What You Need To Know About The European Accessibility Act

Steve Duncan | 21 Feb 2024 | European Perspective

First GDPR shook up digital marketing in 2018 with its significant privacy protections. Then Apple made a series of changes impacting data shared with app makers and email providers. Next, Google transitioned to GA4 as its analytics platform in a move toward privacy protection.

It has been a wild few years in digital marketing, where change is the only thing that’s certain. Among the next deadlines to come is June 28, 2025, when enforcement of the European Accessibility Act (EAA) will settle in. But rather than being a move toward increased privacy protection, the intent is to make digital communications more accessible to all, including the 87 million Europeans with some form of disability.

Below we explore what it is, its implications for government agencies and B2B companies alike, and why we’re writing about it now instead of waiting another 12 months.


What is the EAA?

Similar to the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), the EU legislation aims at making the world a more accessible place for all, namely those individuals with disabilities. ADA is a more all-encompassing framework, while the EAA explicitly and comprehensively covers digital products and services.

These include e-commerce, computers, smartphones, TV equipment, banking services, e-books, and websites. It’s expected that the EAA’s requirements will closely follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, which is an internationally-accepted standard for online compliance.

WCAG has three levels – A, AA and AAA, with the latter being the highest. Most legal requirements and recommendations with respect to EAA focus on meeting at least Level AA of the guidelines.


What does this mean for you?

Whether you’re with a government agency or SME based in the EU or selling to EU, complying with the new rules is a must. First, it makes good business sense to open up your products and services to more people. Beyond that, however, government fines can be hefty, up to 100,000 EUR, not including the cost to fix the issue in the first place.

The good news is that this isn’t rocket science. Without getting into an exhaustive list of necessary changes, some common practical considerations include ensuring that:

  • all images on your website, social media and email newsletters include alt text, or the alternative text. These are picked up by screen-readers to replace images for individuals with sight impairments or who may otherwise be relying on text-only versions of your communications.
  • all videos in your marketing mix utilize accurate captions for those with hearing impairments, or those who are unable to use audio in particular circumstances.
  • websites are navigable by keyboard only (for those who can’t use a mouse), have adjustable font sizes (for those who can read small type) and have the appropriate colour contrast (for those with colour blindness). These requirements go for mobile apps as well.

One reason to start now is that these nuances take time to learn and put into practice more regularly so they become muscle memory for your internal team. From our team’s experience in the U.S., many websites are ADA compliant at launch, but fall out of it almost immediately because the new standards were easily forgotten when any internal changes were made.


What’s this going to cost?

Another reason to start thinking about this now is cost. The most cost-efficient way to do this is with your next website redesign, as most digital agencies are attuned to ADA or similar requirements these days. If it’s part of the scope of work up front, they can build the costs into a new one, saving you time and money from expensive corrections later on.

If that’s not an option, start with an audit. At C Studios, we can do a detailed website audit for 8,000 EUR, or less if the audit is more focused on a topic like this. There are plenty of tools to do this yourself as well, such as WebAIM’s WAVE.

Knowing how to fix issues that arise are often more technical in nature, so that will have to be taken into consideration once the required updates are identified. Regardless, planning and budgeting for this can take months, so getting an early start is advisable.

For microentrepreneurs (less than 10 employees or less than 2 million EUR), there is an exception given the strain it might put on their business operations with limited resources. In that case, it less about facing fines early on and more about wanting access to a significant chunk of the European population that might otherwise not be able to use your website.

C Studios is the digital marketing agency for regions, countries and globally expanding B2B companies. As an OCO joint venture, the Netherlands-based firm specializes in providing strategic services across websites, SEO, content, paid media and digital lead generation. Visit c-studios.com for more information.