An invisible obstacle for Italy’s charter of Internet rights

by Stefania Leone - 2015.07.30
An invisible obstacle for Italy’s charter of Internet rights
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The Charter of Rights for the Internet has been a year in the making but will soon be ready. Promoted by the president of Italy's Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini, it will protect those who navigate online.

This time Italy is ahead of its European partners, just as in 2013 when it decided to update the law on accessibility and usability of websites and web applications, adapting it to the evolution of technology, to Web 2.0 and international requirements. But enforcing the law is another matter: the gap between theory and practice is still too wide.

According to the latest available data, only 5 percent of Italy's institutional websites are accessible. The main problems include: PDF image documents; sections of pages that aren't accessible with a keyboard; menus, buttons and links that aren't labelled and therefore aren't accessible to those with disabilities who use assistive technologies such as screen readers for those with partial or total blindness. Not to mention films and videos without audio descriptions or subtitles for the deaf, and language that's too complicated for people with cognitive difficulties.

And what about the enormous difficulties that many people with disabilities face in checking train timetables and plane times, buying a train ticket or booking medical appointments? And just as an example in the private sector, banks are not bound by law to make their websites accessible, but they would stand to gain a lot of customers with disabilities!

The truth is that, just like building a house, it's a lot less expensive to build one without barriers than to tear the barriers down afterwards. That also applies to the proper development of Web applications: accessibility should be planned at the beginning. This would greatly reduce the cost of accessibility and avoid the onerous job of changing applications, web pages and content, which then means the entire site or app has to be re-tested to make sure it works.

Published in E-accessibility.
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