Accessibility of public sector websites and mobile apps

Directive (EU) 2016/2102 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies

It aims to make public sector websites and mobile applications more accessible, and to harmonise varying standards within the EU, reducing barriers for developers of accessibility-related products and services.

This will allow EU citizens, particularly those with a disability, to gain better access to public services, an underlying principle of the EU’s Digital Agenda for Europe and eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020.


EU countries must ensure that websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies are ‘more accessible’, particularly for people with disabilities, by making them ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’. The accessibility standard will be set out in a harmonised European standard. In absence of a harmonised standard, the relevant parts of European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04) should be the relevant accessibility standard, complemented with technical specifications for mobile applications.

Public sector bodies must regularly provide a detailed, comprehensive and clear statement on how their websites and mobile applications comply with this directive, including:

an explanation for any inaccessible elements, and information on accessible alternatives;
a description on how a user may report any failure to comply with this directive, and to request information that is excluded from the scope of this directive;
a link to a complaint mechanism if the response is inadequate.

EU countries must also:

facilitate the application of the accessibility requirements to other type of websites and mobile applications covered by existing national laws;
facilitate training programmes on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications;
raise awareness of the accessibility requirements;
share best practice, facilitated by the European Commission;
ensure the availability of an effective enforcement procedure;
bring into force the legislation necessary to comply with this directive by 23 September 2018.

EU countries may maintain or enact legislation which goes beyond the minimum requirements of this directive.


This directive does not apply to public service broadcasters or non-governmental organisations that do not provide services that are essential to the public or specifically for people with disabilities. In addition, it does not apply to the following content elements:

office file formats published before 23 September 2018, unless needed for administrative processes by the public sector body concerned;
audio or video published before 23 September 2020;
live audio or video;
online mapping, as long as essential navigational information is provided in an accessible manner;
third-party content not under the control of the public sector body concerned;
reproductions of heritage items or manuscripts in certain circumstances;
extranet and intranet content intended for a closed group of people, published before 23 September 2019, until they have a major update;
websites not updated or edited after 23 September 2019 (archives), if their content is not needed for administrative processes.
EU countries may exclude the websites and mobile applications of schools, kindergartens or nurseries, except for content relating to essential online administrative functions.


EU countries must monitor compliance using a methodology to be adopted by the Commission by 23 December 2018. The methodology should include:

the periodicity of the monitoring and website sampling arrangements;
the sampling of web pages, of the content on those pages and of the content of mobile apps;
a description of the way to determine compliance;
where deficiencies are found, a mechanism to help public sector bodies correct them; and
arrangements for automatic, manual and usability tests.


By 23 December 2021, and every 3 years after that, EU countries will submit to the Commission a report that presents the results of monitoring and information on the use of the enforcement procedure. The first report will also cover:

consultation arrangements with stakeholders (organisations of persons with disabilities and of the elderly, social partners, industry and others) on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications;
procedures to publicise developments in accessibility policy;
experiences and findings from the implementation of the directive; and
information on training and awareness-raising activities.
The content of all the reports will be made public in an accessible format. The application of the directive will be reviewed by the Commission before 23 June 2022.


It has applied since 22 December 2016. EU countries have to incorporate it into national law by 23 September 2018. They will apply these measures as follows:

from 23 September 2019 for websites published after 22 September 2018;
from 23 September 2020 for all other websites of public sector bodies;
from 23 June 2021 for mobile applications of public sector bodies.


Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (OJ L 327, 2.12.2016, pp. 1-15)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 — Accelerating the digital transformation of government (COM(2016) 179 final, 19.4.2016)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe (COM(2010) 636 final, 15.11.2010)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — A Digital Agenda for Europe (COM(2010) 245 final/2, 26.8.2010)

Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

Article 15 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)

Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council on public access to EU institution documents.It has applied since 3 December 2001

Article 15(3) of the TFEU gives EU citizens, residents and businesses the right of access to documents of the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies subject to certain principles and conditions.
The regulation lays down the general principles and limits on access. It aims to ensure that citizens can exercise their right of access in the easiest possible way. Access can be requested to all documents drawn up or received by an institution, in all areas of EU activities.

