Everything You Need to Know About the EU Web Accessibility Directive

As the deadline for the first adoption phase of the EU Web Accessibility Directive draws closer (September 23 for all new public sector websites), member states are working hard to provide the means for effective compliance. If you are a website that will be affected by this Directive, here is a detailed overview of the requirements and information that you will need to keep your site in line with the new rules.

The Goal of the Directive

There are over 80 million individuals that live with disabilities within the EU. Without an act in place to govern accessibility in the region, these people experience discrimination and exclusion from the use of basic goods and services. As an effort to resolve this issue, the European Union proposed a directive to create a more equal playing field for people with differing abilities. Thus the 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 was published in 2016. Also known as the European Union (EU) Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications, the Directive aims to create a more standardized and harmonized framework around the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies.

It will be based on the four principles of the WCAG, which will thus require public sector websites to ensure that they are POUR (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust). The expected standards that member states will have to comply with are the WCAG Level AA as a minimum. The Directive, unlike a regulation, is imposed as a law but instead binds member states to the adoption of it into national law.

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Timeline for Implementation

The Directive is expected to be adopted by EU member states with a timeline for compliance as follows:

  • New public sector websites must conform by September 23 2019
  • All public sector websites by September 23 2020
  • All public sector mobile apps by June 23 2021

Coverage - Who and What Will It Affect?

The Directive covers the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, which includes:

  • State, regional or local authorities
  • bodies governed by public law,
  • associations formed by one (or more) such authorities or one (or more) such bodies governed by public law if those associations are established for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest, not having an industrial or commercial character

There are exceptions to the coverage; public service broadcasters or non-governmental organizations that do not provide services that are important to the public or specifically for people with disabilities are excluded from this Directive.

For public sector sites, the content that is covered by the Directive includes non-textual information, downloadable documents, and forms, two-way interaction such as the processing of digital forms and the completion of authentication, identification and payment processes.

The Directive does not apply to content such as office file formats published before 23 September 2018, audio or video published before 23 September 2020; live audio or video; online mapping, provided that the navigational information is accessible; third-party content not under the control of the public sector body concerned; and more.


What is Required for Compliance from Member States?

1. An Accessibility Statement

Public sector bodies within the EU member states must comply by providing a detailed and comprehensive accessibility statement on a regular basis. This statement must clearly outline: an explanation for any inaccessible elements that may still be present on the website or application, as well as information on alternatives for access. Guidelines on how users can provide feedback on failures of access and how they can request for information that may be excluded from the scope of the Directive And a link to a compliant mechanism if the response provided is inadequate to the user’s needs.

2. Monitoring

Compliance to the Directive should be monitored using a methodology that was adopted by the Commission by 23 December 2018. According to the official summary of the Directive, 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.

3. Reporting

The member states will have to submit a report compiled from monitoring activities, detailing the information and results of the enforcement of the Directive by the 23 of December and the subsequent 3 years after. 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 by 23 June 2022.

For detailed information on the Directive, you can read up on the official act here.

Complying with the EU Web Accessibility Directive is made easier with Monsido. Monsido’s robust Accessibility tool allows you to scan your site for accessibility issues up to WCAG 2.2 level AAA. You can easily track your accessibility compliance, fix certain issues directly from the dashboard, and see your site improve with every step of the way.