EN 301 549

European Standard for Digital Accessibility

What is EN 301 549?

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) passed public law EN 301 549 in 2015 to direct websites to make their services and sites more accessible for people with disabilities. It sets a minimum best practice list for public sector websites as well as companies in the private sector to consider when accounting for the rights of persons with disabilities.

We’ll break down the standard, what having accessibility features means for your website, and how Compliant can help you make your website more accessible according to the European Accessibility Act.

EN 301 549 is a European standard for digital accessibility for all EU Members, local agencies, partners of those agencies, and vendors. The standard contains every type of digital technology — websites, software, mobile applications, and more. EN 301 549 requirements are set by the WCAG, same as ADA and Section 508. However, EN 301 549 doesn’t only apply to online digital content; it also encompasses cell phones, ATMs, and printers.

EN 301 549 was also the first of its kind to address biometrics. Features like scanning a fingerprint or a face were considered while creating minimum standards to account for people with disabilities.

The prior version of EN 301 549 did not include the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. It has been updated to include these.  

What is Digital Accessibility?

Digital accessibility means taking steps to ensure that everyone has equal access to information and digital services, even if they live with a disability. Considering people with disabilities isn’t always prioritized on electronic devices, creating an unfair barrier. EN 301 549 and similar laws are necessary to prevent unfair discrimination against people with disabilities.

In the same way that locations allow seeing-eye dogs or provide ramps to the front door, digital accessibility presents the same products, services, and information in alternative ways so that everyone can access them.

There are a variety of ways that this can be implemented. One example is to add subtitles to videos so that deaf users can still gain access to the information while watching. Other examples include:

  • Picture or .gif identifiers underneath in text format to convey the same information through a description of the visual element
  • Allow your website to be navigated through means other than a mouse
  • Enable your website to be read through a text-to-speech reader so that low-vision and blind users still have access
  • Continually evaluate your website and stay on top of new technologies to enable accessibility so that you can offer the best options to your customers

Who developed EN 301 549?

The document was developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) in 2015 to set public procurement of products and services. The ETSI is a standardizing organization that does research into telecommunication channels available in Europe to ensure that citizens of the EU have consistent service throughout all of the countries. The CEN supports standardization in a much wider range of sectors, including information technologies. EN 301 549 was a joint effort between the two organizations and identifies the requirements for information and communications technology (ICT) to be fully available for individuals with disabilities.

Why was EN 301 549 created?

The ETSI created EN 301 549 to harmonize standards for accommodating people with disabilities when interacting digitally.

Currently, all countries and the EU have their standards for minimizing discrimination against people with disabilities. However, many of these countries, including the EU’s EN 301 549, utilize the WCAG or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Who is subject to EN 301 549?

Anyone who creates a public website, digital hardware, or mobile app that services people in the EU are subject to EN 301 549.

Who does EN 301 549 protect?

EN 301 549 protects European Union citizens with disabilities who would otherwise not access information and communications technology. These protections include citizens with cognitive disabilities, seizure disorders, lack of motor functionality, the deaf or hard-of-hearing, and the blind. Even people without disabilities benefit from accessibility standards by having alternative methods of learning information.

What is the EN 301 549 minimum standard for compliance?

There are a variety of standards involved in the current version of EN 301 549, all of which make up the minimum standard for compliance:

  • When showing something visually, there must be a non-visual alternative available. For example, if you have a picture with information, the information must be available in text, too.
  • Digital content must allow users with accessible products to magnify text, change the contrast, and control the brightness to allow low-vision users.
  • Content must have multiple ways of designating information, like links, besides just relying on a color change.
  • When showing something audibly, there must be a non-audio alternative available, like subtitles.
  • Audio content should also include a way to control the volume for deaf people.
  • If the content requires a vocal component, there should be a viable alternative to voicing something so that people with limited or no verbal abilities can still input their information.
  • Content should allow for people with limited or no motor skills to navigate and interact with the website.
  • Configure hardware to work for users with limited reach or without the ability to stand.
  • Reduce flashing lights and other elements that might trigger a seizure in epileptic patients. If they cannot be eliminated, present a clear warning beforehand. The game or program must offer a mode where the user can opt-out of that sequence or proceed through an alternative sequence without the photosensitive triggers.
  • Ensure that digital content is easy to understand and simple to use for people with limited language or cognitive skills.

Any public company found to not be in compliance with these minimum standards must provide detailed notes on their website that warn users about the lack of compliance and report to the authorized department, based on their home country, giving a reason why they were unable to reasonably comply with the minimum standards.

How can you become EN 301 549 compliant?

The first step is to publish an accessibility statement on your homepage or within your mobile app. By explaining the steps you have taken to make your digital content accessible and any you have planned for the future, you head off legal action before starting. However, once you have implemented the standards, you should continue to monitor your content for ways you can improve accessibility.

It is ongoing. New technologies are constantly invented and popularized that may affect a website’s accessibility. It’s important to stay current, so you can take steps to keep your website accessible.

This is beneficial for companies, too, since they continuously expand their potential audience into new demographics who might have been previously unable to interact with your website.

How is EN 301 549 enforced?

Individuals can file lawsuits against companies or contractors who do not comply with the detailed requirement of EN 301 549 compatibility. Per Level AA of the WCAG, websites must have accessibility statements and provide a feedback mechanism to report accessibility issues.

Regulation entities throughout the European Union can take other legal action. The exact enforcement from regulation authorities differs by country within the EU and level of compliance, but they have penalties.

Has EN 301 549 been updated?

EN 301 549 was first updated in 2018 and again in 2019 to its current version 3. All websites are required to meet the deadlines in the current version. The initial EU Web Accessibility Directive adopted the WCAG guidelines into the statute, as opposed to the previous version which had only referenced accessibility needs without mandating that those were the standards.

The latest version has added recommendations that make it easier for EU citizens with learning difficulties and cognitive disabilities to peruse and learn from websites.

How Compliant can help

It is for public companies to comply with the rules for those with accessibility issues, especially since the date for compliance has now expired for all public websites, including websites that existed prior to the statute, and mobile apps in the public sector as of June 23rd, 2021. Compliant creates innovative website accessibility solutions to help to establish EN 301 549 compliance without having to rewrite your site’s current code.

Compliant’s team is equipped with boundless experience and innovators who blaze the trail for accessibility. Our team is made up of top engineers, and visionaries who are changing the game for digital compliance. We offer a variety of annual and monthly paid plans, depending on the size of your website that ranges from $399 to $2,799 per year.

All of our plans include ensuring compliance with laws like EN 301 549 and Level AA of the WCAG, screen-reader and keyboard navigation adjustments, automatic daily monitoring, and scans. We are completely committed to ensuring that your website is accessible for everyone, regardless of physical or mental abilities.


With EN 301 549, the EU member states have taken steps to ensure international cooperation so that electronic documents are published and updated with alternatives for services. This means providing online content and information so that people with disabilities can take advantage of digital content and aren’t excluded. Contact us today to see how we can help your new public website stay Compliant with changing laws.