065: Demystifying EU Accessibility Laws with Anna Malmberg & Susi Pallero

This episode is a recording of an April 2024 WordPress Accessibility Meetup where Anna and Susi from Funka, the organization that founded the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, or IAAP, help us better understand European accessibility laws and how to approach compliance while creating inclusive and enjoyable digital experiences. If you want to watch a video recording from the meetup, you may do so on the Equalize Digital website: Demystifying European Accessibility Laws with Anna Malmberg and Susana Pallero.


Summarized Session Information

This session explores digital accessibility within the European Union, framed by international treaties and underscored by the imperative of compliance and conformance to established standards.

The presentations explore pivotal EU directives and regulations, including the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act, which collectively aim to enhance digital inclusivity across member states. This discourse contextualizes legal frameworks such as the Procurement Act and EN 301 549 standards and provides actionable insights on how organizations can effectively meet these requirements.

The session begins by discussing international treaties that influence accessibility laws, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These treaties form the foundation for understanding why digital accessibility is not just a regulatory requirement but a fundamental human right.

As the presentation progresses, Anna and Susi clarify the concepts of compliance versus conformance, elucidating the differences between legal adherence and the application of technical standards such as the WCAG and EN 301 549. This segment underscores the practical steps organizations can take to navigate the complexities of aligning with legal mandates and technical specifications.

Practical tips for achieving and maintaining compliance are also provided, emphasizing the need for continuous improvement and integration of accessibility into organizational processes. The session wraps up with a compelling conclusion that reaffirms the ethos of accessibility as a continuous commitment and collaborative effort, vital for eliminating digital exclusion and enhancing the quality of life for all citizens.

Overall, the session equips participants with the knowledge and tools to contribute to a more accessible digital environment actively, fostering greater equality and inclusion within the digital landscape of the European Union.

Session Outline

  • International treaties
  • Compliance vs. conformance
  • Digital accessibility in the EU
  • Tips for compliance and conformance
  • Conclusion

International treaties

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations asserts that access to fundamental human rights is universal, underscoring that creating inaccessible products can be seen as a violation of these rights. Specifically, Article 19 of the Declaration champions the right to access information without restrictions, recognizing the internet as a crucial communication medium, despite its unplanned impact on society when the Declaration was drafted.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is pivotal in understanding and implementing accessibility. This convention introduces a non-medical, social model of disability that focuses on individual capabilities rather than limitations, significantly influencing digital product design and development. Furthermore, it supports the implementation of accessibility and universal design as a means to ensure equality for people with disabilities.

This framework forms the basis for states’ obligations to enforce human rights, influencing various laws that uphold these rights.

Compliance vs. conformance

Compliance refers to adhering to legal requirements, exemplified by laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandates universal access for all individuals, regardless of disability. This law sets a broad requirement that facilities must be accessible to everyone.

On the other hand, conformance relates to meeting specific standards that define what accessibility actually looks like in practice. For example, to determine whether a service or facility complies with the ADA, one would assess conformance to established international standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2. These standards provide objective criteria to evaluate whether something is accessible, serving as a benchmark for the practical implementation of accessibility.

Clarifying these two terms is vital for professionals in the field. While legal compliance is mandatory, conforming to standards is how organizations practically achieve the requirements of the law. This distinction, though sometimes used interchangeably in casual contexts, marks the difference between legal obligations and the technical specifications needed to fulfill these obligations.

Digital accessibility in the EU

The relationship between EU regulations, directives, and standards is critical in shaping digital accessibility across the member states.

Image explaining the relationship between directives. UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, below Disability Strategy. Below EU Directives. Below Procurement Directive, Web Accessibility Directive, and European Accessibility Act. Next to European standards (EN).

The EU bases its laws and directives on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which serves as a foundational document influencing all EU policies and actions related to disability. The European Union has developed a disability strategy that spans decades, periodically updated to adapt to new challenges and opportunities, ensuring sustained attention to accessibility issues.

Then, we have the difference between EU directives and regulations. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an example of the latter. Directives, unlike regulations, allow member states some flexibility to adapt the EU’s minimum requirements to their national contexts while maintaining the essence of the directive. This adaptability is crucial as it enables each member state to enhance the directive’s provisions according to their specific legal and social frameworks.

Specific directives exist, such as the Web Accessibility Directive, which targets public sector bodies, and the European Accessibility Act (EAA), which broadens the scope to include various products and services across multiple sectors. Both directives aim to improve digital accessibility and inclusivity, ensuring accessibility technologies and assistive devices function uniformly across the EU, a benefit of standardized norms.

From EU Directives derives National law, consequently European standard (EN)

While directives set the floor for accessibility standards, national laws can build upon these to create more stringent or comprehensive regulations. This layering of standards and laws ensures that as technology and user needs evolve, the standards can be updated more frequently than laws, which are inherently slower to change. This dynamic approach allows the EU to remain responsive to advancements in digital accessibility, maintaining a balance between uniformity across member states and flexibility for national adaptations.

The Procurement Act

Updated in 2017 to align with the Web Accessibility Directive, the Procurement Act encompasses guidelines and rules for public procurement processes. Its primary purpose is to ensure that all information produced or funded by taxpayer money, such as municipal services and public data, is accessible to the general population.

