From June 28, 2025, a selected list of businesses, including manufacturers and publishers will only be able to supply the European market with products and services that comply with the European Accessibility Act’s (EAA) accessibility requirements.
While the general awareness of digital accessibility has undoubtedly been raised in recent years by various initiatives, it is inarguably still the case that significant barriers still remain for many when it comes to accessing the online world. The EAA has been created to ensure such barriers become a thing of the past in Europe, where approximately 80 million people are affected by a disability to some degree.
What is the European Accessibility Act (EAA)?
Intended to introduce more accessible products and services on the market, lower prices for such services, and create more accessibility related jobs, the EAA is a directive that legally requires EU member states to enact various accessibility requirements.
The Act will have significant and far reaching effects for online organizations operating within the EU. Most importantly, it will provide EU member states with a set of common accessibility rules to follow, which will theoretically bring about greater cohesion and consistency to the area as a whole.
While the Act will not set obligations for all service providers, it will be certain to focus on products and services that citizens use every day.
The EAA requires that products must:
- be designed and produced to maximize their use by people with disabilities, and
- comply with detailed rules on information and instructions, user interface and functionality design, support services and packaging.
The EAA requires that services must:
- provide information about the service, its accessibility features, and facilities
- make websites and mobile devices easily accessible
- support systems, such as help desks, call centers and training to provide information on accessibility, and
- apply practices, policies, and procedures to address the needs of people with disabilities.
Who Does The Act Apply To?
Crucially, the new Act applies not just to public sector organizations, as was the case with previous EU legislation - the EU Web Accessibility Directive, but also to selected private companies.
The European Accessibility Act will cover the following products and services:
- computers and operating systems
- ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines
- telephones and smartphones
- TV equipment related to digital television services
- telephony services and related equipment
- audiovisual media services, such as television broadcast and related consumer equipment
- services related to air, bus, rail and waterborne passenger transport
- banking services
Why The Act Is Significant
As it applies to private sector businesses, the legislation marks a major milestone for accessibility law in the EU. It represents a significant and fundamental shift, as in the past the EU private sector has been largely unregulated when it comes to accessibility.
Can Organizations be Penalized for Non Compliance?
In short, yes. Violations of the EAA will be penalized according to national laws, however expert commentators suggest it is likely that member states will opt to impose fines on those who do not comply with the directive’s regulations.
Organizations that operate across Europe will need to take measures to ensure they are meeting national laws and standards wherever they are doing business.
WCAG 2.0/2.1 and The EAA
The June 2022 Deadline
While there is still some time before the EAA becomes enforceable on June 28th, 2025, the deadline for EU member states to adopt the European Accessibility Acts requirements is drawing ever closer, with the final date for compliance being June 28, 2022.
By this date, member states of the EU must have created their own digital accessibility law per the EAA and have it incorporated into their national laws. It is important to note, however, that once it is made enforceable in 2025, exact requirements and timelines will vary to some degree from country to country.
As accessibility is an ongoing journey, and not a one time fix that can be accomplished overnight, digital professionals would be well advised to start taking action now to ensure that they are ready to comply with the Act when it is passed into law.
How Do I Know If My Website Is Ready to Comply?
If you want to ensure that your website is prepared to comply with the EAA’s requirements, an essential first step is getting an accurate assessment of its current accessibility status. Until this is done, you will essentially be working blindfolded, with no idea of what needs to be optimized and how close or far to achieving compliance you actually are.
Request a free demo and Monsido will scan your site for any possible issues that may hinder accessibility, giving you an overview of how your website is doing, as well as recommendations on how to address them to ensure you are on the right track.