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EAA Compliance for Websites:
The Definitive Guide

Erin Shoshana
Author
| Hina Ilyas
Researcher
| Last updated: November 2022 | 5 minutes
EAA Compliance for Websites: <br>The Definitive Guide

In this guide we will share with you information about the EAA.

Specifically, we will share:

  • Background on the EAA
  • Who needs to comply with the EAA
  • How to comply with the EAA
  • Lot more!

Let’s do it!

Digital Accessibility Across the Globe

Across the world, countries are implementing laws and legislation about website accessibility. As more and more users head online to complete essential services, including everything from ordering food to making financial payments, users need equal access to website content more than ever. 

The United States, Canada, and the European Union have all passed meaningful legislation and guidelines that dictate compliance standards for websites. More than ever, countries worldwide are beginning to view websites as a public accommodation and are moving to protect equal access for all users, no matter their disability or limitation.

Approximately one in six people residing in the European Union has a disability, which amounts to about 80 million people. As recently as 2019, the European Union has passed important legislation regarding digital accessibility and website compliance. While overall standards exist for member states, each country within the EU may also have its own rules and regulations

Accessing the Basics

The EU has advanced in many ways, but there is still some work to do when it comes to digital accessibility.

A recent report by The Digital Accessibility Index showed that 72pc of leading Irish companies do not have accessible websites, this includes the top five grocery retail websites. 

The report also mentions how only one of the country’s 20 private hospitals met digital accessibility requirements. And on the education front, every website that was tested for accessibility in a sample of 28, failed. 

The fact that such a high percentage of websites providing basic services online are not accessible highlights how disabled consumers are facing barriers every day. It also stresses the importance of prioritizing digital accessibility, regardless of sector. 

Why should your EU-based business rush to welcome website accessibility?

The EU Website Accessibility Directive compliance mandates that older websites, published before  September 23, 2018, need to reach accessibility standards by September 23, 2020. 

For mobile application, the deadline was June 23, 2021.

Keep in mind that by June 2025, computers and operating systems, equipment for telecommunication services, e-readers, and more are obligated to meet compliance standards. 

The EAA and EN 301549

For those operating out of the European Union, the two major compliance components will include the EEA and EN301 549.

The EN 301 549 is perhaps a scary-looking name to represent an accessibility standard set to encompass all information and communication technologies (ICT). This covers many digital products, ranging from web content to ATMs. 

 

These requirements are in force for any website published since September 23, 2019. Public websites, including those in existence already, are required to comply by September 23, 2020. Additionally, mobile apps for the public sector were required to reach compliance by  June 23, 2021.

The European Accessibility Act (EEA) provides Member States with common accessibility requirements at the EU level. These accessibility requirements are applicable for various products and services, including everything from e-commerce sites to computer operating systems. Under the EEA, people with disabilities are meant to benefit from more accessible products and services in the market, including those offered online.

It is important to mention the Directive (EU) 2016/2102, which applies to public sector bodies. This directive requires the publication of an accessibility statement for websites and mobile apps and calls for a feedback method or site users to flag accessibility problems easily.

Understanding the EAA Timeline

The EAA was originally proposed in 2011 and was officially adopted by the EU in 2019. 

EU member states are required to adopt the directive into their national laws by June 2022 and these laws need to be enforced by July 2025. 

What the EAA Covers

The main objective of the EAA is to give people living with disabilities access to as many products and services as possible, including everything from eCommerce apps to cash machines. 

For this reason, the EAA includes the following:

  • Websites
  • Smartphones
  • eBooks
  • Operating systems
  • ATMS
  • Ticketing
  • Any equipment related to digital television services
  • Television broadcast and related consumer equipment
  • Telephony services
  • Banking services
  • Services related to air, bus, rail, and water transport

This will harmonize accessibility across all EU member states. However, it also applies to manufacturers, importers, service providers, and any other economic operators. 

Chapter 2:

How to Comply With the EAA?

How to Comply With the EAA?

Wow, that was not shot but super helpful don’t you think?

Now that you have a basic understanding of web accessibility regulations in the EU we can move on to understanding how to comply.