The Procurement Act mandates that any procurement involving public funds—such as purchasing a website, a software system, or a content management system—adhere to stringent accessibility requirements. This directive applies not only to the initial procurement but also extends to subcontractors or suppliers involved, who must also comply with these accessibility standards.

A significant feature of the updated directive is the introduction of mechanisms for accountability and transparency. It allows competitors in the procurement process to raise concerns or request clarifications regarding procurement decisions, thereby promoting fairness and adherence to the stipulated accessibility guidelines. Furthermore, the directive ensures that all procurement details are publicly available in an accessible format, enhancing transparency.

Looking ahead, the Procurement Act is expected to undergo further revisions in 2025 to synchronize with updates to the Web Accessibility Directive and the impending European Accessibility Act. These updates aim to bolster the comprehensiveness of the legislation, ensuring that public offices, bodies, and services across municipalities and counties maintain the highest accessibility standards. This ongoing evolution of the directive underscores the EU’s commitment to enhancing accessibility in public procurement, ensuring that all citizens have equitable access to services funded by public money.

The European Web Accessibility Directive

The European Web Accessibility Directive (WAD), which came into force in 2018, focuses on enhancing accessibility for public sector digital content. This directive ensures that websites, mobile applications, and other digital services provided by public offices or entities are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

This is a fundamental right for civilians, and it emphasizes that public sector bodies must adhere to specific standards that facilitate access to digital content.

The directive specifies that all public sector websites, including intranets and extranets that require login access, adhere to the EN 301 549 standard. This standard, recognized as the main benchmark for digital accessibility within Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services, details how digital products should be accessible, covering various technological aspects from software to hardware.

An interesting aspect of the directive is its adaptability at the national level. While it sets a base standard, individual EU member states can expand upon these minimum requirements. For instance, Finland has included banks and insurance companies under its national version of the directive, thus broadening the scope of who must comply with these accessibility standards.

The enforcement of the Web Accessibility Directive involves several key elements:

  1. Central National Review: Each EU member country is responsible for enforcing the directive and has appointed a supervisory authority to oversee its implementation. These authorities report on compliance to the European Commission.
  2. Accessibility Statement: Public sector bodies are required to publish a detailed accessibility statement that informs users about the accessibility status of their digital interfaces. This statement must also include a feedback mechanism, allowing users to report any issues directly.
  3. Complaint Function: If users are dissatisfied with the response to their accessibility concerns, they have the right to lodge a formal complaint with the national supervisory authority.

This structured approach ensures that the public sector maintains high digital accessibility standards, making it easier for all users, especially those with disabilities, to access and utilize digital services.

The directive not only mandates compliance but also fosters a transparent process where user feedback plays a crucial role in continuous improvement. Through these measures, the EU aims to significantly enhance digital accessibility across all member states significantly, ensuring a more inclusive digital environment.

The European Accessibility Act

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a significant legislative directive to enhance accessibility across the European Union. Introduced as an EU directive, though commonly referred to as an “Act,” it sets comprehensive accessibility requirements applicable to a wide range of products and services.

The primary goal of the EAA is to eliminate barriers that hinder fair competition and to promote equal opportunities and participation in society for all individuals, particularly those with disabilities.

The directive, which will come into force on June 28, 2025, encompasses various products used daily, such as smartphones, banking, and e-commerce services. Its scope extends to ensuring that these products and services are accessible, which is a shift from the current status where many are not yet compliant.

The EAA mandates that companies with more than ten employees or a turnover exceeding €2 million must meet these accessibility standards. Micro-enterprises, however, are exempt but are still encouraged to conform as a best practice.

One of the unique features of the EAA is its broad applicability across different sectors, including manufacturing, distribution, and service provision. Manufacturers, for example, must ensure their products meet accessibility requirements before they can be sold in the European market. Similarly, importers must verify compliance before products are entered into the EU, and distributors must maintain the accessibility compliance of the products they handle.

The directive also emphasizes the importance of designing products and services that maximize foreseeable use, aligning with principles of ‘Design for All’ and universal design. This approach does not specify adherence to any one standard but rather supports adopting European standards agreed upon by member states. This ensures uniformity and facilitates the seamless trade of accessible products within the EU.

Additionally, the EAA includes provisions for “fundamental alteration” and “disproportionate burden,” which allow for exceptions where making a product or service accessible would alter its fundamental nature or where the cost of making accommodations is prohibitively expensive relative to the benefits.

Finally, the EAA is set to be enforced through sector-specific and national monitoring, with potential sanctions for non-compliance. This structured oversight ensures that all entities within the directive’s scope contribute to a more accessible and inclusive European market.

European Norm: EN 301 549

The European Accessibility Act incorporates the EN 301 549 standards, a central piece of the harmonized European Norm (EN) standards. This standard establishes specific accessibility requirements for various ICT products across the European region, including websites, documents, software, hardware, and apps. This standard is instrumental in translating EU directives into practical, actionable requirements that are uniform across the EU, ensuring that digital environments are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

The structure of EU legislation mandates that directives and laws consistently refer to these European standards. However, regional variations might exist due to older standards that have not been updated. For instance, non-EU countries like Norway also adopt these standards due to their participation in broader European economic areas, highlighting the widespread influence and adoption of the EN standards beyond just EU member states.

