Understanding the European Accessibility Act: How it’s Revolutionizing Inclusion
Chief Technology Evangelist
August 14, 2023
Introduction to the European Accessibility Act
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is transforming the landscape of accessibility and inclusion in Europe, and its impact is felt far beyond the continent. In this article, we will unpack the details of this act, exploring its essence, provisions, application, and impact on businesses and the technology industry, both within and beyond Europe.
This legislation is a significant milestone on the path towards a more inclusive society in Europe and globally. It establishes a benchmark for accessibility standards and paves the way for a future where everyone can fully participate in society regardless of their abilities.
We’ve collaborated with digital experience experts Crownpeak, whose enterprise Digital Experience Platform (DXP) equips teams with the powerful tools they need to create inclusive omnichannel experiences. Crownpeak is the sole provider of digital experience and content management that includes accessibility tools within the content creation process for web, mobile web, and other HTML browser-based experiences. By following the recommended actions and partnering with experts like Crownpeak, organizations can ensure that their digital content is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their operations.
What is the European Accessibility Act
In essence, the European Accessibility Act is a piece of legislation that aims to improve the accessibility of products and services in the European market. It was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in April 2019 and is set to be fully implemented by all member states in 2025. The Act covers a wide range of products and services, including computers, smartphones, ATMs, ticketing machines, e-books, e-commerce, and various forms of transportation. According to the EAA, these products and services must be accessible to people with disabilities, enabling them to participate fully in society.
The European Accessibility Act is a response to the challenges an increasingly digital society poses. As our world becomes more interconnected, it’s crucial that everyone can benefit from the opportunities offered by digital technologies. The Act pushes for an inclusive digital economy where no one is left behind.
Key Provisions & Accessibility Requirements of the European Accessibility Act
The European Accessibility Act is a crucial legislative measure that seeks to cultivate an inclusive and universally accessible Europe. The Act stands on several key provisions that form the bedrock of its regulations, which are designed to eliminate accessibility barriers and enhance the lives of people with disabilities. Below are the specific key terms that are necessary to understand within the Act’s context:
Accessibility in the EAA, means making products, services, and environments usable by people with disabilities. This involves creating user interfaces that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, thus facilitating their seamless use by a wide range of individuals with different abilities.
Disability within the EAA is defined following the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It recognizes that disability results from the interaction between people with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
Products and services
Products and Services as defined by the Act, refers to any goods or services produced or provided by manufacturers and service providers, regardless of the mode of production or provision.
The Act mandates that manufacturers and service providers working on a selected list of products and services ensure their 'products and services' are accessible to people with disabilities. This involves developing user interfaces and product features that are usable and intuitive to navigate and understand. Furthermore, the Act emphasizes the need to provide alternatives, enabling accessibility for those unable to use certain features due to impairments.
Reasonable accommodation refers to necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments, where needed in a particular case, to ensure persons with disabilities can enjoy or exercise all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The EAA is also a staunch proponent of the 'universal design' principles, an important concept that entails designing products and services to be as usable as possible by everyone, irrespective of their age, ability, or status, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
Who does the European Accessibility Act apply to?
The EAA is an all-encompassing legislation that applies to many entities, casting a wide net to ensure inclusivity and equal access for all. The primary objective of the Act is to guarantee that products and services are accessible to people with disabilities, thereby impacting a wide range of sectors and industries.
Suppose your business involves manufacturing products such as computing devices, smartphones, and ATMs, or you're a service provider in e-commerce, banking, or transportation. In that case, the EAA regulations apply to you. The Act mandates that you devise your products and services in such a way that they cater to the unique needs of individuals with disabilities, fostering an inclusive user experience.
Public sector bodies are also held to the standards of the EAA. These institutions are required to ensure that all of its digital platforms - websites, mobile applications, and electronic documents - are accessible. This includes implementing alternative options to ensure inclusivity for those unable to utilize certain features due to disabilities.
