Understanding the European Accessibility Act

How the European Accessibility Act Affects Businesses

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a landmark legislation aiming to remove accessibility barriers across the European Union. It applies to various digital and electronic products and services, including websites, with the goal of providing equal access for people with disabilities. This article explains the EAA overall with focus on some aspects, highlighting its key requirements, benefits, and impact on website accessibility.


What is the EAA and its Role in Web & Digital Accessibility?

The EAA, formally known as Directive (EU) 2019/882 was approved in June 2019, should be transposed into national law by member state governments before or by late June 2022 (completed), and will become enforceable from 28 June 2025: a deadline fast approaching, and one which should not be ignored by organizations and businesses obligated to comply. With an estimated one-fourth or more of European citizens declaring some form of disability as of 2022, the EAA’s effect is not only significant, but badly needed.

European Accessibility Standards & Compliance Interaction

The European Accessibility Act is a directive of the European Union, intended to work with, update and supplement the EU Web Accessibility Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/2102). The EAA mandates accessibility for specific products and services, building on and moving past the WAD requirements for websites of public sector bodies to include most web and digital content as well as non-web Information and Communications Technologies for most private businesses and organizations.

While not directly regulating all websites and ICT, the EAA sets the accessibility standards (EN 301 549) that websites can adopt for compliance. Its clear framework and standards are meant to guarantee accessibility across digital platforms, enabling equal access to information and services online.

The EN 301 549 (Harmonized European Standard) aligns with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG); the EN 301 549’s requirements for ICT were originally linked with WCAG 2.1 at Level AA, and are expected to update to the recently released WCAG 2.2. Set by the the European Standards Organizations CEN/CENELEC and ETSI, the EN 301 549’s guidelines, centered on the EU and European web accessibility standards, are based on the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) independent standards body’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) accessibility standards, the WCAG. Using the WCAG as a foundation for the EN 301 549 and plugging that Harmonized Standard into the WAD and the EAA sets a consistent approach to website accessibility across the EU, aiming to bring all relevant European bodies up to conformance standards at an internationally accepted level.

The European Accessibility Act emerged from a recognition of the need to bridge the accessibility gap within the EU's single market, helping create a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities. Its development is based on the broader objective of harmonizing accessibility standards across member states to eliminate disparities that previously existed. The purpose of the EAA is twofold:

  1. To smooth and strengthen the function of the internal European market by vouchsafing free movement of accessible products and services.
  2. To improve quality of life for millions of Europeans by making key services and products more accessible to people with a range of disabilities.

This legislative act is a critical step towards a barrier-free Europe, where everyone has equal access to information, goods, and services.

Who is Obligated to Comply with the EAA?

Public sector bodies across all EU member states must comply with the EAA for their websites and mobile applications. Private organizations providing certain services, such as banking, transport, and healthcare, are also subject to the Act's accessibility requirements.

Why is the EAA important for inclusivity and accessibility?

The EAA represents a significant step towards an inclusive digital society in Europe. By harmonizing European accessibility standards and mandating compliance for key services, it removes accessibility barriers for millions of citizens with disabilities. This translates to:

  • Improved access to information and services: Websites complying with the EAA are accessible to a wider audience, enabling individuals with disabilities to access essential information and services online.
  • Increased participation in society: Improved accessibility empowers individuals with disabilities to participate more actively in online activities, expanding their social and economic inclusion.
  • A more level playing field for businesses: The EAA creates a level playing field for businesses operating in the EU, encouraging fair competition and the development of accessible products and services.

The European Accessibility Act marks a turning point in Europe’s path to a more inclusive digital future. Understanding the EAA’s requirements and embracing its principles is crucial for EU accessibility, and for all organizations seeking to comply and contribute to a more accessible online environment.

Main Goals of the European Accessibility Act

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) sets its sights on two critical tandem goals:

Dismantling Digital Accessibility Barriers
The EAA tackles a long-standing challenge – the lack of consistent web & digital accessibility standards. Inaccessible products and services, including technology, transportation, and digital platforms, present significant obstacles for individuals with disabilities, hindering access to essential resources and opportunities. The EAA mandates accessibility requirements that remove these barriers and establish equal access for all.

Equalizing Access for All Europeans
By directing organizations to provide accessible products and services, the EAA directly promotes equal rights for individuals with disabilities, so they can participate fully in society, access information and services without disability-based hurdles, and contribute equally to the digital economy. This cultivates a more inclusive and equitable society in Europe and beyond, where everyone, regardless of ability, can thrive.