EN 301 549 is structured into several chapters, each detailing specific aspects of accessibility for different types of technology. For example, it addresses the accessibility of smartphones, user interfaces on screens, and self-service kiosks such as those found in airports or train stations. Importantly, Chapters 9 through 11 of the standard directly incorporate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA, ensuring that web documents and mobile applications are accessible.

This alignment with WCAG ensures that the standard is not only comprehensive but also aligns with global best practices in digital accessibility. The standard is designed to be periodically updated to remain in sync with technological advancements and changing accessibility needs. As such, a revision is anticipated around September to meet new legislative requirements effective June 2025.

By integrating these standards into the legislative framework, the EU ensures that all digital products and services within its jurisdiction meet high accessibility standards, making them usable for all citizens, including those with disabilities. This approach exemplifies the EU’s commitment to inclusivity and equal access in the digital age.

Tips for compliance and conformance

The first step in achieving compliance is thoroughly understanding the directives and national or regional laws relevant to each operational area. This understanding forms the basis for determining which standards (such as EN 501, WCAG 2.1, or WCAG 2.2) must be met. In cases where no specific accessibility laws exist, other legal mechanisms, like those provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, can be leveraged to enforce accessibility as a human right.

Once the applicable laws and standards are identified, companies should list all products and services that must be compliant. Prioritization should be given to those directly impacted by legal requirements to minimize legal risks, but the goal should be to eventually extend compliance efforts across all company operations.

A critical step in the compliance process is conducting an audit to assess how existing products and services measure up against the required standards. This audit will help identify gaps that need remediation. It’s recommended to integrate accessibility from the outset rather than retrofitting it later, especially if a redesign or refactor of the product or service is planned.

Maintaining accessibility is an ongoing effort that should be integrated into the software development lifecycle. Learning from initial gaps and continuously improving processes and products are crucial. It is essential to remember that while standards provide the minimum requirements, the aim should always be to exceed these to enhance usability and overall user experience.

Lastly, integrating these practices into an organization should be a gradual process, respecting the company’s culture and pace. It’s a team effort that requires patience and persistence, as significant changes won’t happen overnight but will build a more inclusive environment over time.


Digital accessibility is a human right, a habit, and a team effort. What we do impacts people’s lives. Digital accessibility is not just a one-time action but a continual habit and a fundamental human right that should be integrated into all digital products and environments. It’s a team effort where no individual needs to take on the superhero role alone.

A significant portion of the global population lacks access to the internet, and of those who do, the vast majority encounter digital products that are not accessible. In the European Union alone, approximately 135 billion people live with disabilities, underscoring the importance of inclusive design. The pandemic has further shifted essential services, education, and employment opportunities to digital platforms, which are not keeping pace with accessibility needs.

Steve Jobs said, “Technology is nothing. What is important is that you have faith in people, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with that.” This highlights the belief that by creating accessible digital tools, developers and designers can profoundly impact the quality of life for many people.

There is no such thing as the average user. Consider taking a personalized approach to user experience design that accommodates individual differences and challenges the concept of designing for an ‘average’ user. This serves as a reminder that accessibility efforts must consider the broad spectrum of human abilities and preferences.

Read the Transcript

>> CHRIS HINDS: Welcome to episode 065 of the Accessibility Craft Podcast, where we explore the art of creating accessible websites while trying out interesting craft beverages. This podcast is brought to you by the team at Equalize Digital, a WordPress accessibility company and the proud creators of the Accessibility Checker plugin.

This episode is a recording of an April 2024 WordPress Accessibility Meetup where Anna and Susi from Funka, the organization that founded the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, or IAAP, help us better understand European accessibility laws and how to approach compliance while creating inclusive and enjoyable digital experiences. WordPress Accessibility Meetups occur via Zoom webinars twice a month, and anyone can attend. 

For show notes, a full transcript, and additional information about meetups, go to AccessibilityCraft.com/065.

And now, on to the show.

>> AMBER HINDS: I am very excited to introduce our speakers today, Anna and Susi. Anna is the Chief Marketing Officer at Funka and Susi is Chief Accessibility Officer at Funka. I’ll probably let you both introduce yourselves, but we’re very excited to have you here and sharing your expertise on European accessibility laws because we’ve had a lot of attendees asking questions about it. I know there’s a lot of concern about what’s going to happen in June 2025, so we very much appreciate it and I’m going to stop sharing. I will let you share.

For everyone who’s attending, we will do Q&A at the end, so if you can please type any questions that you have in the Q&A module, that will help us to keep track of them and then I will pop in at the end so that our speakers can answer them. Take it away, Anna, and Susi.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you, Amber, and thank you, Paola, for inviting us. It’s lovely to be here today with my colleague, Susana, as well as Susi, as we say. I think just to make sure that my first screen is shown, are we all right there?

>> AMBER HINDS: I don’t see your shared screen yet. You might need to reshare.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, I’m just checking, so let’s see. Still nothing?

>> AMBER HINDS: Not yet.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: This is so typical when it worked previously.

>> AMBER HINDS: [chuckles] It worked before when we did the test.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: [laughs]

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Of course, it works when you test.

>> AMBER HINDS: I’m not doing anything different.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Then when it is live, it doesn’t.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Let’s try here. Excuse me, in case you see my screen, I’m just redoing everything from the beginning when it comes to sharing desktops. Okay?

>> AMBER HINDS: Now we can see your desktop.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, we’re back on track now I hope.

