What is the European Accessibility Act? How does it Affect Businesses?

What is the European Accessibility Act? How does it Affect Businesses
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a progressive step towards inclusivity by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The directive is aimed to enhance products and services by synchronizing accessibility rules across Europe. The main goal of this initiative was to improve the trade of accessible products and services in Europe and to make the market more accessible and friendly to people with disabilities. Originally proposed in 2011, EAA was made active in 2019 and covers the elderly and differently-abled people.

What are the Products and Services Covered in the EU Accessibility Act?

To make sure there’s full and equal participation of people who need extra help in accessing products and services, the EAA establishes accessibility rules. For example, ATMs must offer audio assistive technology for visually impaired people. Other products that need to be made accessible for differently-abled people are:
  • Websites
  • Smartphones
  • E-books
  • Banking services
  • Digital television services
  • Television broadcast
  • Public transport services
  • Computers and operating systems
  • Check-in and ticketing machines
  • Telephony services and equipment
  • Audio-video media services

How Does the EAA Affect Businesses?

The EAA is made by the European Union for the people of Europe. If your business is run solely on the web, you must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). If your business deals with physical products, services, and digital devices, you must adhere to the EU Accessibility Act. It helps people with disabilities to access the same content as everyone else and even allows your business to follow the same set of rules, leading to:

  • Seamless cross-border trades
  • Reduced costs
  • Larger market

By following the accessibility rules, you enhance your brand image by striving to be more inclusive, provide a more accessible product to your target audience, and reduce the gap in accessibility by improving user experience.

What’s the Difference Between EU Web Accessibility Directive and WCAG?

While there are chances of the two, EU Web Accessibility Directive and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1), overlapping, they are different initiatives. They have different implications in private and public organizations. The core of the web accessibility directive lies in the WCAG 2.0. The directive does not hold specific rules for apps or websites to comply with. In fact, the readers have to refer to Standard EN 301 549 of the Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit, which cites WCAG 2.1 for more clarification.

So, what makes them different, and why is it necessary to follow both? The WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 are set by the World Wide Web Consortium. They are influential, but they cannot legally enforce the guidelines on their own. By setting down WCAG principles in the web directive, the European Union makes it necessary for all its members to follow the WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards by default. Hence the directive is needed to set the WCAG in motion and compulsorily make everyone follow it.

How to Comply with the EAA?

To comply with the WCAG requirements for the EU Web Accessibility Directive, as a public organization, you must make your apps and website fill the criteria for Level A and Level AA per the WCAG 2.1 standard. Your organization should also publicly post and regularly update the accessibility statement that explains content standards with a link for feedback. The EU Accessibility Act does not follow a specific standard, but it has a general outline for accessibility requirements that follows the “Designed for All” principle. It means that your services and products should be designed to be accessible to every individual with different abilities.

Although there’s nowhere explicitly stated, both directive and WCAG require websites and apps to follow the four principles of accessibility (perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust). So, start familiarizing yourself with the WCAG standards to get a good kickstart on how to stay compliant with the EU Accessibility Act.

Being More Inclusive

EAA aims to make the European market as accessible as possible for people with different abilities by removing barriers of inaccessibility. This will ultimately encourage inclusiveness in European society. Hence, every company that does business in the European market needs to be compliant with the EAA and should make modifications internally to make better operations.

Editors:

Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

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

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