EN 301 549: European Standard for Accessibility & Compliance

EN 301 549 European Standard for Accessibility & Compliance

The European Union (EU) is committed to ensuring equal access to information and communication technology (ICT) for all individuals, including those with visual and cognitive impairments. To achieve this goal, the EN 301 549 standard was created through a collaborative effort among Europe’s key standardization bodies: the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

EN 301 549 stands out for its comprehensive approach, which not only incorporates references to the globally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) but also leverages existing standards to craft a thorough code. EN 301 549 standard is a harmonized accessibility standard that emerged from the EU Web Accessibility Directive, and it promotes inclusivity and accessibility in digital spaces. Let’s delve deeper into the EN 301 549 standard.

What is EN 301 549?

EN 301 549 is a technical standard that outlines specific accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) products and services in the European market. 

This standard is designed to ensure that information and communication technology (ICT) products and services are accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities. It provides practical and measurable benchmarks for evaluating the accessibility of ICT products and services. Essentially, it sets specific criteria that can be used to assess the accessibility of ICT products and services.

The goal of this standard is to make sure that people with visual and cognitive impairments can access and use ICT products and services just like everyone else. It takes into account a wide range of disabilities, including visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive impairments. By using this standard, designers, and developers can ensure that their products and services are accessible to the widest possible audience.

This standard is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which provide general principles for creating accessible web content. However, it goes a step further by translating these general principles into specific criteria that can be used to evaluate the accessibility of ICT products and services.

Harmonized Versions of EN 301 549

EN 301 549 offers a standardized framework for digital accessibility, but individual member states may create their own harmonized versions with slight variations. Nevertheless, these versions are still required to meet the core accessibility requirements of the standard.

The harmonized versions of EN 301 549 standard ensure consistent guidelines for accessibility across the EU, promoting equal access to digital resources for all citizens by facilitating uniformity in compliance efforts. This helps to implement accessibility standards effectively and efficiently.

Who Needs to Comply With EN 301 549?

Organizations supplying ICT products and services in the European market are required to comply with EN 301 549. This includes public sector bodies. Although private organizations are not explicitly mandated to adhere to this European standard, they are encouraged to do so for a wider audience reach. These rules are mandatory for entities offering digital products or services accessible to the public sector or public authorities. Complying with these rules is not only a legal obligation but also promotes inclusivity and improves user experience for everyone, including people with disabilities.

Accessibility Requirements for EN 301 549:

The accessibility requirements outlined in EN 301 549 cover various aspects to ensure comprehensive inclusivity:

Hardware and Software:

Both hardware and software components must be accessible to users with visual and cognitive impairments, using assistive technologies when necessary.

Telecommunications:

Accessibility provisions for telecommunications services and devices to facilitate communication for all users, including telephones, mobile networks, and other communication technologies.

Non-web documents: 

PDFs and eBooks must have proper structure and alternative text descriptions for images to make them accessible for assistive technologies.

Compatibility with assistive technologies:

Assistive technologies should be compatible with digital content and services, so users with cognitive & visual impairments can access and interact with them effectively.

Usability:

To enhance the accessibility and user experience of digital products and services, the user interface should be easy to navigate and understand for all users, including those with disabilities.

EN 301 549 and WCAG

The EN 301 549 guidelines outline a comprehensive set of technical requirements for digital products and services, beyond just websites. These requirements are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and provide detailed technical specifications for web accessibility. 

Organizations can achieve comprehensive accessibility compliance and promote digital inclusivity with the EN accessibility requirements, which complement the WCAG and provide a broader framework for digital products and services.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Adhering to accessibility standards such as EN 301 549 is of utmost importance to ensure that digital products and services are accessible to everyone, regardless of their disabilities. Non-compliance can lead to severe legal implications, resulting in fines, penalties, and even exclusion from certain markets. Failure to adhere to accessibility standards can also harm a company’s reputation and erode the trust of its users. Moreover, inaccessible digital products can prevent individuals with visual and cognitive impairments from accessing critical information and services. To foster inclusivity and enhance user satisfaction, it is essential to prioritize accessibility compliance, not just for legal adherence but also to promote a more equitable and accessible society.

Conclusion

In today’s digital world, ensuring accessibility compliance is not only a legal duty but also a moral responsibility. Continual Engine offers customized solutions to assist organizations in navigating complex accessibility standards such as EN 301 549, empowering them to create inclusive digital experiences for all users. By partnering with Continual Engine, organizations can simplify their compliance efforts, reduce the risks of non-compliance, and contribute to a more accessible and equitable digital environment.

It’s important to understand that building accessible products and services is not only about meeting regulations, but it’s also about inclusivity and providing a positive user experience for everyone. By adhering to accessibility standards like EN 301 549, organizations can guarantee that their offerings reach a larger audience and contribute to a more digitally inclusive society.

If you need help complying with accessibility standards, Continual Engine can help you achieve your goals.

Editors:

Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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