>> AMBER HINDS: Yes, looks pretty clear.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Can you just confirm? Yes. Thank you. Great. I can just do the first slide. Thank you for us and reaching out. We, as you heard, we come from Funka who’s been around since, I think, 1999 within the accessibility industry. We started before there were regulations and laws on the topic as such. We have worked with everything from research to innovation to training, accessibility programs, and user testing, so lots of highs and lows.

Today, we’re going to give an overview of the accessibility directives within the European Union. We’re not going to go through every single one of them and not in depth, but we’re going to present an overall so that you also understand which ones are relevant and what’s happening as you all are familiar with next year, 2025. With that, my name is Anna Malmberg, and I will let Susi continue with the presentation.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Perfect. I will introduce myself. My name is Susana Pallero. As I said, I am from Argentina. Sorry, if you don’t understand some words that I might be mispronouncing or something. Feel free to ask again. As they say, behind a strong accent, there’s a lot of bravery. [chuckles] It’s not easy to be here. I have been working in accessibility for over 10 years. Actually, I saw between the names of the people here that Olga Carreras is here, and I highly recommend her. She’s an amazing professional from Spain, and I started with her, and I mean reading all the content she generates and I’m a huge fan.

I started over 10 years ago. Right now, I am a W3C invited expert in the Coga division. That is the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility. I also was part of conformance policy and the maturity model task force. I am CPEWA certified and I have diplomas in human rights of the 21st century in equality and empowerment of women and in women’s rights. Right now, I am a professor of the Master of Digital Accessibility at the University of Barcelona.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Thank you. I will present myself. As I said, my name is Anna Malmberg. I am a CPACC-certified professional with the IAAP, which is the International Accessibility Organization of International [laughs] Association of Accessibility Professionals. I’m sorry. I always mix that abbreviation up. I work as a chief marketing officer today at Funka, but besides that, I also do a lot of talks and I advocate accessibility. I was previously the founder of Funka Academy, which is an online training platform, similar to that of Deque that I’m sure you’re familiar to, working with making accessibility knowledge and competence more available on your own term as such because it’s an on-demand platform.

Otherwise, I work with accessibility and inclusion. It’s a big passion. I am a mother and I am a daughter, so it’s in my everyday life. With age, we all will get there eventually, but today, Susi?

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Today we will have mainly four topics. The first one is digital accessibility is a human right. Then we will differentiate what compliance is and what conformance is. Then we will talk a little bit about the main laws and standards in Europe and then we will give you some tips for compliance and conformance. Let’s start. I think this is the main point of this entire talk. The fact that digital accessibility is a human right.

The international treaties, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations recognizes access by all people to fundamental human rights and that is why it is considered in most legal bodies in the world, especially those that subscribed to the declaration. This is an important point. Creating an inaccessible product is a violation of human rights. Which specific human rights it speaks about? It is the human right of access to information.

The Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everybody, all people in the world has the right to investigate and receive information and opinions and to disseminate them without limitations or borders by any means of expression,” and of course, that Internet is one of the main communication ways right now, but it is important to understand that this is kind of old. Of course, that in this moment, we didn’t know the impact, the actual impact that Internet would have in society.

Even though accessibility as a human right is something that comes from the right to access to information, there’s different rights that are now developed and guaranteed in the Internet, such as access to education, to health, to work, so it even opens more possibilities.

Another important international treaty is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This convention shows two main points that I would say are the most important. First of all, it gives us the definition of disability and that is something that we must address when we work in accessibility, that it’s not a medical definition of disability, the one we work with. We work with a social model and definition of disability. That means that what we are going to put the focus on is in what people can do, and from that, we will design and develop our digital products.

The second point is that it recognizes that the implementation of accessibility and universal design is a mean to ensure equality for people with disabilities. It is pretty clear and it goes closer to what we actually do in the digital world. Now that we have this base, that we understand this big umbrella because it is the obligation of states to comply and enforce the human rights, then different laws, and Anna will go through that in more detail, but that is why there are so many laws that enforce human rights.

Before we move on, it is important to understand the difference between compliance and conformance. Compliance is technically what says what we need to comply with. Let’s give you an example. We have a law, and the law just says that you must ensure access to everyone, and it’s not important if it’s someone with disabilities or not. It is for everyone, for all people, with and without disabilities. For example, ADA would be an example of an anti-discrimination law. It says access to all people is what we look for.

The law will tell me, “This must be accessible,” but then it’s what is accessible. What is accessible, what it is, and what it’s not, and that’s an objective point. It is a point of reference, and that is what standards are there for. Standards will tell us how we actually achieve that accessibility that is enforced by the law. For example, in the ADA, a judge, what they would do is, how do I know objectively that something is accessible or not? I will refer to the international standards that the last one officially published, that in this case is WCAG 2.2, and I will take this standard as the point of reference of this is accessible or it is not.

In the terms that we use, we comply with laws, we conform to standards. It is true that you will find, when you Google about it and things like that, maybe you will find these terms used indistinctly, but the right way would be compliance, it’s legal compliance, and it’s standard conformance. So far, there are any questions because we have the Q&A open all the time, so just put them there.

Now, we will start talking about specifically the European Union Digital Accessibility Laws, Policies, and Standards. Anna?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Thank you. Thank you, Susi. We will talk about digital accessibility in the EU, and as Susi has explained, the difference between a regulation and the standards because in Europe, our laws or the directives, as I’ll explain later, we don’t point to exactly how, we point to the standards, and in the standards, it then says the variations of what we need to do and how to do that. It’s not in our laws as such.

