European Internet Accessibility Observatory (EIAO)

Published on: 29/11/2007
EIAO aims to support the development of e-participation and of e-government solutions by benchmarking accessibility, presenting the benchmarking results online and provide general knowledge about web accessibility. The EIAO project will establish the technical basis for a European Internet Accessibility Observatory for large-scale assessment of websites accessibility. Frequently updated assessed data will be available online from a user interface of the data warehouse providing a basis for benchmarking, policy making, research and improvement actions. A test version is planned to be in operation and open to the public by early 2008. Reports will give an overview of the accessibility of public web sites across Europe and will provide updates on changes observed in accessibility over time. EIAO will provide monthly reports on the accessibility of around 10,000 European web sites. Currently the observatory is using the URL list on which the EC survey of Online Public Services is based on, The user Challenge Benchmarking The Supply Of Online Public Services, 7th measurement. The Observatory will present different reports: a user can choose to see aggregated results for a specific web site, for geographical regions, for business sectors and can get an overview of the accessibility changes within a web site over time.

Description of target users and groups

The target of the Observatory can be identified in stake-holders, policy-makers, associations of disabled people and public bodies that can monitor accessibility status of their country, region or area. Stake-holders and decision makers need to have a clear picture of the impact of national or local actions toward e-accessibility and the Observatory which will keep a record of the changes is a powerful tool able to fuel up the discussion on accessibility and give some valuable insight on the impact of single actions on the average web accessibility level.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

EIAO is carried out by a consortium of European Universities and SMEs (Small and Medium size Enterprises) representing 6 countries: Norway, Denmark, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Poland and it is co-ordinated by University of Agder, Norway. The Observatory evaluations are based on UWEM (Unified Web Evaluation Methodology), which is an European methodology for conformance evaluation and large scale benchmarking. The methodology is developed by three European research FP6 IST projects in the area of e-inclusion. The projects are grouped under the European Web Accessibility Benchmarking Cluster (WAB Cluster). The UWEM development is also financially supported by the European Commission DG Information Society and Media.

Technology solution

From a technical point of view the European Internet Accessibility Observatory consists of: - A set of Web Accessibility Metrics (WAMs) compliant with the UWEM (Unified Web Evaluation Methodology) automatic test set, based on WCAG 1. - An Internet crawler for automatic and frequent collection of web pages for accessibility assessment. - A data warehouse with a graphical user interface providing on-line access to collected accessibility data. All software developed in the project will be released under the GPL license. The software is free to download, use, review and even to change. This freedom is particularly important for software used for evaluation so that those who are interested can find out how the evaluation really works. It is also possible to propose improvements. Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards

Main results, benefits and impacts

By providing frequently updated data on web accessibility metrics and deviations from standards of the European websites assessed the EIAO will: - Provide quantitative background material for policy-making and targeted actions to improve web accessibility. This may be of special importance for the ongoing discussions about legislation (anti-discrimination laws) for equal rights related to web accessibility. - Promote e-accessibility by raising awareness and encouraging competition through benchmarking of accessibility metrics and deviations from standards. - Provide input for the discussion of standards and the development of new standards. - Contribute to the Lisbon strategy of making Europe the Worlds most competitive knowledge based economy within 2010.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

EIAO dissemination activities has included participation to many international conferences on e-inclusion and e-government. The project website, together with the newsletter has helped to keep in touch with relevant stakeholders and to rise interests toward the Observatory. The dissemination plan, together with papers, presentations and publications are publicly available on the project website.

Lessons learnt

Not available yet. Scope: International