How The European Accessibility Act (EAA) may Impact UK Business Websites
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How The European Accessibility Act (EAA) may Impact UK Business Websites
With at least one in five people in the UK having a long-term illness, impairment, or disability, it’s crucial for organisations to ensure their products and services are accessible, allowing everyone to use them without discrimination.
UK businesses and charities have long faced some accessibility requirements. These exist for physical spaces and online presences alike. However, government entities currently answer to stricter digital accessibility rules than private companies.
In the UK, public sector websites must meet certain standards. Private companies face fewer mandated obligations online, though guidelines suggest voluntary action. Looking ahead, regulations imposed across sectors may converge as standards evolve.
New Legal Accessibility Requirements Coming to the EU
What is the European Accessibility Act (EAA)?
The EAA is a European Union law that sets minimum accessibility standards for digital products and services.
The EAA requires that digital products and services be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes people with visual, hearing, motor, cognitive, and learning disabilities. The EAA sets specific requirements for accessibility, such as:
- Providing alternative text for images and videos
- Ensuring text is readable and understandable
- Providing keyboard navigation options
- Adding captions and transcripts for audio/video content
Specifically, the EAA will require websites, mobile apps, e-books, e-commerce platforms, PDFs, and more to conform to WCAG 2.1 AA criteria within the EU. It is slated to become legally applicable in EU member states starting 28 June 2025.
There will be some staggered timelines for different sectors to comply after the law takes effect:
- Public sector body websites, mobile apps, e-books, and e-commerce – within two years of EAA force (by 2027)
- Private service providers like banking, transport, and e-commerce – within three years of EAA force (by 2028)
- Microenterprises providing services – within four years of EAA force (by 2029)
To date, the UK government has not confirmed if it will confirm the EAA into local law. However, companies in the UK and elsewhere outside the EU should comply with the EAA if they sell products or services in any EU member state. For UK companies trying to reach EU users, seeking to meet these standards makes your content usable for millions more potential customers.
The EAA applies to a wide range of digital products and services, including websites and apps, software and e-commerce platforms. Businesses that fail to comply with the EAA could face fines of up to €20 million or 4% of their global annual turnover.
An Uncertain Future in the UK
The UK’s relationship with the European Accessibility Act is unclear post-Brexit. While the UK helped shape the Act, its legal status here is undetermined.
That said, there are some UK government resources that provide information and commentary on the expected impact of the EU web accessibility directive:
- GOV.UK gives general guidance on designing accessible services under existing UK law. This context remains relevant https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/helping-people-to-use-your-service/making-your-service-accessible-an-introduction
Despite the uncertainty, many UK companies still aim to meet the accessibility directive and the European standards. They recognise accessible sites open doors to millions of potential EU customers with disabilities.
What You Should Consider Now
The EAA start date in 2025 provides a useful reference point for organisations looking to proactively improve accessibility before any potential UK regulations.
Adopting European Accessibility Act compliance would showcase UK businesses’ values and dedication to equity and inclusion.
Our advice is to not wait until the UK finalises its regulations. Be proactive regarding accessibility. Your website may need significant updates to meet evolving EU standards.
By voluntarily auditing and enhancing your online presence now, you can get ahead of the curve. This progress will prepare your organisation for any future domestic rules while immediately improving access for more customers.
- Consider a detailed accessibility audit. Review all site content for areas needing improvement, like missing image descriptions, inconsistent navigation, poor colour contrast, flawed form design, and lack of keyboard access.
- Going forward, build accessibility into new web design projects starting from initial planning. Educate your team on inclusive design principles. Test with assistive technologies.
- Look at improving documents, multimedia, apps and more by adding captions, descriptive alt text, navigation aids, and clear structure.
- Stay informed on legal changes and best practices through emerging EU regulations and UK recommendations.
By taking voluntary action now, you can open your business to new markets and get ahead of future requirements.
Accessibility Benefits All
There is a compelling business case for voluntarily enhancing accessibility now. Upgrading your digital assets to align with emerging best practices can pay dividends in several ways:
- Opening your website to new customers. Millions of users have disabilities. An accessible site welcomes more visitors and expands your market reach.
- Improving search performance. Accessible sites tend to be more optimised for search engines. Easy navigation and text alternatives boost SEO.
- Enhancing user experience. More robust interfaces with built-in accessibility aid all users, not just those with impairments. Clear layouts and designs make sites easier for everyone.
- Staying ahead of the curve. As standards evolve in the EU and UK, proactively moving toward compliance positions you for the future.
By thinking beyond minimum legal requirements, businesses can reap benefits today while building long-term resilience. Accessibility is not just an obligation – it’s an opportunity. Be progressive now, and your customers will thank you.
How Ronins Can Help
Navigating digital accessibility can be complicated for organisations of all sizes. As standards evolve, ensuring your online presence keeps pace can be challenging.
Ronins is here to help. Our experts stay current on the latest EU guidelines and UK recommendations as they develop. We offer:
- Detailed accessibility audits examining your entire online presence for opportunities to improve access for all users
- Remediation services to update existing sites and content to align with emerging best practices
- Compliance checks to validate your progress and flag any lingering issues
- Ongoing monitoring to identify new gaps as standards change
- Training for your team on inclusive web design principles and assistive technology use
- New website development with accessibility built in from the start
The Future is Accessible
The European Accessibility Act signifies a major step forward for inclusive digital experiences across Europe. While the UK’s path remains uncharted, one thing is clear: accessible online spaces benefit everyone.
This is not just about compliance. It’s about opening doors for more customers. Enhancing user experience universally. And future-proofing your presence in an evolving digital landscape.
Savvy UK businesses are wisely using this moment to get ahead of the curve. Evaluate your site, create a plan, and take action.
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