With the growing number of internet users, accessibility laws are also starting to catch up in the digital sphere. What are the web accessibility laws you need to know in Europe? Find out more about the EAA– the European Accessibility Act.
- The European Accessibility Act (EAA) aims to improve the proper functioning of the internal market by increasing the accessibility of products, services, and relevant information.
- EN 301 549 is a European standard for digital accessibility. It specifies requirements for websites, mobile apps, and other ICT (information and communications technology) products and services to be accessible for people with disabilities.
- Central to the EAA and the EN301 549: Accessibility is not a privilege. Compliance with the EAA and EN 301 549 will improve the lives of PWDs and the elderly.
What is EAA?
The EAA or European Accessibility Act was passed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (EU) in April 2019. This aims to improve the accessibility of products and services in the internal market, allowing for a more inclusive society.
Who benefits from the EAA?
7 in 10 Europeans believe that people with disabilities (PWDs), the elderly, and others with accessibility needs would have their lives improved with better accessibility to products and services.
PWDs are defined by the UN CRPD as people with physical, mental, and intellectual or sensory impairments that affect their daily interactions, limiting them from a “full and effective” participation in society. The EAA also benefits those referred to as ‘persons with functional limitations,’ such as elderly persons, pregnant women, or persons traveling with luggage.
What does the EAA cover?
The act is a massive step towards improving accessibility in the EU. It covers 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
- Telephone 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
Who needs to follow the EAA?
The EAA mainly applies to all public sectors, including government websites and apps operated by the state, regional, and local authorities.
Although this is the case, private companies should also take steps to make their website accessible to people with disabilities. Companies from the private sector that work with European government agencies through their products or services need to ensure that they comply with accessibility standards.
When was the EAA implemented?
The road to creating an equal and accessible digital sphere for PWDs can be dated back to the early 2000s. Some of the noted milestones include the following:
- In 2006, full web accessibility was set as a goal by the Riga Ministerial Declaration.
- In 2015, ETSI released the first version of EN 301 549, which aims to provide accessibility standards for the private sector.
- In 2016, the Web Accessibility Directive was passed, requiring all official public services to ensure their websites and mobile apps are accessible to users with disabilities.
- In 2018, the latest version of the EN 301 549 was released.
- In 2019, EAA was passed, which imposed the enforcement of the standards set for web accessibility.
Important Deadlines to Take Note of:
- September 23, 2019: All new public sector websites and apps (published after September 23, 2018) must comply with the directive
- September 23, 2020: All existing public sector websites (published before September 23, 2018) must comply with the directive
- June 23, 2021: All new and existing mobile applications must comply with the directive
Private companies are given until June 28, 2025, to comply with the requirements of EAA.
What does the EU Web Accessibility Directive require?
The regulations for the EU Web Accessibility are found in EN 301 549 produced by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). The EN 301 549 document directly refers to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) for further clarifications in ensuring an optimum level of web accessibility.
While the WCAG is meant to serve as a minimum level of compliance, the European Commission (as of December 2018) indicated some requirements for the member states to have:
- A publicly posted, regularly updated accessibility statement explaining accessible content standards
- An accessible feedback mechanism in case the user encounters errors
- An enforcement procedure detailing penalties and processes for non-compliance
- Standards for monitoring methodology and reporting
- Uniform technical specifications for mobile apps
The EU has done massive steps to improve the lives of all its member states, most specifically the usage of the internet. With the EAA in place, public and private sectors should have a proactive approach to ensuring their websites are accessible in accordance with WCAG. Start ensuring that your website is compliant with Access-A-Pal.