First, the European Union, I’m showing a map of the markets, and it’s highlighted in a darker color, with which our member states. I’m not sure of the exact number that we are, but it’s a huge chunk of Europe. What is good to know is that we are all based, and we all believe, and we all have signed the UN Convention, as previously mentioned and we have all ratified it. That means that we have agreed and we have signed to uphold it.

In the European Union, our laws and regulations are based, actually, from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. For some reason my, there we go, the first slide is presenting the CRPD, as it’s also called. Everything that we do within the UN, I mean the European Union is actually based on this, our strategies, our politics, our actions that we do, and based on the Convention, we then actually have a disability strategy within the European Union for all of the member states. It’s updated, say, every 10 years, but it’s usually for a longer period of maybe 20, 30 years, so that we can actually do something with it.

The European Commission creates these disability strategies that will cover a decade long. Within these strategies, there are lots of different kinds of activities that are then based on the CRPD initiatives, research, we do projects, and also those legal acts. From disability strategies, we have the directives. An EU directive is actually, it’s a legal term, which means that we are bound to the directive, and the directive is the minimum standard.

It’s the minimum requirement that we need to bring into national law. Instead of, say, the GDPR, which is a regulation, R at the end, GDPR regulation, we just need to take it in. We can’t change anything in it, but with a directive, we can mold it into a national law so that it fits with our other laws, but we need to bring in the entire directive, but we can add other things to it.

When it comes to the accessibility directives that cover disability rights and the convention, we have the procurement directive, the web accessibility directive, and the European Accessibility Act, which is the one that’s coming next year, so we’ve already got two in place. I’ll go through these in a little while. What I would like to show is also that they are actually based on standards. This is what Susi mentioned before. The directives come into place, we create the directives, then each of the member states, each of the countries, need to bring that into their own legal national law, and then they point to the European standards.

The reason for this is because in the European Union, we have together agreed on we won’t have our own standards for each country. Part of us being in the European Union is that we have a harmonized, we have the same standards in all of Europe, which means if I buy a product from Ireland or Spain, it doesn’t matter, I can expect the same norm and I will know that my accessibility technology or my assistive technology will work on that product or service that I buy, and that goes for everything, not just within accessibility, it goes for housing, for schools, for cars. It’s everything, it’s a standard.

The procurement directive, I will go through separately, but the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act, they share a common goal of improving digital accessibility and inclusivity. The Web Accessibility Directive targets the public sector and the EEA, as it’s called, the European Accessibility Act, EAA, my bad, extends its scope to various products and services across different sectors. I will go through those in detail.

To go back and explain digital accessibility in the EU is a decision made on EU level, a directive. This is then implemented into national law for each of the countries, which means we have a bunch of different roles in each country so the laws we have in Sweden are different from Finland, Ireland, Germany, and Spain, but we all have the same minimum directives, so the minimum requirements are in the directives.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Sorry, Anna.


>> SUSANA PALLERO: I think that’s something really important. To consider that the directive gives you, let’s say, the floor. You cannot go in your national law below what the directive is telling you to do, but you can go over it, so maybe in a national level, you will have additional requirements or something that is more complex than actually the directive. That is why we are mentioning this and it is important that you address also national laws.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Absolutely. That is why the reason for this also being that when we then go from an EU directive to national law, we have the minimum standard, but we also have the European standard, so the requirements and the framework that we need to work on.

This way, we can actually update the standard more frequently than we can do with a directive or the national laws because as we all know, updating a law takes a lot of time, it’s tedious, and it happens once every 20 or 10 years, but a standard you can work on constantly and making sure it’s updated with technology or new forthcoming trends or user needs that have arrived on the market, so in the European Union, to conform and to be compliant, you look at the standards, not only the actual directive or the national law in that market.

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>> ANNA MALMBERG: I will go through the Procurement Directive, the Procurement Act, as it’s also called. It was updated in 2017 to meet the Web Accessibility Directive, as it’s called. It’s actually a set of guidelines and rules for public procurement. It was purposed so that society and civilians within each country could access public information from municipalities, from anything that’s paid or created or funded with taxpayer money, basically, that you have a right of knowing.

The Procurement Act actually then says, you need, there is a mandatory requirement within that. The Procurement Act is rules and guidelines for a public procurement process, how to buy a website. When you’re procuring a service, if you want subcontractors or suppliers, that you need to make sure that they also follow accessibility requirements. When you’re buying a new, say, a software system for your Internet or a CMS, a content management system, then you would need to appear the regulations on these as well.

It actually states mandatory requirements today and the new thing is that if you’re a competitor, you can actually complain and you can request why was this purchased and what’s the difference? You have the right to attain information as well, so if someone can’t– Even the purchase is made public in simple terms. When it says further tightening in 2025 in connection with forthcoming legal regulations, that I mean the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act because they will be updated so that everything complies and matches each other.

Obviously, the Procurement Act will be updated with that as well. Not sure yet how much or what because the focus is on next year’s legislation with the European Accessibility Act. Covering that public office and bodies and services and municipalities and counties, et cetera, need to be accessible. After that, there was the European Web Accessibility Directive, it came into force. It’s also known as WAD, Web Accessibility Directive as an abbreviation.

