Accessibility Directive for Mobile Apps and Web Services

On the 23rd of September 2018 onwards, EU directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications will by law require EU member states to make sure their websites and mobile apps meet common accessibility standards.

This change means that all public sector digital services will need to be designed and built in a way that makes them as easy to use as possible for all citizens, including the disabled, the elderly and recent immigrants with limited local language skills.

At IWA we will approach this change with our DNA-ingrained human-centric design approach, which always aims for maximum ease-of-use of the digital services we build. The Design for All initiative provides an excellent framework for making sure that we will take accessibility sufficiently into account in digital service development. Click the following link for an excellent introduction to the Design for All initiative by EIDD Design For All Europe.

Also, Finland’s Ministry of Finance has created a fantastic information resource (available only in Finnish) about what the new legislation means for public sector organizations and the vendors, such as IWA, serving them.

Organizations that fall under the new accessibility criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • Ministries and government and municipal offices
  • Schools and universities
  • Associations operating under public organizations operational law
  • Independent organizations working under the executive civil law (such as The Social Insurance Institution of Finland, KELA)
  • Private sector companies which manage services dictated by law, such as pension insurance companies


The process for citizens to give feedback regarding the practical implementation of accessibility is the following:

Accessibility Feedback

Any person using a public sector mobile app or web service may inform the service provider about irregularities and problems with the accessibility of the service in question.

Accessibility Investigation Request

If the user mentioned above does not receive a satisfactory answer from the service provider that she contacted in two weeks, she may file an Accessibility Investigation Request for the oversight officials.

Accessibility Reclamation

Any person using a public sector mobile app or web service may file an Accessibility Reclamation about irregularities and problems with the accessibility of the service in question for the oversight officials.

By default, all public sector services must be accessible. In some individual cases, it is possible to adhere to lower accessibility standards if the service usage is very low and infrequent or if the service provider organization has insufficient resources at its disposal.

Practical Tips

Here’s a collection of some practical activities and tips for adhering to the upcoming accessibility regulation.

Subtitles For Audiovisual Content

For example, Finnish language audiovisual content, such as videos, should include at least Swedish subtitles, but if there is any relevant number of English-speakers as users, then even better would be to add English subtitles as well.

Voice Controlled Bot Interfaces

Services aimed at visually impaired persons could utilize a voice-controlled assistant interface similar to Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri. The technologies for doing this already exist to a large extent and the coming years will bring even more opportunities for using voice as a friendly user interface for visually impaired persons.

Accessibility Evaluation

Public sector organizations should evaluate the accessibility of their current and planned services. This testing should involve real users from the actual user segments that the organization serves, including for example visually impaired persons, autistic persons, hearing impaired persons, people with learning disabilities and people using sign language.

The Papunet web service, which is provided by The Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (FAIDD), provides a useful practical guide for organizational self-assessment of their current and planned services.


At IWA we view the upcoming law change as a massive improvement in making the digital society more useful for all of its citizens. EU has taken an active approach this year, first with GDPR to protect the privacy of its citizens and now with making accessibility an equal right for everyone.