Exceptions and rights of third parties

The institutions can refuse access to a document where disclosure:

would undermine the protection of:
the public interest as regards public security, defence, international relations and the financial, monetary or economic policy of the EU or of an EU country, or
the privacy and integrity of an individual, in particular in accordance with EU legislation regarding the protection of personal data;
would undermine a person’s:
commercial interests, court proceedings, and legal advice, or
the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure;
would seriously undermine the protection of the institution’s decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

For documents drawn up by third parties, the EU institution must, in case of doubt, consult the third party in order to assess whether an exception applies. EU countries have a stronger right of opposition (though no veto).

Documents in EU countries

Where an EU country receives a request for a document in its possession, originating from an EU institution, it must, in principle, consult that institution to ensure that the disclosure is in line with the objectives of this regulation. The country may instead refer the request to the EU institution in question.

Applications, processing of applications and access to documents

The public must apply for access to a document in writing (including by electronic means) in one of the official EU languages. The applicant does not have to state reasons for the application, but has to be precise in their request.

Institutions must promptly handle applications for access to a document. They must acknowledge receipt of the application and, within 15 working days of registering it, either grant or refuse access to the document requested. This deadline may be extended once by another 15 working days.

In the event of total or partial refusal, the applicant may, within 15 working days of receiving the institution’s reply, make a confirmatory application asking the institution to reconsider its position.

The applicant may access documents either by consulting them on the spot or receiving a copy of them, or by receiving information on how to easily obtain them.

Sensitive documents

Sensitive documents are certain documents originating from the institutions or the agencies established by them, from EU countries, from non-EU countries or from international organisations, and which are classified as TRÈS SECRET UE/EU TOP SECRET, SECRET UE/EU SECRET or CONFIDENTIEL UE/EU CONFIDENTIAL.

Applications for access to sensitive documents may only be handled by persons who have a right to know their content. Sensitive documents may be recorded in the register or released only with the consent of the originator.

Registers and administrative practice

Each institution must keep a register of documents. Access to this register should be provided in electronic form.
EU countries must cooperate with the institutions in providing information to citizens.
Institutions must develop good administrative practice to ensure the right of access guaranteed by this regulation can be exercised.

Publication in the Official Journal

Many EU documents are published in the Official Journal. These include:

legislative acts adopted under Article 297 of the TFEU (ordinary legislative procedure);
Council positions adopted under Article 294 of the TFEU;
international agreements concluded by the EU or in accordance with Article 37 of the Treaty on European Union.

Reports and application measures

Each institution publishes an annual report covering the preceding year citing the number of cases in which the institution refused to grant access to documents, the reasons for these refusals and the number of sensitive documents not recorded in its register.


Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part One: Principles — Title II: Provisions having general application — Article 15 (ex Article 255 TEC) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 54-55)

Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, pp. 43-48)

Report from the Commission on the application in 2016 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (COM(2017) 738 final, 6.12.2017)

Open data and reuse of public-sector information

Directive (EU) 2019/1024 on open data and the reuse of public-sector information


It lays down the legal framework for the reuse of public-sector information such as geographical, land registry, statistical or legal information held by public-sector bodies* or public undertakings*, and of publicly funded research data.

It aims to boost the socioeconomic potential of public-sector information, e.g. by making it more easily available for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, by increasing the supply of dynamic data* and of datasets with a particularly high economic impact, and by promoting competition and transparency in the information market.

It is part of a package of measures designed to reinforce the EU’s data economy, including the development of artificial intelligence.
Also referred to as the ‘open data directive’, it recasts Directive 2003/98/EC by repealing it by 17 July 2021.

The recasted directive is based on the general principle that public and publicly funded data should be reusable for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Open data

The directive promotes the use of open data (data presented in open formats* that one can use freely and share for any purpose). Public-sector bodies and public undertakings must make their documents available in any pre-existing format or language and, where appropriate, by electronic means in formats that are open, machine readable, accessible, findable and reusable, complete with their metadata.

