The European Union (EU) has established key legislation to ensure digital accessibility, a vital aspect for organizations operating within its member states. With over 100 million individuals in the EU living with disabilities, these laws aim to create uniform accessibility standards across the region. The central legislations are the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act (EAA), both of which reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Introduced in 2016, the Web Accessibility Directive targets public sector agencies and entities engaged through public contracts. It mandates adherence to accessibility standards developed by the European Standards Organization (ESO), influenced by WCAG Level AA requirements. Key features include:
The EAA, passed in 2019, extends the reach of digital accessibility standards to private organizations. It necessitates compliance with standard 301 549, which incorporates WCAG 2.1 Level AA, and covers not just online content but also digital products like smartphones and e-readers. Key aspects include:
For eCommerce businesses, understanding and adhering to these regulations is crucial. While there are exemptions for some micro-enterprises, the Directive encourages all businesses to align with WCAG 2.1 standards. Compliance not only avoids legal repercussions but also offers significant benefits:
Businesses should be aware of typical accessibility barriers like poor color contrast, inadequate semantic HTML, missing alt text from images on Shopify, keyboard accessibility issues, and excessive flashing content. Addressing these issues is essential to meet the Level A and Level AA standards of WCAG 2.1.
E-commerce businesses should adopt a proactive approach to comply with EU digital accessibility laws:
For eCommerce businesses, the EU's digital accessibility laws are not just legal requirements but opportunities to enhance customer experience and broaden market reach. By aligning with WCAG standards, businesses can ensure compliance and contribute to a more inclusive digital environment.