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European Accessibility Act: What It Is & How to Get Started

Feb 22, 2024

Getting your head around the new accessibility act may seem daunting. And in fact, ensuring compliance will be challenging due to its detailed requirements. In this blog post you’ll get an overview of the new act, how it will affect you and recommended steps forward.

By June 28, 2025, a new EU directive on accessibility, the European Accessibility Act (EAA), will come into force. The goal is to guarantee that the around 87 million people in the EU living with some sort of disability will have fair access to digital products and services. This new regulation also aims to improve cross-border trade since a common set of rules across the EU makes it easier for companies to enter new markets.

Understanding the new accessibility requirements will be critical for e-commerce managers and leaders in the coming months. But it’s important not only to focus on being compliant with the new rules, but also to grasp the opportunities that lies with offering an accessible e-commerce site.

The Importance of Accessible E-Commerce

E-commerce is one of several sectors included in the new regulation. And rightly so! E-commerce is a fantastic opportunity for many people that otherwise would have a hard time to get access to shops. With accessible online solutions, people with disabilities can get access to stores and manage their purchases themselves.

But there are also other good reasons for making your e-commerce accessible, besides supporting equality and non-discrimination. An online shop functional for all users will by its nature increase your customer base and likely lead to improved brand awareness and loyalty. SEO is also often improved since accessible sites are better structured and non-text content is available programmatically.

The Requirements of EAA

To comply with the new rules, you need to ensure that your e-commerce site is available for any user to perceive, operate and understand. Plus, the solution needs to be robust enough to access from different devices and operating systems. If you are familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), this probably sounds very familiar. In fact, the technical web requirements of EAA are largely a direct reference to WCAG 2.1 AA. Besides the criteria from WCAG, the EAA also includes additional requirements depending on the type of product or service you offer. For the e-commerce sector the main new requirements include offering accessible customer support and providing an accessibility statement.

What Do You Need to Do Now?

Here’s our recommended to-do-list to help you get started working on the new EAA requirements:

Spread the knowledge internally
Make sure all stakeholders know the basics of the EAA, understand why digital accessibility is important and how it will benefit your business.

Perform a manual accessibility audit
An accessibility audit involves expert tests, ensuring compliance with EAA. The tests include ensuring the site can be used with only a keyboard and with screen readers. Note that a manual test is something quite different from a quick automated test run by an online tool or plugin. The automated tests can only find a small part of potential issues and might also report false positives. Verification of results from automated tools must always be done by a human with accessibility expertise.

Prioritize issues and create a backlog
The audit will generate a report with discovered issues to be fixed. Prioritize what needs to be done first and set a plan forward. Issues will require different kinds of action related to design, code, or content creation. Some issues will be quick fixes while others may take longer and require structural changes. So don’t wait too long to get started!

Establish a way of working
Accessibility is not a one-time effort; it needs to be implemented as a natural part of the continuous product development and ongoing optimizations of your site. Make sure your day-to-day processes and testing procedures always include the accessibility perspective in everything you do.

Offer accessibility training
Ensure all functions involved in your site get training customized to their role, including your designers, developers, managers, and content creators. While not everyone needs to be an expert, awareness of the new regulation is essential for all.


Start in Time

Ensuring accessibility for all users on your e-commerce site is not a quick task. It will require time and effort. Initially, there may be significant work to address, and the list of issues to resolve may be extensive. Therefore, it's crucial to start your accessibility work as early as possible.

Accessibility improvements and knowledge also needs to become a natural part of the continuous product development life cycle. It’s important you get all stakeholders on board and working towards a common goal. This may include organizational changes, such as new ways of working and guidelines around content creation.

We hope you now have a better understanding of what EAA is and what steps you need to take to start your journey towards an accessible e-commerce site. Should you have any questions regarding the EAA, digital accessibility, or if you're ready to start with an accessibility audit of your site, contact us. We're here to assist you every step of the way!