Here’s how new EU accessibility rules affect UX design
New accessiblity regulations will largely concern UX design, as well as trading of products and services. Vertical Leap’s Rick Toovey shines a light on what we know so far.
The EU's new accessibility regulations will impact UX design. But where does the UK stand? / Hal Gatewood via Unsplash
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) will come into force on June 28, 2025, bringing new regulations into law for the accessibility of products and services. As a result, building accessible experiences will become a regulatory requirement. The rules will also apply to physical products and services.
This will impact almost all aspects of user experience (UX) design for websites and applications, including navigation, content, and online channels (email, social, support, etc).
Let’s take a closer look at EAA, how it affects UX design, and some of the confusion surrounding UK compliance.
What does the European Accessibility Act entail?
The EU describes the EAA as: “A directive that aims to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services, by removing barriers created by divergent rules in Member States”.
It claims the new regulations will benefit businesses by creating common rules on accessibility that will reduce costs, allow for easier cross-border trading and open more market opportunities for their accessible products and services.
People who are elderly and those with disabilities will see a range of benefits: accessible products and services in the market, accessible products and services at more competitive prices, fewer barriers when accessing transport, education and the open labour market, and more job availability where accessibility expertise is needed.
What does the EAA apply to?
As the EAA applies to both physical and digital products and services, the commission has provided a provisional list of products and services (although this could expand to include more in the future).
These are computers and operating systems; ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines; smartphones; TV equipment related to digital television services; telephone services and related equipment; access to audio-visual media services, such as TV broadcasts and related consumer equipment; services related to air, bus, rail and waterborne passenger transport; banking services; e-books, and e-commerce.
MBE and head of digital inclusion, Robin Christopherson, at AbilityNet said: “The European Accessibility Act will harmonize and modernize the legal requirement for websites, apps and other technology to be inclusive and easy to use by all”.
How will the EAA impact UX design?
The EAA joins existing EU regulations like the Web Accessibility Directive (WAD) that set out guidelines for making the web accessible to everyone.
However, the EAA extends beyond existing web accessibility regulations. Not only will website owners be expected to make navigation, content, and conversions accessible to all users, but they will now be required to ensure video content has closed captions, images are optimized with screen-readable alt-text, and online customer support channels provide accessible options for users.
Crucially, the EAA integrates digital and physical experiences, requiring companies to meet accessibility guidelines both online and offline.
Will the EAA apply to UK businesses?
The EAA raises confusion due to Britain’s departure from the European Union. The simple answer is: if you sell products or services to people in the EU, then you will have to meet the requirements of the EAA when it is implemented.
At this stage, without clearer guidance from the government, we can only speculate how greatly the EAA will impact UK businesses not selling in the EU, which has compelled all businesses in the country to adhere to the guidelines for consumers and users in the UK - as it has done with GDPR and the WAD.
The Conservative government is currently pushing a data reform bill that would move the country away from the EU’s GDPR guidelines and this raises obvious questions over its stance on the EAA. An important clue lies in the UK’s continued adherence to the WAD, which is a more suitable comparison than GDPR.
As with all EU regulations, the best place to get information on the EAA is from official EU documentation. If you have any doubts about these or other regulations (GDPR being the obvious example), get the necessary legal advice to make sure you’re compliant.
Need help making your website more accessible? Speak to our website specialists today on 02392 830281 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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