European Standard for Digital Accessibility
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.
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:
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.
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).
Anyone who creates a public website, digital hardware, or mobile app that services people in the EU are subject to EN 301 549.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.