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An accessible website – a human right

According to new legislation, effective from 23 September, all public services (i.e. public sector organisation websites) must be fully accessible. It can seem self-evident that everyone, irrespective of their specific requirements, should be able to enjoy equal access to digital information and services, however, there is no magic wand to achieve this. Even though digitalisation makes for greater accessibility in many cases.

For example, we need to be aware that we must use format templates for visually-impaired users that enable them to understand different heading levels, that we should insert descriptive text with images to explain the image content for anyone who cannot view this visually, and offer easy to read versions of text in languages the target group can understand.

This has been known for quite some time and we already knew a year ago that we needed to live up to these requirements for new websites. Now existing websites also need to meet these requirements. This means that information and services provided via websites must be in formats that enable all users to access and understand the content. They should be user-friendly, understandable and robust. KTH has hundreds of thousands of web pages, created by thousands of people. How can we be able to ensure that all these pages will be accessible by the time the legislation comes into force?

Even though we have allocated substantial resources for this, we will not have enough time or be able to adapt them all by 23 September. Should whatever we do not have enough time or capacity to adapt be closed down or moved outside the organisation, or should we simply accept that it is perhaps not possible to live up to the legally specified benchmarks in full?

If there is not enough time to develop automatic systems to create captions for video material, should we then avoid sharing recorded material in general, to the disadvantage of everyone who is able to, to simplify obtaining knowledge by having access to a recorded lecture?

KTH has high aims when it comes to accessibility. This is specified as an important value in our recently adopted digitalisation policy. Accessibility can also be seen as a form of social sustainability and accordingly, addresses yet another of KTH’s core areas. My hope is that it should be natural in the future to ensure accessibility in all digital development and that we see the value in making things accessible to people with specific needs that often also means increased usability for everyone.