Is your business ready for the European Accessibility Act?

May 2, 2024 by
Frank Calviño

The European Accessibility Act is a European Commission directive adopted as law by member countries in 2019. Its purpose is to improve access to products and services for EU residents with disabilities. Enforcement begins June 28, 2025.

The EAA applies to many products and services, such as mobile phones, ebooks, and transportation providers. It explicitly includes e-commerce websites.

Like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, the EAA requires compliance by businesses with Europe-based customers. No matter where it’s located or registered, any e-commerce business with E.U. customers must comply with the EAA. Only “micro-enterprises”—those with fewer than 10 employees and revenue below €2 million (approximately $2.1 million)—are exempt.

Each EU country has laid out enforcement mechanisms and penalties for noncompliance. 

In Spain, Italy, France, and German - among others - consumers may file a complaint with a country’s monitoring agency, which will notify the business and launch an investigation. However, the national regulatory agencies can investigate and enforce on their own, without the need of a formal complaint.

The penalties for noncompliance range in severity but include fines of €60,000 or more and, in Ireland, up to 18 months in jail for refusing to comply or dishonesty in reporting.

How can you comply with the European Accessibility Act?

The requirements of country-specific laws vary. However, at a minimum, the regulations require the implementation of Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA. 

Start by addressing common violations. 

  • Your site meets minimum WCAG color contrast guidelines between fonts and backgrounds. 
  • Images (except for spacers and other decorative items) include descriptive alt text for users of screen readers.
  • Headings are properly nested to indicate the content structure and not simply for styling.

An accessibility specialist can help, as can automated testing platforms, such as the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. 

Moreover, the European Commission has stated that no automated tool, including overlays and widgets, can cover the entire WCAG 2.1 AA criteria or substitute for manual work to ensure full EAA compliance.

Keep in mind that accessibility compliance is not a one-time task. Any website layout, navigation, categories, or product change could impact accessibility. Thus, we should consider how to maintain compliance over time through regular checks or audits.

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