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The European Accessibility Act (EAA): What You Need to Know

By UsableNet on May 14, 2024
Topics: Web Accessibility


Many countries have accessibility directives requiring some products, services, or businesses to be accessible to all citizens. In the United States, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is well-known.

In European countries, there’s the European Accessibility Act (EAA), which has existed as guidance for member countries.  When discussing European Accessibility, folks may also mention EN 301 549, a harmonized standard that supports the European Directive 2016/2102. 

While it’s wise to pay attention to recommended directives— as international or national standards are typically in place for good reason—it will be required soon.

Want to know more about the digital accessibility regulations in Europe? Let’s take a look. 


The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a directive that seeks to provide equal access for all European citizens by requiring that certain products and services are accessible, regardless of potential disabilities. 

The EAA was designed to improve the internal market by removing barriers and conflicting requirements created by divergent rules in individual Member States. Companies doing business in multiple countries may have run into issues. For example, if France had one set of rules, they didn’t realize they were different from those in Italy and were operating in both. 


The EAA took effect in April 2019, a directive for Member States.  

As of June 28, 2025, it will be a requirement instead of a directive. Customers can file complaints before national courts or authorities if businesses and organizations are not abiding by the new rules.  

The EAA 2025 is a landmark law requiring all Member States to convert that directive into national law. By 2025, qualifying businesses are expected to follow the new laws’ requirements, giving them three years (from 2019 to 2025) for accessibility audits, remediation, and implementation of new accessibility practices.  

For many businesses in Europe, this means they will soon be legally required to ensure accessibility instead of potentially being “strongly recommended” (which is currently the case in some countries).  


The EAA includes products and services that must be accessible to all citizens, regardless of potential disability. 

These are the products that are covered: 

  • Computers and operating systems 
  • E-readers 
  • Ticketing and check-in machines 
  • ATMs and payment terminals (including card payment machines in supermarkets) 
  • Smartphones and communication devices 
  • TV equipment  

These are the services covered: 

  • Phone services 
  • Banking services 
  • E-commerce 
  • Websites, mobile services, electronic tickets, and all sources of information for travel and transport services 
  • -E-books 
  • Calls to the European emergency line 112 
  • Access to audio-visual media services (AVMS) 

While it may not seem like a long list, many organizations are impacted by this, considering that it means that their websites need to be fully accessible.  

Banking services must ensure that customers using screen readers or keyboard navigation can successfully complete tasks such as logging in, checking their account balances, or downloading bank statements.  

E-commerce sites must ensure that all functionality—such as adding items to the cart, making product selections, or placing orders—is accessible for users with disabilities.  


The European Accessibility Act has a few exceptions. Businesses with fewer than 20 employees and annual turnover under two million euros are exempt if they demonstrate that implementing the policies would cause an “undue burden.” 

There are also peculiar exemptions for the type of content that may be accepted, like some archived content.  

That being said— it’s always a solid choice to follow accessibility practices to the best of your ability, even if it’s inconvenient or exempt. Creating more accessible experiences for all customers is good for everyone involved.  

What is EN 301 549, and Why is it important?  

EN 301 549 is a critical digital accessibility regulation in the European Union.  It adopts WCAG principles and applies to both public and private sectors. The regulation's structured conformance levels make it significant for creating an inclusive digital space. Early implementation and adherence to EN 301 549 can pave the way to compliance and a more accessible digital future.   

Key points you should know are: 

  1. EN 301 549 is a central piece of the Web Accessibility Directive 2016/2102, which mandates accessibility requirements for (semi) public sector websites and mobile apps in the EU. Public sector websites must comply with the standard as of September 23, 2020, and mobile apps must follow suit by June 23, 2021.
  1. EN 301 549 extends its influence to the private sector through the European Accessibility Act, which targets specific industries, including e-commerce, banking, e-books, and electronics. Private sector businesses in the EU must comply with the European Accessibility Act, and EN 301 549 is expected to serve as the applicable standard for ensuring accessibility across various industries.
  1. Businesses should implement EN 301 549 as soon as possible to meet the specified deadlines and ensure compliance. EN 301 549 provides a framework aligned with international standards and guidelines, specifically WCAG 2.1 AA. Compliance with EN 301 549 involves three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.

 WHAT ABOUT THE WCAG? How Does that fit in? 

As referenced earlier, EN 301 549 provides a framework aligned with WCAG 2.1 AA, for now. In the US, WCAG 2.1 is also the most often referenced accessibility standard referenced in lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In Ontario Canada, the accessibility standard under the AODA is conformance WCAG 2.0,  

Putting individual legislation aside from requirements set forth by the latest version requirements set forth by the latest version of   is your best bet. This applies to American businesses following the ADA and European Union Member States preparing for the EAA 2025.

WCAG 2.2 is your best bet to future-proof your business. The WCAG has long been regarded as the current standard for accessibility, and it’s updated as needed to account for any new obstacles or considerations that have been discovered.  

The current version— WCAG 2.2 was updated recently.  

Requirements from both 2.1 and 2.0 have been integrated into WCAG 2.2; Within WCAG 2.2 is a list of highly specific and detailed requirements that account for different kinds of disabilities and challenges people with disabilities face when using technology.  

Examples include: 

  • Ensuring non-text content, such as images, have an appropriate text alternative 
  • Providing transcripts or closed captions for video and audio files  
  • Guaranteeing an adequate contrast ratio between foreground and background 
  • Ensuring every functionality is also operable without a pointing device (such as a mouse) 
  • Ensuring screen reader users can effectively access navigation, content, and functionalities 
  • Enabling assistive technology users to perceive and understand status messages, notifications, and errors 

Get Started with Digital Accessibility 

Many businesses will seriously consider digital accessibility for the first time, as qualifying businesses in EU Member States now have less than two years to make these changes. Many don’t necessarily know where to start or have the specialized tech knowledge to go through the remediation or implementation process. 

That’s where we can help. UsableNet offers services and solutions to support compliance with digital accessibility up to current WCAG standards. As an experienced accessibility partner, we can help with remediation and implementing new policies and practices moving forward 

Ready to get help with your digital accessibility? Learn more about our digital accessibility services



Founded in 2000, UsableNet created some of the first tools and platforms to make websites accessible and usable for all people. Starting out, we worked with government agencies as well as universities and corporations. Today, accessibility has become important to almost all companies. We provide accessibility solutions to Fortune 1000 companies, small and medium enterprises, government, and education organizations across industries including retail, travel, hospitality, food services, automotive, financial services, and healthcare.

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