information, the necessity for digital inclusiveness is more critical than ever. The World Health Organization reports that roughly 1 billion individuals—constituting about 15% of the global population—are living with a form of disability, be it physical, cognitive, sensory, or mental. To address this, various accessiblity standards like WCAG, ADA, Section 508, AODA, and EN 301 549 have been established to ensure digital content is universally accessible.
The European Accessibility Act has been a subject of immense importance, not just for those who have disabilities but also for businesses and society at large. This legislation aims to break down barriers, both metaphorical and physical, that prevent people from participating fully in society. Given its scope, it’s crucial to understand what this Act is, who it serves, and how businesses can comply.
What is the European Accessibility Act and Who Benefits?
At its core, the European Accessibility Act (Directive 2019/882) aims to make everyday products and services more accessible to persons with disabilities. This directive aligns with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the EU and all its Member States have ratified.
Approximately one in five Europeans—that’s 87 million people—will directly benefit from this Act. The Act doesn’t just benefit those with permanent disabilities; it also assists individuals with temporary impairments and older people. By standardizing accessibility requirements, the Act promotes an inclusive society.
Businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), will also find value in this Act. They can more easily trade across EU countries, assured that they meet unified accessibility standards. Consumers, in turn, enjoy a broader, more competitively priced range of products and services that accommodate a variety of needs.
Moreover, these accessibility features can make life easier for everyone. Think of using an ATM with visual and audible signals in a noisy or poorly lit environment. This is inclusivity by design, benefiting the wider public.
Implementation Steps for Businesses
Businesses that offer products or services falling under the scope of the Act have to ensure their offerings comply with the national laws transposing this European directive. They have until June 28, 2025, to ensure that newly marketed products and services meet these requirements.
Scope: Products and Services Covered
Digital technologies are the focal point of the European Accessibility Act. Specifically, the Act covers:
- Products: Computers, smartphones, TVs, ATMs, e-readers, and ticketing/check-in machines.
- Services: Phone and banking services, e-commerce, transportation information, e-books, and access to Audio-visual media services (AVMS).
Existing Rules and Exceptions
It’s essential to note that the European Accessibility Act doesn’t overwrite but complements existing EU laws related to accessibility. For example, it provides specific guidance on public procurement and the use of EU structural funds in alignment with accessibility requirements.
Member States have some latitude to make exceptions. Microenterprises with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from these regulations, although they are encouraged to make their products and services accessible.
Common Requirements of the Act
The Act outlines functional accessibility requirements rather than rigid technical specifications. This approach provides the necessary room for innovation and adaptability. For instance, a product interface may offer an alternative to speech, flexible magnification, or volume adjustment to cater to different needs. Websites must provide details about their accessibility features and must be navigable even when using assistive devices.
Compliance and Recourse for Users
A robust mechanism is in place to ensure adherence to the Act’s requirements. Regular compliance checks, thorough review of complaints, and corrective actions by companies are mandated. As of June 28, 2025, customers can file complaints with national authorities if they find that services or products do not meet the new rules.
The European Accessibility Act serves as a catalyst for creating a more inclusive society. By addressing the accessibility of everyday products and services, it goes beyond merely fulfilling a social obligation—it augments business opportunities and enriches the quality of life for all Europeans.
For businesses, the Act is more than a set of regulations; it’s an invitation to innovate and be a part of building an inclusive environment. With the deadline of June 2025 looming, now is the time for businesses to evaluate their offerings and align them with the Act’s requirements. After all, an accessible Europe is a better Europe for everyone.
While the Act has its complexities, its purpose is straightforward: to enable people, irrespective of their physical or sensory capabilities, to participate more fully in society. And in that endeavor, we all have a role to play.