The Dutch accessibility law is awesome

Despite having been in effect since September 1 2006, I had not seen any mention of the Dutch law that regulates the quality of government websites until Peter-Paul Koch mentioned it in his post New Dutch accessibility law.

I read ppk's summary of the guidelines referred to by the law, checked out the actual guidelines (Besluit Kwaliteit Rijksoverheidswebsites–the document is only available in Dutch, but I do know enough Dutch to be able to read it reasonably well), and was stunned.

These guidelines (rules, rather) are amazing. They go way beyond the Swedish guidelines that I've been involved in writing, and it is mandatory for government websites to comply with them. How about that.

A few highlights of what is required:

  • separate structure from presentation
  • do not use deprecated markup
  • when creating a new website, use a Strict doctype
  • use progressive enhancement
  • create semantic class and id values
  • use the W3C DOM when scripting
  • script-only links must be generated by JavaScript
  • do not use the alt attribute to create tooltips

Like I said, this is great stuff.

There's been some discussion regarding whether Web accessibility should be required by law or not, and I have been pretty neutral, wanting to believe that things actually can improve without laws.

But as time has passed with not an awful lot happening with regards to the quality of public sector websites, I really think it's about time to step things up in the rest of the world. Governments of the world, translate the Dutch guidelines and make them mandatory for all websites financed by public sector organisations. Just do it, and put an end to taxpayer money being given away to incompetent Web amateurs.

Update: Several people have pointed out that it isn't really a law. Complying with the guidelines is mandatory for government websites, but there is no fine for not complying.

Posted on February 13, 2007 in Accessibility, Web Standards