Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

According to Peter-Paul Koch the new Dutch accessibility laws are pretty sweeping and “go way beyond WCAG“. Better yet, they read like a veritable blueprint for modern standards based web development:

A few examples will show you where Dutch government accessibility is heading. As of 1 September last year, every website built for a government agency is required by law to use:

  • valid HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0
  • CSS and semantic HTML and separation of structure and presentation
  • progressive enhancement
  • the W3C DOM (instead of the old Microsoft document.all)
  • meaningful values of class and id
  • meaningful alt attributes on all images


  • scripts that work on links should extend the basic link functionality (think accessible popups)
  • if a link makes no sense without a script, it shouldn’t be in the HTML (but be generated by JavaScript)
  • use of forms or scripts as the only means of getting certain information is prohibited
  • removing the focus rectangle on links is prohibited
  • information offered in a closed format (think Word) should also be offered in an open format
  • the semantics of many HTML elements are explicitly defined

Go read PPK’s blog for the full skinny.

Your Replies

#1 On January 15th, 2007 2:31 pm fredo replied:

holy crap! so if you use the ‘blink’ tag the police will bust down your door and club you to death?

#2 On January 15th, 2007 2:53 pm WaSP Member deanedwards replied:

Let’s hope so!

#3 On January 15th, 2007 3:26 pm Arjan Eising replied:

Fredo, in The Netherlands ‘they’ don’t work like that… it is just a bill from another government agency in your mailbox.

#4 On January 15th, 2007 3:30 pm Martijn ten Napel replied:

Actually no, for using the blink-tag you are required to do the regulatory immigration exam and then you will get your citizenship denied standing our current xenophobia.

In any case, now we have semantically correct marked-up crap information available instead of poorly marked-up crap information. Hurray for Holland.

#5 On January 15th, 2007 3:55 pm Newton Wagner » Arquivo » Lei de Acessibilidade Holandesa replied:

[...] Vi no site do The Web Standards Project e no PPK que a Holanda agora também possui uma lei de acessibilidade web, e parece que, por lá, acertaram a mão. Dentre as obrigações dos sites do Governo Holandês, estão: [...]

#6 On January 15th, 2007 6:36 pm Cole Henley replied:

It is going to be interesting to see how this unfolds, how the new law is monitored and regulated and if anyone is prosecuted under it.
A similar, though less web-specific law came into effect in the UK recently (the Disability Equality Duty, December 2006) placing a responsibility on public authorities to observe disability equality in the delivery of public services. What is encouraging with the Duty is that it grants suitable powers for the Disability Rights Commission (an independent body) to bring public authorities to judicial review for failing to meet the needs of disabled users in the delivery of their services. Furthermore, such a judicial review can be initiated by anyone with an interest in the matter.
Like the Disability Discrimination Act, it is uncertain and inexplicitly defined how this new legislation will affect public authority websites. However, I will watch with interest to see if this initiates a culture of change towards accessibility in the currently lacking websites of British government.

#7 On January 15th, 2007 8:06 pm pan69 replied:

“…every website built for a government agency…”

Why is it so difficult to read? Only government websites have to follow this rule. I believe this is a, very, good thing.

#8 On January 16th, 2007 3:11 am Weblog de Brainet » Archivo del weblog » Detalles de la normativa alemana replied:

[...] The Dutch Embrace Web Standards [...]

#9 On January 16th, 2007 4:46 am Dan Eastwell replied:

I’ve commented on the idea of legislating webstandards before, with regards to an e-petition to get similar rulings brought in in the UK.

I’m not really in favour as legislation, until the equivocal points in validation and meaning are sorted out. No, no one will bash down your door for having a <strong> where an <em> is more semantically correct, but the question is: where is the line drawn?

How far do you have to go in order to re-code legacy coding, especially in intranet instances, where, say, you might have an SAP install with its baroque code structure…

And, again, the letter of the law isn’t the spirit of the law: you can still have semantic, valid code, that is unusable and inaccessible

#10 On January 16th, 2007 11:28 am Andrew Donaldson replied:

I think it’s a positive move for web standards (someone in a position of power that thinks of more than alt attributes), but I’ve no idea how they plan to enforce this…

#11 On January 16th, 2007 3:41 pm Jens Meiert replied:

Great signal. Legal requirements must be reasonable, and these seem to be fine.

#12 On January 17th, 2007 2:09 am Wilco replied:

Well, I have yet to see this happen. I wonder if there are enough Dutch web developers who could actually pull this of. Well, more work for me then!

#13 On January 17th, 2007 2:45 am Raph de Rooij replied:

First of all, it’s great to see that most replies are positive. Three years ago, the information provided by was of great help to us when we were developing the Web Guidelines.

