What is EN 301 549?
Europe has been at the forefront of standardizing digital accessibility for the disabled. Pointing to the latest Web accessibility standards—WCAG 2.1 Level AA Success Criteria—the European Union stands ahead of the curve in terms of accessibility remediation standards codified into the law.
As Member States have diverging accessibility laws, some more advanced and others lagging behind, the E.U. decided to harmonize these regulations into an integrated and centralized piece of legislation.
This resulted in two main bodies of accessibility regulations: the European Accessibility Act (EAA) and the E.U. Web Accessibility Directive.
EN 301 549 is the European standard by which the Directive must be implemented. The goal of EN 301 549 is to help remove barriers for people with disabilities and/or others, e.g., the elderly.
What is the EAA?
Before we get back to European Standard EN 301 549, let us review the European Accessibility Act.
Signed into law on June 7th, 2019, the E.U. officially endorsed the EAA, aiming to “improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services, by removing barriers created by divergent rules in Member States.”
The products and services this directive includes are many:
- computers and operating systems
- ATMs, ticketing, and check-in machines
- TV equipment related to digital television services
- telephony services and related equipment
- access to audio-visual media services such as television broadcast and related consumer equipment
- services related to air, bus, rail, and waterborne passenger transport
- banking services
E.U. Member States were mandated to incorporate EAA regulations into their own laws by June 2021 and apply their enforcement by 2025.
Who must comply with EAA standards?
Both public and private organizations are required to comply with EAA standards. This applies to Web and mobile e-commerce businesses.
Two exclusions exist in the EAA regulations:
- If accessibility remediation would change the very nature of the product/service and/or result in a financial burden too costly to bear;
- If the organization has less than 20 employees.
The EAA will be fully enforceable in 2025, but it is best to prepare in advance to (a) protect yourself from lawsuits, (b) increase the number of users on your digital assets (some 80 million potential users across Europe), and (c) enhance your organization’s reputation as catering to all persons in society, remaining ahead of the legislative and moral curves.
The EAA does not specify particular guidelines for digital accessibility but refers to WCAG as the advised gold standard. Since EN 301 549 stipulates WCAG 2.1 Level AA specifically as the required standard, it is safe to presume that future EAA revisions will take the same route.
What is the E.U. Web Accessibility Directive?
The E.U. Web Accessibility Directive was enacted in 2016, ratified by the E.U. Parliament and the Council of the E.U.
It primarily applies to government agencies but does have consequences for private organizations as well, which we will discuss anon.
EN 301 549 is the Directive’s standard that applies to websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies.
As of today, all public sector bodies in E.U. Member States must comply with EN 301 549 standards.
What are EN 301 549 standards?
EN 301 549 stipulates the WCAG 2.1 Level AA as the minimum standard to comply with.
This puts European government entities at the leading front of international digital accessibility standards for individuals with impairments.
But compliance does not end with the transformation of digital assets; Member States must issue accessibility statements, stipulating accessibility issues, repeatedly and consistently monitor their websites, and publish a report every 3 years on their compliance records, beginning December 23, 2021.
Who must comply with EN 301 549?
Accessibility Standard EN 301 549 applies to government agencies, government-funded bodies, and third-party contractors who provide services to the government.
Non-compliance may result in exceeding penalties, as mechanisms for complaint were put in place by the legislators.
How to meet full EN 301 549 compliance?
Equalweb’s accessibility consultants are ready to explain everything you need to know about EN 301 549 standards, as well as other compliance standards, and how to make your website accessible and friendly to people with impairments.
Our team of Web accessibility experts seamlessly transforms your websites to the most up-to-date WCAG 2.1 criteria; keeping you in line with the legislative requirements, providing liability protection, and creating an all-inclusive browsing experience for the disabled.
Learn all you need to know about WCAG 2.1 conformance standards, here
Comply with EAA and EN 301 549 because
Businesses will benefit from:
- Common rules on accessibility in the E.U. leading to costs reduction
- Easier cross-border trading
- More market opportunities for their accessible products and services
Persons with disabilities and elderly people will benefit from:
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- More accessible products and services in the market
- Accessible products and services at more competitive prices
- Fewer barriers when accessing transport, education, and the open labor market
- More jobs available where accessibility expertise is needed