Web Accessibility in
Europe and the UK

What are Digital Accessibility Laws in the U.K. and E.U.?

The digital accessibility landscape in the European Union and the United Kingdom is significantly clearer than the United States, where the Americans with Disabilities Act has thus far been loosely applied by U.S. courts to provide some guidance–yet no legally explicit regulations or mandates–for making websites of private-sector companies accessible.

Accessibility laws for websites in both the European Union and the United Kingdom rely on the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the international World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Their latest guidelines, known as WCAG 2.1, further standardize the structure of digital information and functionalities provided online so that people with all abilities and disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with websites.

What is the European Accessibility Act (EAA)?

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) establishes common digital accessibility requirements and standardizes the market for accessible digital products and services, such as phones, computers, banking services, electronic communications, e-commerce, and transportation. After years in the making, the European Council finally passed the EAA in early 2019.

The EAA not only removes digital barriers and opens access to digital resources for people with disabilities and an aging population, but also makes it easier and more attractive for E.U. businesses to sell accessible products and services by eliminating fragmented accessibility laws and regulations.

What Products and Services does the EAA include?

The European Accessibility Act applies to any digital product or service, including digital content and connected devices, such as:

An Accessible Website Should Not Be Cost Prohibitive

Does it take extra work to make a website accessible for everyone? Yes, but not as much as you might think.

Learn More about the cost of an accessible website

How do Websites Comply with the EAA?

EAA legislation uses a set of standard accessibility requirements for many products and services. For the websites and apps, the EAA WCAG 2.1 AA. The act does not prescribe technical details on how to develop an accessible product or service. However, it provides for the development of standards or technical implementation measures wherever more detail is needed.

Timeline for EAA Implementation

Companies should realize the benefit of creating digitally accessibility products soon instead of waiting for the prescribed deadlines. Winning digital accessibility products take time.

The member states of the EU have three years to transpose the EAA into their nation’s code and six years to apply the act.

What is Exempt from the EAA?

Some exemptions that would apply include micro-enterprises, which are companies with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet of less than €2 million.

Digital Accessibility in the United Kingdom (UK)

The Equality Act (EQA) of 2010 consolidated previous anti-discrimination laws. The EQA protects all people both at work and in society at large, prohibiting businesses from excluding anyone from services due to a disability.

Unlike the 1990 Americans with Disability Act in the U.S. which covered only physical spaces, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in the UK included “access to and use of information services” in the law.

What does the EQA cover?

Providers must make adjustments for disabled persons, whether they are an online service or a brick and mortar establishment.

EQA Guidelines and Outcomes

Like the European accessibility legislation of the EAA, the UK’s act similarly focuses on outcomes, using WCAG 2.1 AA as the guidelines.

For the digital landscape, the act mandates these digital accessibility outcomes:

Questions about Web Accessibility?
We’d love to talk.

If you’d like to learn more about how our accessibility experts can help expand your audience, improve user experience, avoid legal risk, and boost your search engine performance, we’re here to help.

Contact Us