The directive mandates that public offices or entities that their websites and mobile applications have to comply with standards so that individuals with disabilities can access and use the digital content and services provided by the public sector because that’s important, that’s a right as a civilian. This includes, for example, government agencies, public institutions and organizations that are owned and controlled or controlled by the governments that provide public service.

To summarise, the Web Accessibility Directive, it came into force 2018 and it’s only public sector so far. Well, it won’t be anything else, it’s just the public sector. It addresses websites, applications, documents and in that, it actually covers intranets, extranets as well or external websites that you need to log into. The Web Accessibility Directive refers to an EN standard, so the EN 301 549 is in bold because it’s the main standard when it comes to digital accessibility, when it comes to ICT services. ICT stands for Internet Communication Technology.

There are lots of national differences between this law as well because it’s a directive so each of our member states have transponded it into a national law and there’s variation. For example, Finland, they’ve already brought banks and insurances into their scope, into the national law. They’ve added onto it. As Susi mentioned before, they’ve got the minimum requirements, but then they’ve updated it as well with even more requirements.

If you’re working as a supplier to one of the markets in the European Union, it’s great to have knowledge of the directives as such but you would also need to find out what’s going on in that specific market. There are specific requirements that are there as well. It’s not that straightforward, unfortunately.

The scope, as I mentioned, the scope is public sector, external websites, intranet, extranet, documents, and apps. There are some exceptions that are good to know, for example, logos, maps, and third-party applications, for example, aren’t actually covered but you still per se have a responsibility when you’re bringing those products or services into your domain, you would still need to, as far as you can make something accessible. You are responsible for that and the presumed conformance, as it’s called. It’s not presumed, it actually is the conformance.

It’s the minimum requirements of the directives stating how things are to be accessible is the technical ICT 301 549, as I said. The EN, it stands for European norm and the 301 549 is just a number. It comes in different versions. The current version is 321 and within this standard, it’s actually a 12-chapter document. It’s a huge PDF or a webpage depending on how you access it.

For each chapter, it covers different areas. It covers software, programming, hardware, but in say, Chapter 9, it actually covers the WCAG, the WCAG. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is incorporated into Chapter 9, and in the current version, it’s 2.1 that we follow within the European Union, and we have AA as a minimum requirement. If you go to Chapter 10 and 11, it also covers document accessibility and EPUB as well as mobile applications.

If you’re working with a React development for an app that you want to do, then it’s really good to refer to that document as well to the EN standard to make sure that you’re doing what you need with biometrics, haptic movements, and so forth because it’s all stated in there as well. How will this work and what do I mean with that? The directive is from the EU, the Commission, and all of the markets have the same directive. We need to report to the Commission and to the UN actually. We report to the United Nations how we are upholding the CRPD within the European Union and then for each market. We actually share a responsibility in each market.

I have a diagram in front of my screen with a process flow that I’m going to go through of the three different large areas and the key elements in both the Web Accessibility Directive and presumably also the European Accessibility Act. What happens is that these three key elements is how the web accessibility is enforced. The first one is the Central National Review. It’s all EU member countries are responsible for enforcement. They have been appointed to a supervisory authority. In each country, we have an authority that says, “You need to do this, we need to know how you’re doing, and you need to report that,” so that we ensure that each country is following the directive.

That governing or the supervisory authority then reports back to the European Commission that says, “We’re doing great or we’re not doing great.” The goal is obviously to improve accessibility in all of Europe and we don’t receive fines because that’s part of the sanctioning. The second element, which is also a key element, is what’s called an accessibility statement. It’s similar to your BPAT, but it’s a declaration where we require public sector bodies to publish information about the status of accessibility on their interface or for their websites, but it’s for the users to understand what works and what doesn’t work and what can they do if something doesn’t perform or they find a fault.

Within the accessibility statement, there actually needs to be– This is the final key element, which is the diagram at the bottom. It’s a bunch of people illustrated that then provide feedback to the institution via the accessibility statement, which is like a document or a webpage. The accessibility statement contains a feedback mechanism. It’s like a small form, for example, or an email function where you can give information to the end user and they can send feedback saying, “This doesn’t work,” but it’s also needed that they can, I’m sorry, I’m finding the word in English. Oh, sorry.

They need to be able to report if something doesn’t work, not to the person responsible for the website, but they can do that to the governing authority in that country. You have an accessibility statement that says how the thing works. If it doesn’t work or if you have a question, you should be able to email the responsible and get received feedback from that, and if it doesn’t work and you just want to report something and you’re not satisfied with the reply, with the help you’re given, you can complain. That was the word I was looking for.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Sorry, Anna.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: There’s a complaint function. [laughs]

>> SUSANA PALLERO: FJ is saying in the chat, say it in Swedish, I’m Norwegian and may be able to translate.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, thank you-

>> SUSANA PALLERO: That’s good.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: -but I remain. It’s a complaint functionality. It’s a good purpose. You can go to any page that is within the public sector in Europe, and you look at the bottom of a website, for example, and you look for an accessibility statement, and that will declare the state of your accessibility. If you have any questions, there’s a form where you can contact the owner and say, “How does this work? I can’t get this to work. What’s the problem, et cetera, et cetera.” If you really don’t like it and it’s not working well, then you can complain to the actual authority in that country who will then be inspected actually and that is where the feedback round goes.