The legislation that came around in 2006 is ‘just’ one of the aspects that was put into place and that is where the approach chosen in the Netherlands differs frommost other countries. The starting point was, that all citizens in the Netherlands (should) have the right to be able to access information and services that the government makes available online. In our opinion, WCAG is not the solution, but an important component.
The line that was chosen:

strengthen procurement by building a normative framework in which build quality is defined (i.e. the Web Guidelines),
make build quality measurable (see with an automated test tool that is highly compliant with UWEM 1.0 (see,
integrate a well-defined manual inspection for accessibility based on WCAG 1.0 priority 1 (see (Dutch) and (English))
develop large scale testing and reporting tools for benchmarking purposes (see for the test results and for the benchmark)
offer support

The Web guidelines were seen as a valuable component of a style guide that was developed by the central government for their own web sites (see In the style guide aspects such as a common look and feel, structure and usability are defined. Application of the Web Guidelines is designated ‘mandatory’ in the style guide.

I’m writing this to make clear that we don’t have ‘just’ legislation, or that legislation was the starting point of a development in the Netherlands. Legislation can be seen as one of the components in our ‘toolbox’. All components are needed to make things work. So the legislation is not (just) a political statement.

We don’t have a ‘Web Guidelines police’ that arrests you when you use a BLINK tag or B instead of STRONG. It’s more the ‘comply or explain’ principle: the level of compliance is made visible and compared with that of similar websites. People that are hindered by the lack of compliance have a much stronger position when they complain about than without the legislation. For website owners, compliance (and showing proof of compliance) has become part of their risk management.

At present, ‘only’ 59 of all 125 Web Guidelines can be tested in a reliable and well-described way. At present, a normative document is being developed to cover all Web Guidelines.

Some examples of web sites with a high level of compliance are en

One unfortunate thing is that most information available is in Dutch only. More information in English is high on my wish list. The previous version of the Web Guidelines was translated and is still available on This old version gives a good impression of what’s in the Web Guidelines. In the current version, the distinction between a ‘minimum set’ and an ‘optimum set’ of Web Guidelines was abolished: version 1.2 consists of only one set to which websites have to comply.

As of today, an article on the developments around the Web Guidelines is available on; I’ll try to translate it some time soon.

(crossposted on

#14 On January 17th, 2007 4:25 am Wilbert replied:

Well, I work for a Dutch governmental department, and Webstandards are my main concern. For the sites we have created; we *will* pull it off.
Just you wait and see…

#15 On January 17th, 2007 6:29 am Gerrit Berkouwer replied:

@Wilco: you do have a point here. This ‘call for webstandards’ coming from the government is new for a lot (not all!) web developers. A nice challenge for them I think :-).

Some of us in Dutch government make it happen with web developers ‘in house’. Go and see at the website of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. We try to implement the guidelines since 2004 here. The corporate websites of the other ministries are catching up fast…

#16 On January 17th, 2007 2:32 pm SpaceBison replied:


Not if you use: style=”text-decoration:blink;”

#17 On January 18th, 2007 5:24 am Asbjørn Ulsberg replied:

Hooray and kudos to Holland! This is a very important step in the right direction for web standards. Let’s hope other governments follow Holland’s example and implement something along the same lines!

#18 On January 21st, 2007 7:52 pm Alex replied:

I was impressed not by the idea to force some one to do some thing, but buy the *care* about citizens shown buy the government.

The government do not apply rules to others, but to themselfs!!!

#19 On January 24th, 2007 6:02 am Tony B replied:

We are having enough trouble persuading our managers that our web sites should be accessible (despite the legal requirements).

Hooray for Holland, and may the Uk follow suit.

#20 On January 25th, 2007 7:51 am Cinnamon Interactive Blog » Blog Archive » Webrichtlijnen meer onder de aandacht van ontwikkelaars replied:

[...] De Webrichtlijnen lijken de laatste tijd steeds vaker te worden besproken. Nederlands scripting guru Peter-Paul Koch is zeer te spreken over de richtlijnen, en Dean Edwards bij schenkt er ook aandacht aan. Één van de redenen voor deze (positieve) aandacht is het feit dat de overheid met deze Webrichtlijnen geen poging doet om het wiel opnieuw uit te vinden; de Webrichtlijen voegen juist additionele en specifiekere kwaliteitscriteria toe aan bestaande richtlijnen, zoals WCAG 1.0. Het recente Besluit Kwaliteit Rijksoverheidswebsites zal er geleidelijk voor zorgen dat de toegankelijkheid van deze websites verbeterd wordt. [...]

#21 On January 31st, 2007 4:36 am George Ellis replied:

It’s certainly a good thing that a government does not support one certain (dominating) browser brand (IE).
Very good to ‘impose’ the W3 standard instead of the microsoft standard. It hopefully breaks microsoft’s monopoly and gives other (better ) browsers a fair chance.
Maybe microsoft will finally intoduce a modern browser (IE 8, service pack 10 ?).

#22 On April 6th, 2007 7:14 pm Uwe replied:

We don’t have a ‘Web Guidelines police’ that arrests you when you use a BLINK tag or B instead of STRONG. It’s more the ‘comply or explain’ principle: the level of compliance is made visible and compared with that of similar websites. People that are hindered by the lack of compliance have a much stronger position when they complain about than without the legislation. For website owners, compliance (and showing proof of compliance) has become part of their risk management.

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