In an era where digital transformation is more than just a buzzword, the European Union is taking a monumental step to ensure this transformation is inclusive for all.
The European Accessibility Act 2025 (EAA) is a transformative directive that will redefine how businesses operate, innovate, and engage with consumers. For most enterprise-level companies with digital services, understanding the EAA will hopefully not just be about compliance, but also about seizing an opportunity to expand market reach and build a more inclusive brand. Because it’s time to see accessibility not as a burden, but as an opportunity for growth and inclusivity.
If you’re a CXO or ecommerce manager, ensuring compliance with the EAA can be seen as a strategic move that could redefine your brand’s relationship with a significant portion of the European population, and beyond. Read on to understand what the European Accessibility Act 2025 means for your business and how to turn compliance into a competitive advantage.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What is the European Accessibility Act 2025?
- How does the EAA change consumer rights?
- What does being disabled mean in this context?
- Accessibility benefits everyone
- How does this directive change the obligations of businesses?
- Products and services that are affected by the EAA
- How will the new Act be enforced?
- What fines or penalties can companies expect if the Act is not followed?
- What can we learn from the US context and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
- Key takeaways
- How Vaimo can help you ensure compliance
What is the European Accessibility Act 2025?
The EAA is a groundbreaking directive aimed at leveling the playing field for the 135 million people in the EU with disabilities. Originating from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the EAA aims to harmonize accessibility laws across all EU member states.
The EAA came into effect in April 2019, and every member state had to pass the necessary implementation laws by June 28, 2022. The implementation of each country’s laws will have to be ensured by June 2025.
If your business operates in the EU or targets an EU audience, this is not just another regulation—it’s a mandate for inclusivity and a call to action. The directive applies to all businesses in the EU. The only companies it will not apply to are those with under 10 employees.
How does the EAA change consumer rights?
For consumers, especially those with disabilities, the EAA is a game-changer. It ensures that products and services are accessible by design, not just as an afterthought. This means that the digital barriers that have long hindered people with disabilities are set to crumble. The Act aims to provide equal opportunities in areas like the labor market, education, and transport.
What does being disabled mean in this context?
It’s good to know that about 80% of accessibility issues in this context concern blindness, including low vision and color blindness. Nevertheless, the European Parliament’s definition, which is the same as in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is broad’: “Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
The definition includes, among others, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people on the autistic spectrum, people with dyslexia, and people with physical or motor disabilities.
Accessibility benefits everyone
According to WHO there are an estimated 1.3 billion people experiencing significant disability. This represents 16% of the world’s population, or 1 in 6 of us! And so, in addition to simply making sense, improving accessibility increases a company’s reach immensely.
Another important aspect of accessibility is that it also benefits people with temporary disabilities, such as someone having a broken arm, someone with lost glasses, or someone who’s carrying a baby.
Moreover, accessibility benefits anybody with situational limitations in, for example, situations with bright sunlight, an environment where listening to audio is impossible or in situations with slow internet connection.
Hence, accessibility is important for all of us at some point in our lives, especially if we’re lucky enough to live to an old age, dealing with the challenges that come with aging. Many improvements made with accessibility in mind often help to simplify regardless of needs. One of many examples of this is the one-handed faucet which most people nowadays prefer.
How does this directive change the obligations of businesses?
Obligation #1: Web accessibility
If your business has a digital presence, your website must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). You will need to ensure that your digital storefront is open to all.
Ecommerce websites must ensure that the user experience, from the visual layer through to the technical build, follows accessibility guidelines. Best practice for accessibility in these fields should be applied for pages to be navigable without a mouse and with voice-over.
Obligation #2: Product design
From ATMs to smartphones, products must be designed with accessibility in mind. This includes features like audio-assisted transactions for people with visual impairments.
Example: If your company manufactures ATMs, they must now feature audio-assisted transactions. This could mean a headphone jack and voice-guided menu options to help visually impaired users complete their transactions independently.
