In 2019, the European Union established guidelines for digital accessibility with the "European Accessibility Act", or EAA for short. The aim is to give everyone equal access to telecommunications, software and the internet.
In general, accessibility means that every person, regardless of age or physical limitation, has access to services, goods or buildings. The EAA specifies the extent to which the EU market should be geared towards greater accessibility and which legislative changes need to be initiated until implementation.
In the process, the European Accessibility Act evolved 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 have been added and are now provided for in the EAA.
The EU member states must now publish corresponding laws at national level by June 2022 that address the points set out in the EAA. These laws must then be implemented by the companies by 2025. In doing so, the laws arising from the EAA will replace the currently applicable accessibility guidelines, which vary from country to country. This is now to be changed by the new pan-European accessibility framework: Within the EU, there will then be relatively uniform regulations at the country level. It should also be noted that the new Accessibility Act now also includes private companies and makes them responsible. Previously, only public organizations were affected when it came to accessibility.
Products and services affected by the EAA include the following:
- Smartphones and tablets
- E-commerce services
- Computers and operating systems
- Televisions and digital TV services
- Banking services and ATMs, as well as ticket vending machines
- Public transportation systems and services (bus, rail, air and sea)
Why the European Accessibility Act is so important:
The EAA enables fair and equitable participation in society for all people, regardless of age and possible limitations. According to the Federal Statistical Office (2017), there are 7.8 million people living in Germany alone who are classified as severely disabled. At the same time, 97% of this group have acquired the disability in the course of their lives. The purchasing power of this group is estimated at approximately 720 billion euros annually. Thus, the bill is also a kind of economic engine that addresses an enlargement of the market through accessibility and should thus also attract profit-oriented companies.