Our accessibility specialist Elfi Kjellberg explains what the Accessibility Act is, who it affects, and how we can prepare for it.
What is the Accessibility Act?
The European Accessibility Act (Directive 2019/882 on the accessibility requirements for products and services, “European Accessibility Act”) is the European Union’s directive that aims at ensuring the accessibility of key electronic products and services. The main goal of the Accessibility Act is to make the life easier for persons with disabilities by making products and services more accessible.
The following products and services are subject to the Accessibility Act:
- ticket and self-service check-in kiosks
- computer and smart phone operating systems
- smart phones and smart televisions
- banking services
- e-books, e-book readers, and sales and distribution platforms of e-books
- online stores
- transport services (including the subway, rail transport, trams, and buses)
- payment terminal services
- audiovisual media services (e.g., streaming services)
- emergency communication services.
According to the Accessibility Act, the built environment surrounding the service must also be accessible.
How does the Accessibility Act differ from the Web Accessibility Directive?
The 2016 Web Accessibility Directive mainly applies to online services and mobile applications in the public sector. It states that digital materials and services in the public sector must be accessible, i.e., accessible to everyone regardless of a disability.
The Accessibility Act goes beyond online services and mobile applications. It covers physical products and other electronic services and products. The act also applies to actors in the private sector.
Who is affected by the Accessibility Act?
As the products and services mentioned above are covered by the Accessibility Act, it affects the private sector in particular. The act also strengthens the requirements for public sector websites and mobile applications. The Accessibility Act excludes products and services of companies that employ less than 10 people and have an annual turnover of less than 2 million.
Extending the scope of the Accessibility Act to online shops has drawn attention. This means that whatever you sell online, it must meet the accessibility requirements. In addition, when selling any of the above-mentioned products and services (both in-store and online), you must comply with the Accessibility Act.
When and how to act?
The Accessibility Act came into force in 2019, and it will be transposed into Finnish law by the end of June 2022. Private organizations must comply with the legislation by June 2025 at the latest.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has so far been responsible for the national implementation of the Act in Finland, and the legislation is still being drafted. Finnish legislation can make clarifications to the provisions laid down in the Accessibility Act and provide stricter guidelines on how to ensure accessibility in products and services. Only when the law is enacted, we will know more precisely to whom it applies, to what extent, and within what timeframe.
Although there is still time, now is a good time to start ensuring accessibility of our own products and services. Eficode's research team is here to help. We should invest in the accessibility of our services holistically and in a timely manner: it is significantly more cost-effective to make services accessible from the outset than to fix them later. Accessibility is ultimately in everyone's interest. So why not make all our services accessible, regardless of any directives?
Published: May 19, 2022