Obligation #3: Service accessibility
Whether it’s online banking or transport services, the Act mandates that these must be accessible. This extends to apps and other digital platforms used to access these services.
Example: If you offer online banking services, your mobile app should be navigable via screen readers and voice commands. Features like transferring money or checking account balances should be fully accessible.
Obligation #4: Cross-border compliance
The Act aims to standardize accessibility laws across the EU. This means that businesses will benefit from a single set of rules, making cross-border trading more seamless.
Example: If you’re an automotive company selling cars in multiple EU countries, the in-car entertainment system must meet the accessibility standards in all those countries. This could mean offering voice-activated controls and easy-to-read displays in multiple languages.
Obligation #5: Staff training
Your team should be educated on web accessibility best practices. This is not just a one-off training, but should be an integral part of your business culture.
Example: Retail staff should be trained to assist customers with disabilities in using accessible features. For instance, if you have a self-service kiosk in your fashion retail store, staff should know how to guide a visually impaired customer through the audio-assisted options.
Obligation #6: Regular audits
Businesses are required to conduct regular audits to ensure compliance and continuous improvement.
Example: Quarterly audits of your website and physical products to ensure they meet accessibility standards. Tools like WAVE or AXE can be used to run automated tests on your website, and you can also hire third-party services to audit the accessibility of your physical products, like ticketing machines.
Obligation #7: Reporting and review
Companies are obligated to report on their accessibility measures and will be subject to periodic reviews.
Example: Creating an annual accessibility report that outlines the steps taken to comply with the EAA. This should be publicly available and could be part of your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) publications.
The following products and services will be affected by the EAA:
- Computers and operating software
- ATMs, ticket machines and check-in machines
- TV equipment related to digital television services
- Telecommunication services, such as the apps and websites of your provider
- Audiovisual media services, such as Netflix and Spotify
- Online and offline services related to transport, such as ticket machines, apps and websites
- All financial services, such as online banking
All of these products and services, no matter the country of production or origin, will need to be completely accessible to all Europeans.
How will the new Act be enforced?
Individual Member States will carry out enforcement. This means that the level of scrutiny could vary by country. Still, the overarching aim remains the same: to ensure businesses do their part to make society more inclusive.
What fines or penalties can companies expect if the Act is not followed?
While the exact fines are yet to be determined, non-compliance could result in significant financial penalties. More importantly, businesses risk alienating a large segment of the population and missing out on a market that is only set to grow.
What can we learn from the US context and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
Website accessibility has been a part of the ADA since the early 2000s and related lawsuits have increased significantly in recent years. The website accessibility lawsuit forecast for 2023 is pointing at 4220 lawsuits – 185 more than the year before and almost twice as many as in 2018.
AI tools and other third-party programs for accessibility scanning have not helped US companies as much as they might have hoped for. According to the UsableNET’s report, lawsuits have increased against companies using such services, too.
So far, 84 % of the website accessibility lawsuits have been filed against businesses in the ecommerce sector.
- The European Accessibility Act 2025 is a call to action for businesses to be more inclusive.
- The EAA imposes new obligations on businesses, from web accessibility to product design.
- Non-compliance is not an option. Stringent enforcement mechanisms will be put in place.
- The European Accessibility Act 2025 is a win-win for both consumers and businesses. It’s time to see accessibility not as a burden but as an opportunity for growth and inclusivity.
How Vaimo can help you ensure compliance
Navigating the complexities of the European Accessibility Act 2025 can be a daunting task. If you’re uncertain how to implement best practices and maintain compliance, Vaimo is here to assist you.
We’re constantly improving the experience for our clients and their customers, and helping our clients meet the requirements of the European Accessibility Act is one of our priorities. Visit our Experience design page to learn more.
European accessibility act, The European Comission
United Nations, Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD)
WHO, Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities
Forbes, Website Accessibility Lawsuits Rising Exponentially In 2023 According To Latest Data