What is the European Accessibility Act?
- The complete title is Directive (EU) 2019/882 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the accessibility requirements for products and services.
- Compared with other parts of the world, accessibility of Europe's private sector (which means: companies) is not yet regulated. Directive 2019/882 is a first big step to change that.
- If you look at the EAA from a bird's eye view, it standardises regulations on the accessibility of products and services, and forces providers to develop and provide their services and products with Inclusive Design in mind.
- However, unlike the GPDR for example, it is a directive, not a regulation. Quote, Wikipedia:
A directive is a legal act of the European Union which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. It can be distinguished from regulations, which are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures.Meaning: a directive does not automatically becomes law in all EU member states, but binds the states to adopt its content into national law. These national laws are the jurisdictions that ultimately count. Yet the directive sets the direction.
- This also means that more regulatory details and recommendations for action for subjects of the private sector will emerge as soon as the national jurisdictions are in place. Nevertheless, it is a good moment to start considering accessibility right now.
- Critics complain that the EAA's focus is too much on the digital world - and is not the big shot it could be. Still, not least because of its impact on the European Union as a whole, it is a great step forward.
The directive lists binds manufacturers and providers the following types of services and products to adhere to accessible design:
- E-Commerce services and related platforms
- Computers and operating systems, Smartphones and devices that are predominantly used for electronic communication
- Banking services, Service terminals and Automated Teller Machines (ATM)
- Emergency Numbers
- Access to audiovisual media, but not audiovisual media itself - this is subject of an own EU Directive (EU Directive 2018/1808).
- Services and products of the transportation sector related to air, bus, rail, and waterborne passenger transport
Directive 2019/882 has the concept of "undue burden", meaning the Directive's accessibility rules apply,
- …unless they would change the very nature of the product or service respectively.
- …unless the accessibility requirements would overburden the company financially.
But that does not mean the directive has major gaps in its applicability. Many companies in the European Union will be impacted by the European Accessibility Act. Only micro-enterprises, i.e. enterprises which employ fewer than 10 persons and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed EUR 2 million, are excluded and can reference the "undue burden exemption".
What is yet unclear
One has to keep in mind: It is not the EU directive that is decisive or jurisdiction, but the respective national implementation law. This means that the directive is not designed to cover all eventualities. Rather, its role is to set the regulatory direction that national laws should take. Nevertheless, here is an excerpt of questions that are still open:
- Member States shall develop, implement and regularly update appropriate procedures to monitor accessibility requirements for services, follow up complaints, control corrective action. But how will this look in concrete terms? Which organisations will be designated?
- Since the Member States must inform the public of the existence of a law derived from the EAA - so that citizens know their rights - what exactly will this involve?
- Regarding websites and apps: So far, the directive does not refer to any concrete technical standards (as is the case with Directive 2016/2102, for example). Will this remain this way? If so, what is the expectation horizon to which companies must then orient themselves?
- Since Member States may demand fines for those who do not comply with the law - what will they look like?
- European Union formally adopted the Directive
- Member states of the EU are obliged to transport Directive 2019/882 to respective national laws
- National laws must be applied by that date at the latest.
This website is a private, non-official project - and by no means a complete neither a legal reflection of EU Directive 2019/882. I, a web developer living in Europe interested in web accessibility, tried to wrap my head around this directive.
Since this project is open source and on GitHub feel free to join and correct formulations if necessary.