Furthermore, the reach of the Act transcends geographical boundaries, exerting influence on entities both within and beyond the borders of Europe. If your products or services are available within the European market, you are obligated to comply with the EAA, regardless of where your business is physically located.
The sectors most impacted by the EAA include information and communication technology, transportation, banking, e-commerce, and public services. The Act pushes for progress in these sectors, demanding continuous advancements to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. The EAA is a testament to Europe's commitment to fostering an inclusive and accessible environment.
The Impact of the European Accessibility Act on Businesses Outside of Europe
The legislation carries significant implications, not just within European boundaries but also for businesses beyond its borders. Regardless of geographical location, any entity offering products or services within the European market must adhere to the Act. This obligation necessitates ensuring that products and services are designed and executed in a way that not only creates inclusive digital experiences for people with disabilities, but also creates a better experience for all. It could imply a comprehensive overhaul of product designs, service provisions, and the incorporation of novel processes to ensure compliance.
The EAA's influence is set to shape global standards and policies, prompting a worldwide shift towards accessibility and inclusion. As a result, multinational businesses need to synchronize their operations across regions with these evolving norms. The Act impacts operations and has a significant bearing on a company's reputation. Compliance with the Act is a testament to the company's commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, potentially bolstering the brand image, attracting a broader customer base, and enhancing relationships with existing clientele.
Even if they’re based outside of Europe, companies that are not compliant with the EAA risk facing legal and reputational penalties. The Act empowers regulatory bodies to initiate legal proceedings against companies that do not meet its accessibility requirements, emphasizing the importance of EAA adherence for businesses operating within the European market. The EAA, thus, underscores a global trend towards a more inclusive and accessible world.
European Accessibility Act and the Technology Industry
The advent of the EAA significantly impacts the technology industry. With the Act's stringent demands for accessibility, tech companies serve an instrumental role in shaping a more inclusive digital environment. The Act motivates tech companies to proactively engage in developing and deploying accessible technologies, further highlighting the indispensable role of the sector in championing accessibility. By prioritizing accessibility, organizations can improve the customer and employee experience, while also promoting DEI initiatives in their operations.
The EAA offers a mix of challenges and opportunities for the tech industry. It propels the industry towards substantial investment in research and development, product design, accessibility training for staff, and promotes innovation. Up to 20% of consumers may need accessibility assistance, meaning the EAA which can unlock new market segments that may not have had accessibility to a brand before. It also fosters a culture of social responsibility within the industry and encourages the exploration of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) to improve accessibility.
To create more accessible digital products and services, the Act catalyzes a symbiotic relationship between the tech industry and the disability community. This collaboration paves the way for tailored solutions that adhere to the Act's provisions and holistically cater to the needs of all users. The EAA sets the stage for a future where technology is the key driver of accessibility and inclusivity.
One of the recommended actions from IDC PERSPECTIVE is for organizations to address digital accessibility by looking for technology solutions and partners that can implement accessibility systematically and sustain an ongoing initiative to maintain digital accessibility compliance with audits and remediation actions1. By implementing accessibility systematically and partnering with experts in the field, organizations can ensure that their digital content is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. This can help to improve both the customer and employee experience, while also promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their operations.
Conclusion: Embracing Inclusion and Accessibility
In conclusion, the European Accessibility Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that advocates for an inclusive and universally accessible Europe. The Act affects a broad spectrum of entities, impacting numerous sectors and significantly influencing the technology industry. Compliance with the EAA enhances brand reputation and opens avenues for innovation and market expansion, particularly for tech companies willing to capitalize on emerging technologies like AI, VR, and AR.
Are you looking to stay ahead of the curve and understand how the latest trends in the EAA intersect with your tech landscape? Dive deeper with our Platform and Research as a Service to get the insights you need. In this age of inclusivity, let's ensure your business is not just part of the narrative but actively shaping it. Together, we can foster innovation in a way that doesn't just respond to but anticipates the future of accessibility.
1 IDC, Web Accessibility: Preparing for Compliance in 2025 Brings an Intersection of DEI and Customer Experience , doc ##US48610922 , May 2023