These dual goals and their fulfillment create a ripple effect of positive change. Improved accessibility not only benefits individuals with disabilities but also opens doors for businesses, supports innovation, and strengthens the European economy as a whole.

Key Provisions of the European Accessibility Act

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) lays out a framework for accessibility across the EU, encompassing products and services needed for everyday life by all citizens, and surely needed no less by people with disabilities. It applies to entities within the EU that operate within the sectors of digital products and services, including public and private organizations that provide essential services to the public. The law mandates accessibility compliance for these organizations with the aim of removing barriers for people with disabilities.

Who Is Obligated to Comply with the EAA, and How?

Who: Public Sector Bodies

Websites and mobile applications of public administrations, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and cultural entities.

How: All EU public sector websites and mobile applications must be in compliance with the EAA.

Who: MOST Private Organizations

Any business or organization that provides essential services and systems related to banking, transport, e-commerce, audio-visual media services, e-books, and computers and smartphones.

How: Services mentioned above must comply, depending on their function and service delivery methods.

Exceptions to the EAA

Some small businesses, or “micro-businesses”, with less than 10 employees, may not be obligated to comply with EAA regulations. And, some older content may be considered to be exempted from EAA requirements. However, all businesses and organizations should at least attempt to comply with accessibility standards to the best of their ability.

EAA & WAD Accessibility Requirements

  • Harmonized Standards
    The EAA and WAD reference specific European accessibility standards (EN series) for each product category. These standards align with WCAG, currently at 2.1, setting common accessibility benchmarks across the EU. These standards must be used to comply with both the EAA and the WAD.
  • Procurement & Provision
    Organizational procurement must include and account for the accessibility of products and services.
  • Information & Support
    People with disabilities must be provided equitable access to information and customer support related to the products and services.
  • Self-Assessment and Declaration
    Organizations assess their own compliance with relevant standards and declare their adherence through an accessibility statement.
  • User Feedback Options
    Users must be provided with an accessible way to flag or report accessibility issues, or request specific information that has not been provided accessibly.
  • Monitoring, Enforcement & Reporting
    EU member states must implement mechanisms to verify compliance and address potential breaches, including regular monitoring on accessibility compliance, and are required to deliver reports with the results of all accessibility monitoring to the European Commission every three years.

Some Benefits and Impacts of EAA Compliance

Increased Accessibility for More Products & Services

The EAA supports not just the availability of accessible products and services but their development, benefiting individuals with disabilities.

Fairer Market Environment

Consistent standards create a more equalized and standardized market for businesses operating across the EU.

Economic Growth

Accessibility unlocks the potential of individuals with disabilities, contributing to a more inclusive and thriving European economy.

Products and Services Covered by the EAA

EAA compliance requirements encompass a range of products and services, including:

  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT): Computers, smartphones, tablets, and associated operating systems, user interfaces, and software, as well as TV and telephony equipment and services.
  • Financial Services: Online banking services, payment platforms, ATMs, and financial management tools.
  • eCommerce: Online shopping websites and applications, product information, and checkout processes.
  • Transport: Ticketing systems and machines, travel information websites and apps, onboard accessibility features, and mobile services related to air, bus, rail, and maritime transport.
  • Audiovisual Media Services: Broadcasting platforms, streaming services, and accessible content formats.
  • E-books & E-readers: Reading software, accessible ebook formats, content navigation features and related electronic programming guides.

How the EAA Impacts Businesses and Service Providers

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) significantly impacts businesses and service providers within the EU by requiring them to adapt their products and services to meet accessibility standards. This mandate means organizations must invest in redesigning websites, digital platforms, and physical products to be accessible to people with disabilities by assessing current levels of accessibility, implementing necessary changes, and maintaining and verifying ongoing adherence to the established standards.

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses and service providers within the EU.


Compliance Costs
Implementing accessibility features and conducting compliance assessments can incur costs, particularly for smaller organizations. Upgrading infrastructure, developing accessible content, and training staff require financial investment.

Technical Complexity
Understanding and applying the EAA's technical requirements can be challenging, especially for organizations lacking internal expertise in accessibility standards and testing tools.

Shifting Landscape
The dynamic nature of technology and accessibility standards may necessitate ongoing adjustments and updates, requiring continuous efforts to maintain compliance.

Opportunities & Benefits

Bettered Brand Reputation
Demonstrating commitment to accessibility aligns with consumers' growing expectations of social responsibility and inclusivity, fostering positive brand perception and loyalty.

Expanded Reach
Accessibility opens doors to a previously untapped market – the estimated 80 million citizens with disabilities in the EU. Catering to their needs broadens the potential customer base and increases market share.