It’s really, really important that we follow the users and the visitors because that’s why we’re doing this. That’s the whole purpose of accessibility. Through these three key elements and the interaction between them, the level of accessibility is raised in Europe. The concept of the accessibility statement is really, really important for public sector, but for any site, I would say. Any questions so far or should we– We’ll wait for those, sorry. I’ll come back.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: There are four amazing questions, but [chuckles] we will answer at the end.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, yes, yes. There are a lot of similarities with the next directive I’m going to talk about which is I think more relevant for a lot of us here today because the Web Accessibility Directive has been in force for quite some time. The European Accessibility Act, here we go. I’m showing my slide. It’s an EU directive, even though it’s called Act. I’d just like to mention, if you’re a company or if you’re a private or a public economic actor with more than 10 employees or a turnover than, I think it’s €2 million, then you’re in the scope. If you’re not, then you’re what’s called a micro-enterprise and the Act doesn’t cover you, so you don’t need to conform, but you should because it’s good too and it’s best practice.

The goal of this directive is to remove obstacles that prevent fair competition because that’s what the EU does, but also to help people to have equal opportunities and to be involved in society. That’s the main purpose, remove obstacles to prevent fair competition because it’s a trade union as well within the EU and obviously, we have equal opportunities to participate on our own terms that we would want as individuals.

The European Accessibility Act comes into force June 28, ’25. Lots of people worry about this. It is very important and it’s actually quite welcome but it means that everyone in society that imports products or services, they will need to be accessible. That means basically most products that we have today in our day-to-day use such as smartphones, banking or e-commerce services will need to be accessible and most of them aren’t today.

The directive aims to improve the trade between EU members, EU countries for accessible products and markets. For example, if you’re a US-based company and you want to sell or export products to Europe, you need to comply. The reason for that is because as I mentioned before, if I use an assistive technology and I buy something from Spain or Germany or Portugal, I expect that when I receive it, it will work because we’re using the same standard. It’s as with programming, if you’re using HTML5, then you’re using HTML5, you’re not making your own newly performed code base.

It’s actually also purposed. There’s a quote that says it all. The quote is, “To maximize the foreseeable use,” and within any product or service, if you can do that, then you’re really following both Design for All and universal design, which is also something that is referred to in the accessibility act. Also, as mentioned before, the act itself doesn’t point to any standard or anything. It just says that we should follow a Design for All approach, and because we’re in the European Union, we need to follow our European standards that we have, that we’ve all agreed on.

The scope for the European Accessibility Act is a lot larger than the previous regulations. It actually covers both manufacturers, representatives, so dealers, importers, distributors, and providers of certain products and services. Very small companies are not included or covered within the directive. For example, just to give you a gist of what, a manufacturer will need to ensure that their product meets accessibility requirements before they sell them in the European market. If they don’t, that product is actually needed to be removed so you will be allowed to sell it.

For example, you need to make sure CE marking, if it’s a physical product or that you need to create a conformity assessment to demonstrate that you’re compliant with accessibility standards. You need to have a roadmap of how you’re building the product and so that you can go back and forth in your product history to see what’s going on and where to align that with.

If you’re an importer, same, you need to verify that the products that you import into the EU comply and that you’re also responsible for ensuring that the manufacturer has carried out the appropriate conformity and provide that contact information on the product or the packaging. There are a lot of small things in between that’s never been done before that we now need to do.

If you’re a distributor, yes, you still need to make sure that the handling of products is good and that you’re not affecting or disturbing the compliance level of accessibility and, of course, making sure that it conforms so that you’re actually selling something that is allowed on the market. Service providers, we need to make sure that necessary adjustments to the services as digital interfaces, et cetera, so the user UI or the usability of them are improved. There’s a lot of things in between.

[pause ]

>> ANNA MALMBERG: That’s first. We have computers, operating systems, and smartphones. That’s basically a laptop with Windows operating system. You have an iPhone or a payment terminal, sorry, self-service terminals, which could be when you’re at a shop, and you’re physically paying for something, you would need that to be accessible, both from a physical perspective, but also as a service as well. You would need to understand it, so maybe adding haptics, I’m not sure of the solution. It would depend on the service, but there’s a lot of determination what that means.

There are also electronic terminals for communicating. That could mean, for example, modems or routers, Internet Transfer Protocol, I think it’s called. Digital TV, it’s basically a smart TV that connects to the Internet that you can watch YouTube on or download apps to, but also e-readers. E-readers, say the Kindle I think comes from Amazon rather than just an iPad.

There’s a lot of difference. It’s everything from an ATM on the street, like the image on the slide, there’s a woman standing in front of a vending machine or she’s buying something from that self-service machine which would need to be accessible as well. A check-in machine at the airport, a self-service terminal at the library or a regular iPhone. Apple’s done a long journey already, so they are very accessible, but it’s very broad.

If we go into the services, which is similar, the definitions of these, I’ve tried to simplify them because each of the bullets as I will read in the directive, they’re actually like a meter long. They’re approximately 25 words to each sentence explaining one thing. What’s in scope for the European Accessibility Act when it comes to services are the following. Electronic communication services, which means video conference system, chat functions, emergency services. Streaming services, I’m sure you understand that, but for example, it could be Netflix or Hulu.

