On the 28th June 2025, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) comes into effect. Although there’s already been a directive in place since 2020, this directive was only applied to public sector websites.

This new and updated EAA is aimed at the private sector and with the threat of fines and even prison sentences for those getting it wrong, it’s something to be taken seriously.

Here’s what you need to know.

Who does the EAA affect?

The EAA builds on and complements previous legislation, such as the EU’s Web Accessibility Directive. Crucially, the EAA, unlike the Web Accessibility Directive, applies to private companies and organisations, not just the public sector — that means any private company selling products and services and that wishes to trade in the EU needs to comply. 

So, if you’re selling into an EU member state, your website, product service or app, and you have at least 10 staff and a turnover above €2 million, you must comply. 

Why is the EAA important?

According the the latest UK government research, the Family Resources Survey found that one in four people said they were disabled and it’s a number that looks set to increase; the number of disabled people rose from 12.1 million (19%) in 2011 to 2012 to 16.0 million (24%) in the most recent survey year — an increase of 3.9 million people.

The EAA aims to improve the lives of disabled and older people in the EU by ensuring equal access to all products and services within the European Union.

With most of us not being able to conceive a life without the internet, this feeling only amplifies when you consider how much of our daily lives — communication, banking, work or buying products etc — all takes place online. The internet has brought huge change to people living with disabilities in that it can now provide support and opportunities that were previously more of a challenge; screen reader software is designed to read online content aloud so that blind people no longer need to rely on limited print versions in Braille or for others to read to them. People with motor disabilities can interact with online content using alternative keyboards or eye-tracking software that allows people to use a computer with nothing more than eye movements. People who are deaf or hearing-impaired can now use captions and transcripts of audio-reliation media.

According to WebAim, who surveyed one million home pages from the top websites across the globe, that it surveyed in 2023, 49,991,225 distinct accessibility errors were detected — an average of 50 errors per page — and 96.3% of home pages had detected Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 failures. 

Web accessibilty requires deliberate strategy in content design. However, often these strategies promote overall usability, beyond people with disabilities; for example, everyone benefits from helpful illustrations, logically-organised content and intuitive navigation. Similarly, while users with disabilities need captions and transcripts, they can be helpful to anyone who uses multimedia in silent or noisy environments.

What if you don’t comply with the EAA?

As of 28 June 2025, customers will be able to file complaints before national courts or authorities if services or products do not respect the new rules. 

Non-compliance with the EAA will result in various penalties, depending on the severity and context — and also which country you are trading in. 

As a benchmark, there has been an accessibility law in place in Norway since around 2019 that they have been fining people whose websites do not comply: the current rate is roughly €15,000 per day until fixed…

The penalties for not complying with EAA include loss of customers through inaccessible products or services, exclusion from certain procurement processes (as EAA compliance will become more commonplace), legal action from individuals or advocacy groups representing people with disabilities, reputational damage and negative publicity, and Ireland’s newly announced laws can result in prison sentences.

Ultimately, making websites more accessible should also be something that brands are morally led by.

What should businesses do now?

While we’re lucky to have a team that cares, and by principle, will ensure accessibility is built into all of our websites, the unfortunate reality is that when it comes to execution, budgets and constraints will force many of us into continually having to make a strong case for investing in accessibility, and justifying why we should settle for a tradeoff elsewhere. 

Becoming EAA compliant needn’t become costly or disruptive to your day-to-day business processes. With just over a year to go, it’s vital that brands understand the specific EAA requirements, audit their current website’s accessibility performance to assess where they currently stand and create a plan to start making changes now.

At the end of the day, accessibility really is about people. Access is a basic human right, and we should all be able to enjoy digital experiences, products, and services equally.

Don’t get caught out by the act; if you’d like advice for building an accessible website, speak to our team today.