2020 – The Year of Digital Accessibility in the European Union (EU)

Directive EU2016/2102 - EU Accessibility Law

The year 2020 will go down in history as the year of accessibility in the European Union. If you are already familiar with ADA and Section 508 that largely contour the edges of accessibility requirements mandated by the US Government, you would realize that the upcoming September 23, 2020, deadline for the EU directive 2102 could be as transformative.

What makes this implementation’s timing is the timing of this deadline right in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic that has already pushed record internet traffic towards digital learning.

The US has made significant strides in this area in the form of enacting laws like:

  • Section 508
  • ADA
  • Section 255 of the Communications Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Assistive Technology Act of 1998
  • Help America Vote Act of 2002
  • 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010

These above laws have created guidelines and mandated accessibility requirements of disabled citizens.

Come September 23, 2020, and the European Union (EU) may be turning a page in that direction. The milestone EU legislation on digital accessibility is the ‘Directive EU2016/2102. This mandates accessibility of websites & mobile applications of public sector bodies.

History of the Directive EU2016/2102

The member states accepted this directive and came into effect on October 26, 2016. The various member states have further enacted national legislation to operationalize the directive.

Almost all the legislations of major member states of the EU, namely Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium have taken guidance of the directive and use it as the minimum standard. Again, these requirements are firmly rooted in the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) developed by the W3C foundation.

Currently, in Europe, there are 100 million+ people with disabilities of various natures. Disability includes people with visual & auditory impairments, motoric & cognitive disabilities. As the average age of European citizens rises, the population of people with different disabilities caused due to old age will also increase.

Who will this Directive Impact?

The EU directive is compulsory for all public sector bodies and institutions that are governed by public authority. ‘Public Authority’ would typically include public universities, local governments & other public-funded institutions.

Currently, this directive does not impact private sector institutions.

What are the Timelines for the EU Directive?

  1. September 23, 2019 – All the websites created after September 23, 2020, will have to be accessible
  2. September 23, 2020 – All other websites like intranets & extranets & time-based media like video and audio have to be accessible (read as mandatory Closed Captions)
  3. September 23, 2021 – All mobile apps will have to be made accessible

What does ‘Accessible’ mean according to the directive?

This directive defines accessibility as the ability of a website, mobile app, time-based medium, or any other document to be perceived, operated, and understood robustly by all users, including users who have visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities.

2020 could be the year of accessibility for millions of European Citizens with disabilities. This year will mark a major step towards becoming an inclusive society.