What is the European Accessibility Act?
In the European Accessibility Act, the European Union formulated binding guidelines for digital accessibility in 2019. This is intended to give people with disabilities access to IT, technology and telecommunications as well as software and cloud services.
Accessibility in general means that everyone can have access to services, goods or facilities regardless of age or any disability. The European Accessibility Act defines for the EU to what extent the internal EU market can be geared towards greater accessibility and which rule and legal changes the individual member states still have to initiate before implementation.
As a supplement to the Web Accessibility Directive of 2016, the EU has taken the new European Accessibility Act 2019 and added more specific guidelines for digital services from smartphones to ATMs, television programs and e-commerce websites. The basis for the considerations is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The member states have until June 2022 before the relevant laws are published; the European Accessibility Act must be fully implemented by 2025.
The European Accessibility Act replaces laws and guidelines of the nation states
Accessibility requirements for products and services have not only existed in the EU states since the European Accessibility Act (EAA). Even before that, many providers were obliged to be more accessible due to national rules, with the EAA, individual regulations are now being standardized across the EU.
The European Accessibility Act (EU Directive 2019/882) is intended to enable companies to expand their internal market without subsequent adjustments to accessibility. Corresponding regulations have been in place for public providers for a number of years, and the EAA is now expanding these across Europe to include private providers. The only exceptions are so-called micro-companies with fewer than ten employees and an annual turnover of less than 2 million euros.
The products and services covered by the European Accessibility Act include:
- Computers and operating systems
- Smartphones and tablets
- ATMs, ticket and other ticket machines and check-in kiosks
- Telephony services and connected peripherals
- Televisions and digital television services
- Access to audiovisual media (such as television programs)
- Public transport systems and services (bus, train, air and shipping)
- Banking services
- E-commerce services
Social justice and free purchasing power
For all these goods, services and facilities, the European Accessibility Act enables people regardless of age and disability to participate fairly and equitably in society. The “Design for All” principle is not just an act of equality for all people and makes digital technology accessible to people of advanced age and with disabilities.
According to the Federal Statistical Office (2017), there are 7.8 million people in Germany alone who are classified as severely disabled. 97 percent of this group acquired their disability in the course of their life through old age or illness, and more than three quarters are over 55 years old. The purchasing power of this group is estimated at around 720 billion euros annually.
In equal parts, the European Accessibility Act is therefore also an economic driving force, as it aims to expand the market at the same time through greater accessibility. Accessibility is therefore not only essential for the private sector for humanistic reasons, the standardization creates a direct, economic incentive.
However, uniform accessibility is not only a real relief for senior citizens and people with permanent disabilities. Even if users have only broken their arm, have to take care of their child or have to watch videos without sound, the guidelines of the European Accessibility Act create a better user experience .
Design for All – digital accessibility through the European Accessibility Act
The EAA was developed by the EU Commission with experts from various participating groups and is intended to guarantee that the European Union and its digital services, goods, means of transport and information channels are accessible without barriers.
The EU hopes that this will not only provide further equality for people with disabilities and older citizens, but also strengthen the internal market and the opportunity to create jobs and prices through EU-wide competition with the necessary expertise in retrofitting and design to keep.