In most countries, government websites need to be accessible to everyone, also for people with a disability. But, in June 2025 the European Accessibility Act (EAA) will be enforced within the European Union member states. This directive also applies to ecommerce sites such as online stores. Your webshop perhaps?
The European Accessibility Act in Short
The EAA is a directive (Directive 2019/882). Each member state will have to turn that directive into its own national law that will affect products and services. From June 2025, this legislation will be enforced in the EU countries.
In more detail, examples of these products and services are:
- News publishing websites with a subscription option;
- Sale of products and services;
- Advertising platforms;
- Provision of professional services (e.g. doctors, lawyers, real estate agents);
- Offering entertainment and media services;
- Sale of telecommunications services.
Is your website part of this list?
Microenterprises Don’t Need To Comply but Plan for the Future
Making an existing website accessible can be quite an effort. An effort too large to bear for small companies. Therefore microenterprises don’t need to comply in 2025 with the EAA.
Microenterprise has been defined as: “an enterprise which employs fewer than 10 persons and which has an annual turnover or annual balance sheet not exceeding 2 million Euro.”
Plan for the future. In a few years, will you still be a microenterprise? Please mind, regardless of your plans, an accessible website increases sales revenue because more people can use the site. Accessibility is always a good idea.
Web Accessibility and the WCAG Guidelines
Let’s focus on the services, especially the services offered on a website. These websites need to be “accessible.” This means that the site needs to work for as many people as possible on as many devices as possible.
But how do you measure web accessibility?
A website is accessible when it complies with WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. WCAG is a set of guidelines with each a set of success criteria a site needs to meet.
WCAG has 3 levels, A is basic, AA is the global standard, and level AAA is for dedicated software and not really for websites. For WCAG AA, there are 50 success criteria (all of level A plus level AA together).
For example, Guideline 1.2 – Time-based media states: “Provide alternatives for time-based media”.
One of the success criteria is 1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded) Level A: “Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.”
In short: Provide captions for the spoken text in a video, then deaf people also understand the content in a video.
Frequently Asked Questions About the European Accessibility Act
All That Hassle, Is This Really Worth the Effort?
Yes, it’s really worth the effort. An estimated 20% of all people benefit from web accessibility. Not only visitors who are blind or have low vision or are deaf, but also people with motor impairment, anxiety, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Or even visitors who are tired or distracted. People that could turn into paying customers. Nobody is perfect all the time. With web accessibility, you include everyone.
How Will the EAA Be Enforced?
Well, that’s still a big question. Will your company be fined, get a warning, or some other way of punishment? Each EU member will decide this for themselves. Maybe accessibility will be handled the same as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is enforced. To be continued.
My Company Is Based Outside the EU but Sells to EU countries. Does it Count?
When you sell products or services inside the European Union, your site needs to be accessible. And again, how this will be enforced is still unclear.
Does the EAA Apply to Already Existing Sites or Only to New Sites?
Only if you don’t update your website, including the content, you don’t need to comply with the EAA directive. But for a normal website that seems very unlikely.
I Need to Comply With the EAA. What Do I Do Now?
Take 4 steps:
- Investigate the current state of accessibility of your website.
- Check if your current web developer knows how to design and code for accessibility. If not, find a company that can.
- Depending on the outcome of step 1: redesign/ rebuild the website.
- Train your content team to create accessible content.
How Do I Find a Web Agency That Knows Accessibility?
Ask questions like: how well is their team trained, which accessible websites did they create, and what are the guidelines they use for building and designing a site? Is there information about accessibility on the agency’s website?
Still Need Help?
We give you 2 suggestions:
- Level Level, a WordPress agency in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is one of the few web agencies that create fully custom-built and fully accessible websites.
- The A11Y Collective is an online learning platform for web accessibility. For everybody involved in creating and maintaining a web project.
In June 2025, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) will be enforced in European Union member states. This directive applies to e-commerce sites, including online stores, that have at least 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet of at least 2 million euro.
These websites must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) at level AA, with the then current version likely being version 2.2.
Companies located outside the EU but selling products or services within EU countries are also required to comply with these accessibility requirements.
To ensure compliance, businesses should assess the accessibility of their website, ensure that their web team is knowledgeable about accessibility, potentially redesign or rebuild the website, and train the content team to create accessible content.
While this may require extra effort, making a website accessible brings many benefits, such as increased sales revenue and reaching a much wider audience.
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