Digital accessibility is a tough cookie to crack on your own, luckily we are here to help!

What are you waiting for?

 

Navigating Compliance Regulations in the EU

Whether your business is a large corporation or a small family-run one, navigating compliance standards is not always the easiest of tasks. While you may know regulations are needed, it can be challenging to understand which ones and how to implement them. 

Generally speaking, many EU member states will follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are a series of guidelines that provide information about web accessibility. The guidelines, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), layout instructions, and information help sites reach compliance. Though there are several WCAG compliance levels, it is expected that most businesses will reach WCAG Level II. 

The Best Accessibility Service Provider for EAA Compliance – accessiBe

accessiBe-small-logoOur top choice: accessiBe
  • WCAG
  • ADA
  • AODA
  • Section 508

Get started with your website’s accessibility with accessiBe’s easy-to-use features and technology.

Pros

  • Fast turnaround with a 5 min installation, and 48-hour compliance process
  • 100,000+ clients use accessiBe including legal and government organizations
  • Includes accessibility statement and certification
  • Litigation support package and monthly compliance audits

Cons

  • Built specifically for websites and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)- some web apps might not be compatible

Existing Clients

Chapter 3:

Who Need to Abide to the EAA?

Who Need to Abide to the EAA?

So now you know how to comply with the EAA but who actually needs to abide?

In this chapter, we will cover all of that, and then some more 🙂

So who actually needs to abide to the EAA?

The industry and size of your business do not necessarily matter. Compliance is all-encompassing and inclusive of any interaction performed on a website. Examples of online products and services include:

* Banking

* Shopping

* Ordering food (restaurants, grocery stores) 

* Online public services  

Of course, there is nearly no end to what products, services, and information websites offer online these days. When websites do not address a diverse range of user needs, the lack of accessibility and ability to navigate contributes to excluding a broad audience of people.

Let’s give a breakdown by country by country.

Denmark 

In Denmark, website accessibility standards have been in place since 2007. Websites are expected to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA. This is a mandatory policy for the public sector. The guidelines detailed in WCAG are to be used for the purchasing, development and operation of the websites of public authorities.

Denmark accessibility

 

Finland

The European Accessibility Act (EAA), proposed in 2015, was accepted into Finnish legislation in 2018 in the Act on Electronic Services and Communication in the Public Sector. The EAA and associated guidelines have been in effect since Monday, 23 September 2019. This legislation is very similar to the WCAG 2.1 standards, but goes beyond them with two important points:

* Websites need to provide an accessible feedback channel with information on how feedback will be used in the future

* Specific documentation detailing any service that is found lacking accessibility along with the reasons why, a methods of gaining alternative accessible service, and contact information for any additional questions.

Finland accessibility

France

France’s main digital accessibility legislation is known as the General Accessibility Framework for Administrations (RGAA). The RGAA addresses public websites in France and uses WCAG 2.0 guidelines as a base and adds a few requirements. One such additional requirement is the inclusion of unit tests that detail how compliance is determined.  

The RGAA requires businesses to make and maintain websites, mobile apps, and other online services are localized for France, and provide accessiblity to people with disabilities and limitations.

France accessibility

Germany

In 2002, the German government issued an ordinance on the Creation of Barrier-Free Information Technology (BITV) in accordance with the Act on Equal Opportunities for Disabled Persons. The goal is BITV is to ensure that people with disabilities can gain equal access to all content and services on the internet that are provided by German federal institutions.

The BITV standards are based on WCAG 2.0 guidelines. While BITV only apply to governmental sites, the state does encourage private businesses and site owners to ensure their sites meet accessibility standards. 

Germany accessibility

Ireland

Ireland’s Disability Act of 2005 put into legislation important compliance standards for websites. Most notably, the act declared that public services be made accessible and inclusive for all kinds of people, regardless of their disability. The Disability Act also states that a ‘public body’, like a website, that communicates electronically, must be accessible to those with vision impairments. There is currently no specific WCAG version that must be met.