Reduced Legal Risks
Compliance with the EAA mitigates potential legal risks associated with non-compliance, protecting businesses from penalties and lawsuits.

Innovation & Efficiency
Implementing accessibility often leads to improved usability for everyone, including older users or those with temporary disabilities. This can enhance overall user experience and potentially streamline processes.

One of the main challenges businesses face is the financial aspect of compliance, since most businesses do not have the know-how to understand and implement accessibility and must hire experts, and realistically, most have not included accessibility features and options in a fully compliant manner initially when designing and developing their products and services. Adapting existing products and services to meet the EAA's requirements can be costly, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This includes expenses related to redesigning digital interfaces, training staff on accessibility issues, and potentially purchasing new technologies to improve accessibility.

EAA Enforcement

EAA compliance is enforced through national bodies designated by each EU member state. These bodies are responsible for monitoring compliance, investigating complaints, and verifying that businesses and service providers adhere to the accessibility requirements set forth by the Act. Enforcement mechanisms include regular audits, reporting requirements, and the assessment of compliance through user feedback and complaints. In certain cases, penalties may apply. The European Commission monitors member states' enforcement efforts and ensures consistent application of the EAA across the EU.

Penalties for EAA Non-Compliance

The penalties for non-compliance with the European Accessibility Act can vary by member state but can include fines, legal actions, and corrective orders mandating that organizations take specific actions and implement corrective measures to achieve compliance within a certain timeframe. The severity of penalties is often proportional to the extent of non-compliance and the size of the organization, working to firmly push the adoption of accessible practices without causing undue burden on smaller entities. It is crucial for businesses to stay informed about the specific enforcement mechanisms and potential penalties in their respective member states.

10 Resources & Strategies for EAA Compliance

Meeting accessibility requirements in compliance with the EAA requires a strategic approach and leveraging available resources. Here's how to set organization-wide policies and procedures to help make your part of Europe accessible:

  1. Set Regular Checkups
    Schedule professional accessibility experts for consultations and audits. This becomes urgent when major changes in content, design or functionality are made.
  2. Prioritize & Focus
    Focus on remediating critical accessibility issues first, so that core functionalities are fully accessible. Then, find the low-hanging fruit and see which accessibility issues you can handle most effectively and efficiently.
  3. Create Policy & Commitment
    Establish a clear policy affirming your commitment to accessibility and outlining your compliance roadmap.
  4. Empower Your Team
    Train employees, especially developers, designers, and content creators, on accessibility best practices and EN 301 549 and EAA guidelines, and invest in external courses for your team on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which form the basis of many EAA requirements. Equip them with tools and resources to build accessibility into their daily workflows.
  5. Cover More Ground
    Remember, accessibility extends beyond websites. Consider the accessibility of your mobile apps, digital documents, and internal tools to create consistent inclusivity across all touchpoints.
  6. Open Communication
    Create open communication channels where team members can ask questions, share concerns, and report accessibility barriers. This collaborative approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement.
  7. State Your Status
    Publicly declare your commitment to accessibility by publishing an accessibility statement. This demonstrates transparency and accountability, building trust with users and stakeholders.
  8. Applaud Advocacy
    Encourage passionate team members to become accessibility champions within their departments. These advocates can raise awareness, share best practices, and motivate others to prioritize accessibility.
  9. Measure Progress
    Track your accessibility progress over time using relevant metrics. This data helps you identify areas for improvement and demonstrate the impact of your accessibility efforts.
  10. Test & Monitor
    Regularly monitor your website and ICT for new accessibility issues. Using a continuous combination of constantly used automated tools, scheduled manual testing by experts, and user testing by individuals with disabilities is a solid approach that identifies and addresses issues before they hit users.

Of course, specific resources and strategies may vary depending on your website's complexity and your organization's needs. The accessibility landscape is dynamic, and new information is always emerging. We recommend that all organizational and business management and design, content and development teams subscribe to industry publications, participate in relevant online communities, and attend accessibility-focused conferences when possible to stay updated on best practices and emerging technologies.

EAA-Aimed Testing Tools to Use

For testing and monitoring with automated or semi-automated tools, consider the many free or paid options available online, and review your possible choices based on referrals and unbiased analyses. And, remember that tools should be used in conjunction with expert advice when possible, and all ICT and web or digital content must be monitored and managed by a human being who runs and revises materials based on the auto tools.

