What Is the European Accessibility Act?

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) was legislation enacted in April 2019 intending to improve accessibility, benefit those with disabilities, and provide businesses operating in or for the EU market with clear and consistent rules. As per the EAA, these accessibility measures must be enacted in EU member states by June 2025.

But What Exactly Does This Legislation Entail and How Does It Affect Us in the UK?

Focusing on the elderly and those with disabilities, the EAA establishes a list of accessibility requirements for several vital products and services while eliminating country-specific rules. These products and services include ATMs, websites, computers and operating systems, check-in machines, smartphones and TV equipment, telephony and banking services.

Whilst it doesn’t affect us in the UK directly, it does mean that businesses intending to operate in or for the EU market must follow this list of requirements or risk being penalised. However, these rules do not apply to companies employing less than 10 people with an annual turnover not exceeding 2 million Euros.

What Benefits Will the EAA Provide?

At its most simplistic, the EAA legislation hopes to shape a more inclusive and accessible society across the EU and align it with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It also officially recognises that the demand for accessible products and services is high, intending to grow the market for companies providing these products. Companies that prioritise accessibility also tend to create better products, as making them easier to navigate and use makes them more attractive to everyone.

By standardising these accessibility requirements across the EU, businesses will also benefit from simplified cross-border trade as they no longer have to follow a litany of country-specific rules that can cost money and put a hold on further expansion. As more of these businesses enter the cross-border market, competitive prices may emerge, job opportunities could increase, and savings could be passed onto the consumer.

With these new standards in place, the EU will become a more accessible place for those with disabilities. This could encourage a greater level of accessible tourism and in turn, provide another economic boost. For example, with the knowledge that check-in machines, ATMs and other points of contact will have to abide by familiar accessibility rules, people will have greater confidence moving around the EU states and choosing them as a tourist destination.

How Can I Ensure My Products and Services Meet These New EU Rules?

Whilst the EAA legislation only covers EU member states, it does require non-EU businesses with over 10 employees to adhere to the rules whilst operating in the EU market. If you already pay attention to accessibility requirements, it’s likely you already comply with the majority of the legislation.

To ensure you are ready for the deadline, the EAA can be broken down into four main points:

Being Perceivable:

Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways that anyone with senses can perceive.

For example, a ticket machine with audio description for the blind must also feature some kind of braille or touch technology for those hard in sight and hearing. This ensures the best chance of accessibility for anyone hoping to use the service.

Being Operable:

User interface components and navigation must also be operable by those with disabilities, meaning that the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.

For example, any functionality that would usually be provided through a mouse should also be able to be accessed through the use of a keyboard or some form of voice command.

Being Understandable:

Both the information displayed and the operation of the interface must be understandable for the vast majority of people. 

This means the information should be presented in the clearest, simplest way possible in both an audio and visual form to help minimise confusion even by those with cognitive disabilities or who may have minimal experience with technology.

And Being Robust:

Focusing more on the digital space, content and services must be robust enough that they can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents such as assistive technologies.

This means designing your website and content with screen readers and other assistive technologies in mind. For example, only using text where necessary, having a clear consistent user experience and staying away from excessive emoji use to avoid confusing screen readers. 

Wrapping Up the EAA

In conclusion, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) represents a significant step forward in the EU’s commitment to creating an inclusive society where accessibility is not an afterthought but a fundamental aspect of product and service design. While the UK may no longer be part of the EU, the global movement towards accessibility and inclusion continues to gain momentum, and the EAA serves as a benchmark for best practices in accessibility.

For businesses, the EAA is not just a set of regulations to comply with but an opportunity to innovate and lead in the creation of products and services that are inherently accessible to all. This approach not only meets legal requirements but also resonates with a broader consumer base, enhancing user experience and satisfaction.

For individuals with disabilities, the EAA promises a future where barriers are continuously identified and dismantled, allowing for greater participation in all aspects of life, from the digital realm to the physical world. It is a future where accessibility is the norm, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can enjoy the same opportunities for engagement, interaction, and independence.