EN 301549:2018) by the end of November 2018 and – first in the EU – available for download free of charge from a national standardisation body. We also published the first official WCAG 2.1 translation on 13th September 2018. I’ve personally coordinated the two works, like I have done for WCAG 2.0. It is important, I think, that every country has these important specifications and standards available in the local language, with official translation that are aligned. Using the same terms will guarantee a better understanding of the technical specifications. I proposed to start with WCAG 2.1 already in June 2018 which also helped the W3C because we have discovered some editorial errors that have been noted in official WCAG 2.1 editorial errata. In September 2018, we started the translation of the EN with the national UNI technical committee on e-accessibility of which I am the president. This work is really important, just as the free availability for the translation of the EN 301549 v. 2.1.2, because it will give great support to the Italian monitoring agency AGID. The agency will develop national guidelines for the public sector bodies that are covered by the directive and which can also be used by suppliers of ICT products and services.
How can the knowledge and use of accessibility standards be more widely spread?
We need to make education and outreach first to developers. They need to understand that accessibility is a design principle, a baseline requirement for ANY products for public and private sector alike. Accessibility is seen like a “feature”, that requires more time in development, so higher costs for the end user. We need to remove this idea… and apply the principle that we need to require “accessibility by default”, because every ICT product or service could be developed with accessibility support. The EN and other similar initiatives around the world (the EN standard is used in countries outside of the EU, like south America and Australia), means that ICT suppliers need to adhere to this standard. Big providers have already made implementations to better support accessibility of their products. Some years ago, it was difficult to have captions because we needed to have someone that retrieve text and synchronize it. Now, there are many services like YouTube for video, Skype for audio/video calls, etc. that have integrated captions automatically … they could do better, but I think they will improve with support of emerging technologies like AI. The same is true for the Web, where there are a lot of initiatives oriented towards better CMS with better accessibility support. I think that finally we are moving in the right direction: an ICT accessibility standard that can be referred not only for the public sector, but which should be applied in every sector, remembering that people with disabilities are consumers like everyone else.
Both the EN and WCAG are free standards, still they are possible to buy. How did we end up in this situation?
I think that only the European Commission can do something about this. Italy has shown that it is possible to share standards of social interest free of charge. There is a need for a better harmonization within the EU member states. For example, the British Standards Institution BSI, sells the English version of the EN301549, which is the same text as the EN published by ETSI for free. The EU is supposed to grant activities facilitating to provide standards for free, potentially with funding to guarantee translations. But the answer of the European Commission around this topic does not really help. To me, the question is simple: IPR or Access? Somehow standardisation must be funded, but usage of the standard must also be easy.