  • Web accessibility evaluation tools: Free and paid tools like WAVE, Axe, and SiteImprove assess website accessibility against WCAG standards.
  • Plugins, extensions & more: Solutions from companies like UserWay and AccessiBe can provide a top-layer suite of user-selected accessibility options, and can leverage artificial intelligence to flag and even adjust some web content and layout for better accessibility compliance.
  • Screen readers and assistive technologies: Use these wisely, and request input from individuals with disabilities or have them use these technologies directly to test website navigation and functionality from the perspective of users with visual and other impairments.
  • Content management system (CMS) accessibility plugins: Integrate available plugins offered by your CMS that can assist with image descriptions, alternative text, and keyboard navigation.

What’s Next for Your Organization’s Accessibility?

Suppose you and your team have successfully used all the suggestions and tips we’ve shared, built and adjusted your digital offerings to center accessibility, consulted with experts and tested automatically and manually, and you’ve reached your accessibility goals. Congratulations, excellent work! You are fully compliant. Now what?

Your Achievements Include

  • Reaching a Larger Audience
    You have opened your digital doors to millions of additional users, customers, or clients who might otherwise have been excluded, in Europe and beyond. People with disabilities, who constitute a considerable portion of the population, can now access your content. That’s great for them and good for you.
  • Improving User Experience for Everyone
    Your understandable text, clear navigation, readable fonts, and meaningful link texts have made your website and all your digital content and interfaces more usable and appealing to everyone, not just those with disabilities. People know they can easily find what they need and complete tasks without trouble.
  • Showing Real Commitment to Inclusivity
    Your extensive implementation of accessible, user-centered design is not only compliant with all web and digital accessibility standards and regulations, it demonstrates what moves you and what guides you: not just the EAA, or any enforcement and penalties, but the true meaning of what accessibility is. You understand the importance of offering equitable access to all people, with or without disabilities, and you take that understanding forward into action.

Accessibility is not static. Like technology and human beings, it is constantly changing. Once you’ve reached your accessibility goals, the goalposts will move. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you will need to move and keep up, so that your website, ICT and digital collateral remain available and accessible to the largest amount of possible users in the European Union and around the world.

Moving Ahead, Powered by Accessibility

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) marks a significant step towards building a more inclusive digital society. While compliance may present challenges, the benefits far outweigh them. Inclusion, equality and accessibility are not just ethical imperatives but also key drivers of innovation, productivity, and growth, for individuals with and without disabilities, for businesses, for local communities, and for society at large. This prioritization of diversity and accommodation of all needs cultivates and supports a more creative, dynamic, and resilient environment, and a more inclusive society. When organizations prioritize accessibility and inclusivity for their media, communications, and web or digital collateral and interfaces, they not only comply with legal requirements but also build stronger, more inclusive communities. A commitment to making room for all individuals and providing equal opportunities for them to access information and resources, regardless of their abilities, makes space for everyone, strengthens and expands societal cohesion and offers everyone a more equal opportunity to contribute to and benefit from digital and physical domains European Union members states, and in all corners of the map.


Is the European Accessibility Act relevant to my website, even if I'm not based in Europe?

Probably not. The European Accessibility Act (EAA) applies to public sector websites and mobile apps within the European Union. Its focus on the public sector means private businesses based outside the EU are generally not directly impacted. However, implementing accessibility based on WCAG principles and criteria can make your website accessible according to the majority of web accessibility laws around the world, whether or not they apply.

How often do businesses need to check their compliance with the EAA?

Regular accessibility checks are essential for maintaining compliance with the European Accessibility Act. It's advisable for businesses to conduct annual reviews of their accessibility measures at a minimum. However, any major update to digital platforms or services should prompt an immediate review to verify ongoing compliance.

How can I assess my business’s accessibility without breaking the bank?

Fortunately, several free and low-cost tools are available online to help you evaluate your website and digital content accessibility against WCAG standards using automated checks and basic guidance. For deeper analysis or to test device compatibility, consider free or low-cost introductory packages from paid accessibility auditing platforms.

Do end users and consumers have a part to play in EAA compliance?

Consumers have a significant role in enforcing the EAA, as they can report non-compliance to the designated national bodies. Feedback from users, especially those with disabilities, is crucial for businesses to understand accessibility gaps in their products or services. This consumer feedback loop helps drive improvements and compliance.

Where can I find additional resources and support for EAA compliance?

The European Commission's EAA website is a valuable starting point, offering official documents, FAQs, and best practices. Additionally, your national accessibility center, W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and accessibility consultancy firms provide resources, training, and expert guidance to navigate the compliance journey effectively.

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