What to do to comply with the Accessibility Act
How to make your website or application accessible
By Niccolò Maria Menozzi
The deadline to adhere to the European Commission’s Accessibility Act guidelines is approaching. In this article we find out the most important points to know in order to be in compliance.
If you are not up-to-date, the European Accessibility Act (Directive 2019/882) is a European law on accessibility for products and services, for people with disabilities (physical, mental, intellectual and sensory), including older people, pregnant women and people with temporary disabilities. It stems from the EU’s commitment to align with the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(2006). But let us go into more detail.
Note: from now on, some points from official documents will be mentioned. If you want to read the official points, please refer to the Directive.
What does the Accessibility Act state?
In short: by 28 June 2025, companies must ensure that all new products and services placed on the market are also accessible to people with disabilities (below you can read about all the categories affected by the Directive).
In point 20, the Guideline emphasizes that these criteria must also be met when products and services are outsourced to third parties as subcontractors and that staff must be trained to provide information and assistance on accessibility features.
As mentioned, the Directive talks about new products and services. In fact, paragraph 102 specifies that the conditions of the Directive apply to products and services placed on the market after 28 June 2025. This undoubtedly excludes physical goods that have already been produced, but it remains to be seen how individual member states will interpret the Directive with regard to websites and software that already exist but are constantly evolving, with new pages, content and features. Presumably they will have to update tout court, applying the new accessibility tools to all parts of the software, old and new. However, Article 2 lists some cases of exemption (e.g. archives, files, documents and content, including multimedia, created earlier).
In addition, a transition period is foreseen until 28 June 2030, during which service providers may continue to use old products (e.g. terminals, interfaces, etc.) to offer their proposals (Chapter VIII, Article 32) before the final decommissioning.
For SMEs, there are less restrictive criteria that free them from the obligation of excessive investment to comply with the Directive (points 64-68). Micro-companies have no obligations: companies with less than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet of less than 2M € are exempted, but encouraged to pursue upgrades that favor accessibility (points 70-72).
What products and services must adhere to the Accessibility Act?
Here is an exhaustive list coming directly from the European Commission.
The products included in the Accessibility Act
- Computer and operative systems
- Smartphones and other communication devices
- TV equipment related to digital television services
- ATMs and payment terminals (e.g. card payment machines in supermarkets)
- Ticketing and check-in machines
The services included in the Accessibility Act
- Phone services
- Banking services
- Websites, mobile services, electronic tickets and all sources of information for air, bus, rail and waterborne transport services
- Access to Audio-visual media services (AVMS)
- Calls to the European emergency number 112
What do companies have to do to adhere to the Accessibility Act?
First of all, you have to check the official documents that incorporate and translate the Directive into national laws to find out whether you offer services affected by the new provisions. Almost certainly, if yours is not a micro-business and has a website, an application, or some software, you will have to comply with these requirements.
The Directive stipulates that Member States had to publish these laws by 28 June 2022 so it is already possible to check their content.
If you do not have time to take care of it yourself, you can contact us for advice, we will be happy to help you with the bureaucratic and technical aspects.
What requirements does the Accessibility Act lay down?
Annex I describes in more detail which access modes must be provided by products and services. Focusing in particular on the issues of interest to software (Section I point III), we can summarize the requirements for service interfaces as follows:
- Interfaces must be accessible through multiple sensory channels (in particular sight and hearing)
- Information must be comprehensible, perceptible to users and translatable into different sensory alternatives (e.g. text-to-voice, image-to-text)
- Textual elements must offer alternatives adaptable to the user’s needs (contrast, color, size, spacing…)
This refers to software, including websites, desktop and mobile applications. Any related support services, such as help desks and the like are also touched upon. Indeed it remains necessary to provide information on the accessibility functionalities provided by digital services.
On the technological side, one can rest assured that there are no particular restrictions. The important thing is to guarantee users the accessibility criteria defined by the European Commission, but how these are put into practice remains a free choice of the companies and their suppliers. Point 23 of the Directive emphasizes that the requirements must be precise enough to define legal obligations and conformity criteria (but we will return to this point shortly).
In essence, users must be able to browse and navigate the content and structure of any of the categories listed above, even using assistive technologies (if you want to read more, read point 50 of the Directive).
Consequences and sanctions of the Accessibility Act
This is not without consequences for those who fail to update their digital services. The European Commission has foreseen certain measures to ensure that the directive is complied with. The Member States are obliged to comply with these provisions.
First, they will have to carry out periodic audits and will have to consider complaints from users. These will be followed by investigations to ensure that corrective measures are put into practice by the companies responsible for the services affected by the problems. Particularly important is the fact that Member States will have to appoint a contact authority to which users can send their complaints, make it known and promote it appropriately.
In points 58, 59 and 60, it is emphasized that distributors and importers should participate in product conformity verification activities in support of the control authorities.
In summary, as of 28 June 2025, users will be able to forward their complaints to the appropriate authorities, and it will be the bodies in charge of enforcing the law (points 78-99).
Solutions to adhere to the Accessibility Act
The year 2024 has just begun and we have about a year and a half to bring websites and applications into line with the new directives. But don’t be too hesitant, because time passes quickly!
Do you have a website, app or business software to make accessible but don’t know where to start? No problem, we deal with User Experience (UX) our team of developers is trained and has attended accessibility-related web development courses.
Contact us, we are eager to know the details of the project.
This article summarizes what is on the official website of the European Commission, which you can read here. If you ignored the previous links but want to go into more detail here you can read the official text of the European Directive.