Accessible products and services

The European Accessibility Act was adopted on 17 April 2019. It must be put into national law by Member States by 28 June 2022 and put into practice from 28 June 2025. On some elements of the Act, such as on accessibility of answering to the single European emergency number ‘112’, countries aregiven a longer time for applying its requirements. The Act sets new EU-wide minimum accessibility requirements for a list of products and services, and provides a set of accessibility requirements that can be used in public procurement and European funds.

The Act is not a solution for all accessibility problems but it is a significant step towards making the EU fully accessible for persons with disabilities. It covers specific products and services mainly in the digital domain such as:

  • Smartphones, tablets, computers and their operating systems
  • Ticketing machines and check-in machines
  • All payment terminals
  • Smart televisions and access to TV programmes and video on-demand platforms
  • Banking services and ATMs
  • E-books and e-readers
  • Online shopping websites and mobile applications
  • Telephony services, including when calling the 112-emergency number
  • Certain elements of air, bus, rail and waterborne passenger transport services, except for urban, suburban and regional transport services (for which only ticketing machines are covered)

For more information, please read our analysis of the European Accessibility Act[3]  and consult the dedicated European Commission’s webpage.

At the time of publication of this booklet, Member States are introducing changes into their national laws to comply with the European Accessibility Act. If you want to get involved in this discussion, we recommend you to read our toolkit for transposition.

Websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies

Under EU law, EU Member States are obliged to ensure that all public-sector bodies’ websites and mobile applications are accessible, such as those from your city council or ministry of justice. The law allows for better access to the websites and mobile applications of public services.

It also requires that the websites and mobile apps of the public sector have an accessibility statement including a feedback mechanism, for the users to request an accessible alternative when some content is not accessible. This feedback mechanism can be a form, e-mail address, etc. The accessibility statement must also display  information on the accessibility of the website or the mobile app..

There should also be a national public body responsible for web and mobile accessibility, which users can reach if the website or app owners do not respond to their feedback. Information about this body to submit complains to must be available on the accessibility statements too. The Member States also need to monitor and report on accessibility of public sector websites and mobile apps by Member States. These reports must be public.

You can check which is your national enforcement and monitoring body for the Web Accessibility Directive.

For more information, please consult the Directive 2016/2102 of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies

Electronic communication

The updated European Electronic Communications Code was adopted and entered into force in December 2018. The Code ensures that persons with disabilities enjoy equivalent access and choice to good quality, affordable, publicly available electronic communication services, including to telephony and internet services (telephone, Skype calls, WhatsApp, email, etc.). Countries must ensure that appropriate support is provided to consumers with disabilities. They must also ensure that specific measures are taken to ensure that required terminal equipment (e.g. accessible smartphone or accessible computer), other specific equipment (i.e. assistive technologies) and services that enhance equivalent access (i.e. total conversation and relay services) are available and affordable to persons with disabilities.

You should also be able to call the European emergency number 112 for free from any type of phone, wherever you are in Europe. It also should guarantee that the access for persons with disabilities to emergency services is equivalent to that enjoyed by other persons.

For more information on the single European emergency number ‘112’, please consult the European Commission’s webpage on 112[3] and the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) page on 112.

[1] Directive (EU) 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (Recast)Text with EEA relevance (there is also a summary of the legal text)

Audiovisual Services

EU legislation ensures that audio-visual media service providers, meaning public or commercial TV channels and services of video on-demand (such as Netflix), make their services gradually more accessible to persons with disabilities. This means that there must be more subtitles, audio description, sign language interpretation, and audio subtitles on audio-visual content made available through broadcasting and on-demand services to viewers in the EU. The law also prohibits discriminatory and hateful speech towards persons with disabilities.

The EU has made a step forward to ensure accessibility of televised broadcasts and video on-demand services through the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive adopted in November 2018. Countries must ensure that media service providers under their jurisdictions make their audiovisual content continuously and progressively more accessible to persons with disabilities through proportionate measures.

Countries are free to decide on how they reach the general accessibility objectives of the Directive. The Directive does not specify the timeline, amount of content, and quality of services that need to be improved.

All Member State must designate a single, easily accessible, and publicly available online point of contact for providing information and receiving complaints regarding any accessibility issues. Additionally, Member States are obliged to make emergency information, including communication and announcements, is accessible to persons with disabilities.

Deadline to put the Directive into national law was 19 September 2020. EDF conducted a webinar and published a toolkit for transposition. Some countries are late with transposition. If your country is one of them, you can still use these resources for national advocacy.You can also find more information on the European Commission’s webpage on the Audiovisual Media Service Directive, and theDirective (EU) 2018/1808 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 on Audiovisual Media Services.