Practical arrangements for reuse

Public-sector bodies must, through electronic means where appropriate, process requests for document reuse, making them available within a reasonable time.
At the same time, they should make necessary arrangements to facilitate the online search and discovery of the documents they keep.

EU countries must also facilitate effective reuse of documents, in particular by supplying information on the rights outlined in the directive and by offering assistance and guidance.

Dynamic and real-time data

Dynamic data must be made available for reuse immediately on collection via an application programming interface (API) and, where relevant, as a bulk download.

Research data

EU countries must adopt policies and take action to make publicly funded research data openly available, following the principle of ‘open by default’ and support the dissemination of research data that are findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (the ‘FAIR’ principle).

Concerns relating to intellectual property rights, personal data protection and confidentiality, security and legitimate commercial interests must be taken into account in accordance with the principle of ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’.

Publicly funded research data can be reused for commercial or non-commercial purposes in cases where they are already made publicly available via institutional or subject-based repository.

Fair trading and non-discrimination

The reuse of documents is open to everyone in the market and any applicable reuse conditions should be non-discriminatory.
As a general rule, arrangements between public-sector bodies or public undertakings holding the documents and third parties cannot grant exclusive rights.
In narrowly defined cases where the directive allows for the conclusion of such arrangements, their validity is subject to regular review and special transparency requirements apply.

High value datasets

The European Commission is given the possibility to adopt a list of high-value datasets which should be made available in machine-readable formats and free of charge through APIs. The datasets will be selected from within 6 thematic categories set out in Annex I:

earth observation and environment;
companies and company ownership; and
New thematic categories may be added by the Commission, by way of a delegated act.


The reuse of documents should be free of charge. However, marginal costs incurred to reproduce and disseminate documents, anonymise personal data and protect commercially confidential information may be recovered.

By way of exception, cultural institutions, public undertakings and some public-sector bodies that fulfil the requirements set out in Article 6(2) may charge beyond the default principle in order to recover the eligible costs.


The directive does not apply to:

documents for which third parties hold intellectual property rights;
documents whose access is excluded or restricted on the virtue of a national access regime or on the grounds of sensitive critical infrastructure protection;
documents whose supply falls outside the scope of the public task of a public-sector body or outside the scope of provision of services in the general interest of a public undertaking;
documents related to the activities of a public undertaking directly exposed to competition and therefore not subject to procurement rules under Article 34 of Directive 2014/25/EU;
other documents referred to in Article 1(2) of the directive.


It has been in force since 16 July 2019. Directive (EU) 2019/1024 recasts and replaces Directive 2003/98/EC (and its subsequent amendments) as of 17 July 2021. It has to become national law in the EU countries by the same date.


Public-sector body: means the state, regional or local authorities, bodies governed by public law or associations formed by such authorities or bodies governed by public law.

Public undertaking: means any undertaking over which public-sector bodies have a dominant influence through ownership, financial participation therein, or the rules which govern it; these include those acting as public passenger road or rail transport operators, air carriers and EU shipowners fulfilling public-service obligations.

Dynamic data: means documents in a digital form, subject to frequent or real-time updates due to their volatility or rapid obsolescence; typically data generated by sensors.

Open format: a file format that is platform-independent and made available to the public without any restriction that impedes the re-use of documents.

Re-use: the use by persons or legal entities of documents held by public-sector bodies or public undertakings.


Directive (EU) 2019/1024 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on open data and the reuse of public-sector information (recast) (OJ L 172, 26.6.2019, pp. 56-83)

Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public-sector bodies (OJ L 327, 2.12.2016, pp. 1-15)

Directive 2014/25/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors and repealing Directive 2004/17/EC (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, pp. 243-374)

Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 September 2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community (recast) (OJ L 293, 31.10.2008, pp. 3-20)

Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and by road and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) Nos 1191/69 and 1107/70 (OJ L 315, 3.12.2007, pp. 1-13)

Council Regulation (EEC) No 3577/92 of 7 December 1992 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport within Member States (maritime cabotage) (OJ L 364, 12.12.1992, pp. 7-10)

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