Ireland has not yet transposed the EU Web Accessibility Directive (2016/2102) into Irish law. This means that while other member states as of 23rd of September last year, are preparing to meet their obligations under this critical member state agreement by working to ensure their websites and services are accessible to the broadest range of users, Ireland is behind.
I take no pleasure in this news. I’ve worked with many excellent and progressive Irish government departments over the years and this state of affairs is both frustrating and disappointing but it is not a surprise.
Accessibility in Ireland has always been approached in ‘bits’. A bit here, a bit there. This doesn’t represent a joined up effort. Combined with the observation that accessibility just does not work in silos, results in only partial success at best.
Accessibility, is a horizontal wave hitting many disciplines from designers to developers and content, to procurers. Rather than the ‘have to’ it is best to focus on the benefits of accessibility, as there are many.
A user first, agile approach to government service design means you are constantly iterating, always improving. Not tacking accessibility auditing and testing on at the end, in an attempt to merely ‘comply’ but building stuff that actually is fit for purpose and works is whats needed.
For years, I’ve been auditing for government ‘at the end’. Creating reports. At best, these reports are useful for discussion and a jumping off point to more engagement, knowledge and improvement. At worst they end up in the dead letter office.
Let’s do better, in Ireland we have the skills and there are many on the ground, within government, in academia and in the charities that have championed the importance of accessibility for years.
To those many gov departments that I’ve worked with over the years you take a bow, you are exemplars of progressive reason. Now we need to do better. We need focussed government engagement and resourcing to support this work and successfully provide inclusive government platforms that scale.
Change needs buy in from the top down. Transposing this far reaching accessibility directive (that is a requirement for member states) is a good start, but it’s only the start. Rather than paying fines, and wasting tax payers money, put that money into developing joined up accessible government services that are robust and progressive. Now where’s my green jersey..