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Web Accessibility Certificate - Austria, here we go!

A top-class team consisting of various companies and organisations – including Zensations – has been collaborating for month. The result is a product, that is now put into practice together with other partners: What is regulated by the BITV-Test in Germany or known as Access for All in Switzerland, will be initiated in Austria as well.

This year’s A-TAG was the day: A part of the ACERT-team entered the stage and announced the project launch publically. What has been long prepared and officially launched in 2016, now came to its point of no return. Finally, the course was set to provide the certification of accessible web applications in Austria. Download the presentation here!

What does the certification process look like?

In several meetings alternate variations of the certification process were discussed. The governance board agreed on an option, that supports existing processes within companies and is cost-effective for all applicants. The central point of contact will be a website, where interested parties have access to the requirements and other relevant information.

The applicant has to submit an evaluation of their online presence or web application in accordance with WCAG 2.0 AA. This evaluation has to be performed by an expert or experienced agency. The sample, that builds the base for the evaluation, is to be defined together with an auditor of the OCG. This step enables companies to work on the whole process together with agencies or partners who already are familiar with the website or app.

Depending on scale and complexity of the website, one of these three categories applies: -Small and not too complex websites (test sample up to 9 pages) -Medium and mediocre websites (test sample up to 14 pages) -Large and complex platforms (test sample up to 24 pages)

The board tends to establish a fourth category, though. It ought to deal with very large and highly complex platforms (like web shops/e-commerce, e-banking, community etc). In this category a significant sample is chosen in a joint evaluation process, which leads to an individual estimate of costs. The future will tell how high the demand for certificates in this fourth category will be.

As soon as the evaluation has been received by the certification authority, the auditor checks the samples and choses some additional pages on a random basis (10-20%), in order to be sure, that the whole website has been optimised and not just the sample. If the auditor determines deficiencies, the company is granted a grace period for remediating those deficiencies.

Can I get my website certified?

The labelling for accessible applications is based on international standards in order to implement renowned quality criteria and test procedures and to grant the certificate holders global comparability. Therefor, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines conformity level AA have been consciously decided on. They are already consulted as quality criteria for web accessibility in the public sector and represent a balanced degree of accessibility and acceptable costs concerning the content creation.In addition, they are referred to in EN 301549.

In order to get a certificate, a website or app must fulfill these criteria completely. As mentioned above, the applicants are granted a grace period for improvements if necessary. Just to be clear: The lack of one single alt-text or wrong setting in the hierarchy of headings are no deal breakers.

If the application meets all required criteria, the OCG confers it with the certificate in form of a file, a database entry along with the evaluation protocol and a JS snippet. The snippet is a visually dynamic designed label, that constitutes the current state of the certification and at the same time provides a hyperlink to the database entry of the certification authority and to a registration service. This feature offers a whole lot of advantages for the website owner as well as its user. By certifying your own website, you prove your social responsibility (CSR). On the other hand, the certificate helps with quality assurance, because the optimisation is monitored by an independent institution. If problems with accessibility or usability arise, the user is able to report them directly. So the free feedback enables the website owner to react and improve or restore the functionality quickly.

Due to the fast pace of current technologies and the fact, that websites are ever-changing systems (new features, new design, relaunch etc), the certificate is valid for 3 years. After this period of time or after implementing major changes of features follows a recertification of the website or respective areas in order to guarantee a constant high level of accessibility.

Independent institutions decide

Objectivity is a crucial factor. Therefor a renowned association like the Austrian Computer Society (OCD) operates as certificate signer. The OCG is well-known for the ECDL Initiative, a standardised basic educational level for computer users. As second instance the association Accessible Media will provide auditors and refine the certificate. The long-term experience and broad acceptance in politics, economy and the general public build the basis for establishing a proven standard. Even the European Commission demands long-term monitoring. The emerging database constitutes a unique source for this purpose.

Does Austria need this certification?

For many years, various organizations and think tanks have tried to make the world wide web more accessible. So while the current version of WCAG has not been implemented everywhere so far, W3C drafted the WCAG 2.1. The field is constantly changing. As a digital agency, we have been part of this change in the last years. Our clients show ever-growing interest and demand concerning accessible services and websites. However, do we need a certificate and why is it not enough, to audit individually based on WCAG guidelines?

Broadly speaking: Yes! Only an independent instance is able to realise consistent standards and a quality assurance provides continuous improvement of the systems. Companies are able to ensure their services meet international standards and consumers have the possibility to easily report issues.

Finally, here are the project team members:
Edith Vosta (Federal Chancellery, Section VII/5)
a.Univ.-Prof. Dr. Klaus Miesenberger (Johannes Kepler University Linz)
Mag. Klaus Höckner (Hilfsgemeinschaft – (The Austrian Association in support of the blind and visually impaired)
Pöll Daniel (Johannes Kepler Universität Linz)
Dr. Ronald Bieber (Austrian Computer Society)
Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Franz Pühretmair (Competence Network Information Technology to Support the Integration of People with Disabilities (KI-I)
Werner Rosenberger, MSc (Gugler)
Ing. Martin Weber (Gugler)
Mag. Michael Aumann (myAbility Social Enterprise)
Mag. Wolfram Huber (Web-Tech)
DI Michael Stenitzer (Wienfluss)
Mag. Maria Putzhuber (Wienfluss)
Jo Spelbrink (Zensations)
Wolfgang Leitner (Zensations)

Do you think a certificate is necessary? We are looking forward to a lively discussion!

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