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European Accessibility Act – what is it exactly

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In 2019, the European Union laid down guidelines for digital accessibility with the "European Accessibility Act", EAA for short. In this way, everyone should have equal access to telecommunications, software and the Internet.

In general, accessibility means that everyone, regardless of age or physical limitations, has access to services, goods or buildings. The EAA determines the extent to which the EU market should be geared towards greater accessibility and which legislative changes need to be initiated before they can be implemented.

The European Accessibility Act emerged from the Web Accessibility Directive of 2016. The EAA has now further specified and refined these guidelines. Areas such as vending machines, television programs and the Internet were subsequently submitted and are now included in the EAA.

The EU member states must now publish corresponding laws at state level by June 2022, which deal with the points recorded in the EAA. These laws must then be implemented by companies by 2025. The laws resulting from the EAA replace the currently applicable guidelines on accessibility, which differ from country to country. The new Europe-wide accessibility basis should now change this: Within the EU there should then be relatively uniform regulations at country level. It should also be noted that the new Accessibility Act now also includes private companies and makes them responsible. So far, only public organizations have been affected when it comes to accessibility.

Products and services impacted by the EAA include the following:
– Smartphones and tablets
– E-commerce services
– Computers and operating systems
– Television and digital TV services
– Banking services and ATMs, as well as ticket machines
– e-books
– Public transport systems and services (bus, train, air and sea transport)

Why the European Accessibility Act is so important:
The EAA enables fair and equitable social participation for all people, regardless of age and possible limitations. According to the Federal Statistical Office (2017), there are 7.8 million people classified as severely disabled in Germany alone. 97 % of this group acquired the disability during their lifetime. The purchasing power of this group is estimated at around 720 billion euros per year. The draft law is also a kind of economic motor, which addresses an enlargement of the market through accessibility and should therefore also attract profit-oriented companies.

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