Ireland accessibility

Italy

In 2004, Italy introduced Law 9, n. 4 known as The Disposizioni per favorire l’accesso dei soggetti disabili agli strumenti informatici. This piece of legislation is known and referred to as the “Stanca Act.”

The Stanca Act ensures that the government protects each person’s right, disabled or otherwise, to access all sources of information and services. The law specifically clarifies the rights of disabled people to access public services via the internet. The Stanca Act is based on WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

Italy accessibility

Netherlands

In 2016, the Dutch Ministry of General Affairs upheld the EN 301 549, requiring government and public sector sites to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards.

Netherlands accessibility 

Norway

Norwegian policy known as Forskrift om universell utforming av informasjons- og kommunikasjonsteknologiske (IKT)-løsninger (Norsk), requires public and private sectors use WCAG 2.0 compliance standards for websites. This includes websites that were designed or updated after 2014.

Norway accessibility

Sweden

The Swedish Discrimination Act (2008:567) was made to combat discrimination and encourage the equal rights and opportunities of all people, regardless of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age. The act is not based on a specific WCAG version. 

Switzerland

Information about Switzerland’s digital accessibility guidelines can be found in its Federal Law on the Elimination of Inequalities for Persons with Disabilities which was enacted in 2002.  The law is a type of non-discrimination law that includes both the public sector and private sectors. The WCAG version used in the law is WCAG 2.0.

United Kingdom

To meet the United Kingdom’s government accessibility requirements,  digital services in the UK must provide the following:

* Uphold WCAG 2.1 Level AA as a minimum

* Employ the most common assistive technologies, like screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools

* Include people with limitations and disabilities in their user research and planning 

* Provide an accessibility statement that explains how accessible the business’s services are

Full details can be found in the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

Chapter 4:

What Compliance Can Do For Your Business?

What Compliance Can Do For Your Business?

We hope you enjoyed our guide (because we worked hard on it :).

In the summary chapter, we will give some good initial pointers on where to begin your digital accessibility journey.

Good luck!

Compliance can be a friend

Is meeting digital accessibility standards really worth all the effort? In short, yes. Digital inaccessibility can actually end up costing you more than digital accessibility. Today, thanks to available automated solutions, achieving digital accessibility is an affordable and attainable goal for any sized business. According to your country’s specific regulations and requirements, you may also be subject to fines, lawsuits, and other penalties if you do not meet the minimum standards. 

When you choose to meet compliance standards, you are opening your products and services to a much wider and more diverse audience. That translates to more website views, leads, sales, and revenue. The question really is, why haven’t you started?

Where does your business stand?

It is not always clear to business owners where their current websites stand when it comes to compliance. Many shy away from taking steps toward digital accessibility for fear the process is too complicated or involves a website overhaul. This is simply not true. With amazing accessibility solutions available on the market today you can have a compliant website at an affordable price, without any major alternations to your existing website.

To get started, try a free internal website audit.
This is the first step toward understanding how compliant, or not, your current site is. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is EAA compliant?

Being EAA compliant means that your website complies with the rules and guidelines set out by the European Accessibility Act, which was passed in April 2019. This act ensures that people of all abilities can fully access digital products and services.

What qualifies as an EAA disability?

An EAA disability refers to any long-term physical or mental impairment that might create a barrier in someone’s day-to-day life. The EAA also ensures that older people can maintain an active role in society by making it possible for them to easily access online products and services.

When was the EAA passed?

The EAA was passed in June 2019 in Europe. EU members are required to translate and incorporate the regulations and guidelines into their national laws by June 2022.

What is EAA accommodations?

EAA accommodations refer to the steps taken by businesses, sectors, and institutions to ensure people have equal opportunities and accessibility, regardless of their ability. One example is making it possible for an employee or student with a disability to work and study without any barriers.

How to apply for EAA protection?

If you want to be protected by the EAA, it’s essential to take steps to be compliant. This means altering your site so that it’s accessible to users with disabilities. You can use the WCAG as a reference for making your website accessible. Some steps include adding alt text to images, transcripts to videos, and adjusting your color contrast ratio.

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