On 1 September last year the new Dutch law on the quality of government websites went into effect. At the time I read a short note on a Dutch blog that the new law made accessibility mandatory, nodded sagely, decided it was about time, and went on with my work without actually looking at the new law.
It was only last Friday that I studied it in detail, and to say that I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The law's stated purpose is to make sure that every Dutch government website is accessible by following the guidelines as formulated by W3C. In order to do so, a corpus of 125 guidelines has been created to define best practices for creating accessible sites. These guidelines go way beyond WCAG; they also embrace modern, standards-compliant web development as a whole.
A few examples will show you where Dutch government accessibility is heading. As of 1 September last year, every website built for a government agency is required by law to use:
altattributes on all images
New government websites must comply with these guidelines. Existing government websites must be converted to the new guidelines before 2011.
Sounds good, doesn't it? The Dutch accessibility law has been created by people who know quite a bit about accessibility.
The guidelines' one slight accessibility problem in an international context is the lack of translations. Currently they are only available in Dutch.
A pleasant secondary effect of this law will be the gradual removal of New Amateurs from the circle of web companies that work for the government. Fourteen months ago I discussed ways and means of converting the new amateurs, and proposed:
Could we arrange for economic pressure, for instance by lobbying for all government sites to require the use of CSS?
It seems the Dutch government has done exactly this. Thank you!
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