The removal of barriers to access

Underlying principles of the internet portal of the Austrian social security system


1. Legal background

In June 2000, the Council of Europe approved the 2002 eEurope Action Plan, the aim of which is provide internet access for all citizens of the EU. Austria’s E-Government-Gesetz (e-government law) requires public authorities to ensure that their websites are such that they can be accessed without hindrance of any kind.

Art. 1, Section 3 of the E-Government-Gesetz (E-GovG), BGBl. I No. 10/2004 specifies:

“In implementing the requirements of this federal law, provisions are to be made so that the websites of public authorities which provide information or support electronic applications meet the international standards with regard to internet access and to removal of barriers to access for the disabled by January 2008 at the latest."

Other legal stipulations with regard to the removal of barriers to access are:

  • Article 7 of the Austrian Federal Constitution sets out the principle of equality and also prohibits any form of discrimination against disabled persons. This article also defines as a federal objective the implementation of positive action for the purpose of achieving real equality (cf. WEBACC 2.0.0)
  • The Federal disabled person equality law (Bundes-Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz) that prohibits discrimination and defines an arbitration procedure (cf. WEBACC 2.0.0)

The international standards referred to here are principally the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Level A. It is the aim of the Austrian social security system to achieve conformity with Level Triple-A.


2. The basic approach to removal of barriers

Possible barriers to access that need to be considered when developing content and applications for the website of the Austrian social security system are:

  • Users may not be able to read or understand information
  • Users may be unable to use a keyboard or mouse
  • The use of text-based content only
  • Eyes, ears and/or hands may be otherwise occupied (e.g. use of other devices, noisy environment) or their use may be restricted
  • Older browser versions, different browsers, browsers that use other languages and different operating systems may be employed

The website developers of the eSV Competence Centre take into account these various factors when developing the website content and applications.

The Main Association of Austrian Social Security Organisations has placed its capabilities in this sector at the disposal of the eSV Competence Centre. A WAI Officer has been tasked with supervising the implementation of the related aims.


3. Strategies for the removal of barriers to access

The technologies employed for the graphic user interfaces and browser-based applications of the Austrian social security website conform to standard guidelines designed to facilitate consistency of access to all content and applications for all users. The following components are the fundamental elements of the standardised WAI guidelines:

  • Graphic user interfaces for internet applications
  • Implementation of online dialogues for applications
  • Visual grammar and colour systems
  • Graphic elements, type face and design
  • Design of forms within applications
  • Standard form data
  • Validation of entries in forms


4. Aims of the Austrian social security internet portal

The opportunities for making entries in forms via a browser are employed to the best advantage of users.

Graphic user interfaces employ a largely uniform and modular structure. Frequently occurring elements have an identical design.

Applications that involve more than two A4 pages (when printed) are divided into sections.

With the standard resolution (1024 x 728 pixels), users do not need to scroll right or left.

Applications can also be used by persons with handicaps (WAI Levels A to Triple-A).

Graphic user interfaces are always such that they can be printed out in A4 format.

The portal can be navigated using a keyboard.

Texts are presented in user-friendly form: they are readily understandable, clearly expressed and use ordinary language.

Encoding complies with W3C HTML/XHTML and CSS standard. Deactivation of JavaScript has no effect on the functioning of applications.

The portal is optimised for the two most frequently used browser families in their current and immediately preceding versions (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox). The compatibility of the browsers Safari and Opera is currently being tested.


5. Requirements for editorial input

In order to ensure that the Austrian social security internet portal is free of barriers to access, the personnel of the eSV Competence Centre observe the following guidelines:

  • Texts are to be formulated in accordance with the instructions of the manual "Empfehlung für Online Redakteure" (Recommendations for online editors).
  • Colours are to be used sparingly.
  • Optimal contrast should be ensured when selecting colours.
  • The use of rapidly flashing or flickering elements is to be avoided. Seizures can be triggered in users with photosensitive epilepsy by flickering of the screen, rapid bright/dark contrasts and rapidly flashing elements.
  • An alternative explanatory text (caption) must always be provided for images.
  • Tables are to be used solely for the presentation of data and not for layout purposes. A summary of table contents is to be provided.


6. Review of effectiveness

The Austrian social security system internet pages and applications are evaluated for conformity with the international standards (WAI) and the social security style guide by automation-supported and manual tests developed by experts at quarterly intervals at the latest.

Any deficiencies identified are documented in a defect list. The WAI Officer initiates and monitors the elimination of any such deficiencies.

The following tools are used for automated evaluation:

  • Web-based validator for evaluating technical parameters
  • Fujitsu Web Accessibility Inspector 5.02 for evaluating conformity with WAI Levels A to Triple-A
  • Fujitsu Color Selector 5.02 for evaluating colour contrasts