Members of the European Union (EU) are headed toward implementing the WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria as the web accessibility standard for all public and private companies’ websites and apps.
On May 28th, 2021, a new EU directive was introduced into Norwegian law, compelling all agencies and organizations of the public sector to remediate their digital assets according to WCAG 2.1 standards.
The directive came into force on January 1, 2022, with an implementation period of one year until January 2023.
As stipulated by the Norway government: “The directive is part of the EU’s strategy for the development of the digital single market, and the new requirements will provide better access for all, and especially for people with disabilities.”
While the new directive does not include private companies, Norway’s recent history suggests the private sector will be next on the agenda.
Norway’s director of supervision Malin Rygg praised the Stortinget (Norwegian body of parliament) for passing the law, saying it is an important step towards increasing digital inclusion for everyone. Norway has had requirements for universal design of ICT since 2013, which apply to both the public and private sectors.
EU Web Directive
As of today, European public sector bodies are obliged to conform to WCAG 2.1 standards
Although the EU’s Member States have diverging accessibility laws, some more advanced and others lagging behind, the EU decided to harmonize these regulations into integrated and centralized legislation. This resulted in two main bodies of accessibility regulations: the European Accessibility Act (EAA) and the EU Web Accessibility Directive.
The latter applies mainly to the public sector and underlines WCAG 2.1 Level AA Success Criteria as the gold standard across the board. EN 301 549 is the Directive’s standard that applies to websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies.
Enacted into law in 2016, this body of legislation pertains to government agencies, government-funded bodies, and third-party contractors who provide services to the government. So while this chiefly affects the public sector, private organizations that provide any service to governments may be subject to exceeding penalties in cases of noncompliance.
In any case, the EAA will come into effect in 2025 and will pertain to private businesses across the EU.
Both public and private organizations are required to comply with EAA standards. This applies to Web and mobile e-commerce businesses. Two exclusions exist in the EAA regulations:I1. If accessibility remediation would change the very nature of the product/service and/or result in a financial burden too costly to bear;
I2. If the organization has less than 20 employees.
Although, unlike the EU Web Directive, the EAA does not directly specify which web accessibility standards organizations should follow, with the new regulations stipulating WCAG 2.1 it is safe to presume that this will become the encompassing European standard.
Learn more about European web accessibility regulations, EAA, WAD, and EN 301 549:
Contact an EqualWeb accessibility expert today: