COMPARE stands for Comparing peer accessibility ratings in evaluation. It is an Erasmus Strategic Partnership between DIAS (Germany), Funka (Sweden) and BrailleNet (France).

The need for an accessible society

Today, access to online information and services has become a critical requirement for successful inclusion in society. But many digital resources are still not accessible to people with disabilities. An aging population means the share of people with disabilities is rising. This, and the digitisation of all parts of society, makes inclusive digital content and services more important than ever.

A new benchmark set by the EU

The EU has recently created a new directive that calls for all public web sites and mobile apps across Europe to be accessible for persons with disabilities*. The benchmark for accessibility is set in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) which were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). As part of the new EU law, the adherence of public web sites and apps to WCAG will need to be monitored in a uniform manner. The EU is will therefore develop a common monitoring methodology.

Diverse accessibility evaluation methods across Europe

This raises the question about the status quo of accessibility evaluation across Europe. Even with a common legislation, accessibility experts in different countries often do not agree on how to interpret the WCAG success criteria. No one really knows the actual differences in EU Member States today.

Most current accessibility evaluation methods are based on WCAG 2.0 conformance level AA. The interpretation and actual testing are usually defined in detail on a national or organizational level. It is therefore no surprise that across the spectrum of organisations, many differences exist in the way WCAG success criteria are applied to actual web content. This is partly due to the way the common WCAG success criteria are translated into specific technical tests. Increasingly complex and dynamic content that is updated on the fly makes it harder to apply the success criteria. Finally, there are also differences among testers regarding the treatment of minor issues discovered.

What is the COMPARE project all about?

COMPARE (Comparing peer accessibility ratings in evaluation) is a project that will document and compare differences in current evaluation practices of experts across Europe. The EU-funded project is an Erasmus Strategic Partnership between DIAS (DE), Funka (SE) and BrailleNet (FR). The project will set up a Wiki-based repository of web content and associated accessibility ratings to document actual differences. We want to foster a discussion of interpretation and rating approaches that can contribute to a consensual testing approach. Expert organisations and individuals from other countries are invited to contribute to the repository.

The COMPARE project started in January 2017 and runs for two years.

*) Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, COM/2016/0484 final