The European Commission agreed on the first EU-wide rules to make public sector apps, as well as websites, more accessible, especially for the blind, the deaf and the hard of hearing.

It believes a common approach to ensure accessibility will “contribute to an inclusive digital society” and unlock the benefits of the ‘Digital Single Market’.

Around 80 million people in the EU are affected by a disability, with the figure expected to increase to 120 million by 2020 as the population ages.

The directive will cover all public sector bodies’ apps, such as those of police departments, hospitals, universities and libraries.

Gunther Oettinger, commissioner for the digital economy and society, said: “The agreement that we have just reached will ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the internet and mobile apps, to participate in society to a fuller extent and to lead a more independent life.”

The directive covers websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies with some exceptions, such as live streaming.

It recommends that there should be regular monitoring and reporting of public sector websites and apps. These reports have to be communicated to the EC and be made public.

The text agreed upon by the European Parliament, the council and the commission needs to be formally approved, after which it will be published in the Official Journal and enter into force.

Member states will then have 21 months to integrate the directive into their national legislation.