In the field of transportation, digital services, so that doesn’t actually mean the bus or the train, but the service provided for the ticket machine or anything that they do digitally, buying the ticket via an app or booking is also required to conform. Then we have the e-books and software that you put inside the reader that we spoke of in the product side. For e-books, we’re looking at the standard that’s called EPUB here, but it’s not been signed off, but that’s probably the way that it will go, but we’ll see hopefully before the legislation comes into force.

As you understand, we’re still working on it from the European perspective. Then we have a huge chunk of e-commerce. On the broad topics context, even if a physical shop that only sells a small part of their content online, it’s still an e-commerce according to the directive. It could be anything like an H&M or a Zara or anything that you buy online, an e-commerce selling website clothes, so lots to do there.

Then we have consumer banking services. Consumer banking services, e-commerce, they’re actually also named as sector-specific requirements. There’s a lot more in depth in each of these bullets that I’m not going to go into today because there are actually 12 areas within the services that are actually even deeper. but consumer banking services is an online bank that offers, for example, account services, finance information, account details, payments, and so forth. There’s a gray area that I won’t go into, but there’s a discussion on how stock markets and insurance is included in that because it depends on the bank, what they offer, and how it’s integrated into the app.

Moving on, when it comes to conformance for both the area of products and hardware and services, we have what’s called, and I like to call it presumed conformance because we don’t actually know yet. We have general requirements which are stated in the directive for products and for services. Then they are what’s called the sector-specific requirements, as I mentioned, banking, et cetera. These are stated in the directive, so you can read them there. What isn’t stated is the standards because that’s where you will get the technical know-how of how to actually do that.

I’m going to read out which they are. For products and services within the ICT, it’s the EM standard called 301 549. When it comes to Design for All, which is more of a checklist of how to process the requirements, we have a standard in Europe called EM 17161, which is a Design for All standard. Design for All is very similar to your universal design. They have the same core, little variations, but otherwise basically the same.

Then for built environment, like for ATM machines and physical ticket machines, we have the built environment standard, which is 1721 more, but yes, there are more to come. I have a timer that is annoying me, sorry. We also have documents and support that is needed for all of these services and products. If you’re doing something, you need to follow all of those standards, but you also need to make sure that the support around the product or service is accessible so the user can contact you or understand how it’s to be used or if they have a question. Even the support around it needs to be accessible. You need to offer multiple ways of feedback or support, for example, for each of this product or service.

The good thing with all directives and possibilities is that there are clauses within both the Web Accessibility Directive and the Accessibility Act is that you have clauses on what’s called fundamental alteration and or disproportionate burden. I’m going to explain both of them. Fundamental alteration means that when a situation where making the specific accommodation to the service of product, actually changes the product so much in characteristic, it would become a new product. Then you can claim that, “I can’t do this because it’s going to be something completely else.”

You would go about and you would talk to the authority and they would evaluate that with you. If they agree on it, then you would have that disclaimer for some reason or that significant alteration wouldn’t be needed. Disproportionate burden, on the other hand, refers to situations where the cost or the effort required to implement an accommodation would be so excessive or disproportionate in relation to the overall resource. It would just be so much worth it.

For example, if you have a legacy code, if you have a code base that you’ve worked on for so many years and you’ve created your own system support around that, it’s saying that you would need to exchange or update your core, it would be so costly or timely, then it could be deemed disproportionate and you wouldn’t have to do that. It would be not required. There are possibilities but we want things to be accessible. By working with it from start, it’s obviously more sustainable as well. It’s a sustainable code as well.

For all of the mentioned directives, we have what’s called national monitoring. I described that little process with the three key areas. It’s different from market to market, but with the Accessibility Act, it’s going to be enforced by the sector-specific and national monitoring organizations, which I think is a good thing because if just one agency or one authority gets the entire scope, we already have authorities for banking or e-commerce or security, for example, with cryptography and I don’t know all of them, but it’s good to share the knowledge and also share the responsibility, so that’s what’s going to happen within the EU, and of course, there is a possibility of sanctions.

I would like to share that just yesterday I read that Ireland has just stated they’ve brought the European Accessibility Act into their national law, which is called transpondent and they’ve actually written, or the report that I read was that they have up to 18 months of jail for not upholding or not conforming to the Accessibility Act. As you can see, each market and each country within the EU is doing its own thing, which is great, but they all have the minimum requirements of each of the directives.

I’m going to go through just and explain the main standards that we work with when it comes to digital accessibility, and after that, I think Susi will take fourth. We’ve allowed a lot of time for questions because I think it’s better that we allow a dialogue than just us talking. The three directives, as I mentioned, can’t point directly to how to do things, this is how you do things on a technical standard. Instead, they say that we should approach the Design for All standard and as Susi mentioned, they need to be accessible for all. They’re for everyone.

It’s up to us and the Commission to say, “What does that mean?” Within the European Union, as I mentioned earlier, we have agreed on that we will follow the European harmonized standards so that we can have the free trade, we feel safe, and I can buy something from one country to another and they will work, et cetera. That is one of the reasons we don’t point directly to the web content accessibility guidelines, which is a global standard. It’s the core of web accessibility absolutely, and it’s actually also an ISO standard, but it’s international and thus we can’t go to it directly.

What we’ve done instead is that we’ve brought it into the European norm, the harmonized standard, as I mentioned, and we’ve packaged it to the EN 301 549, which is the standard that establishes accessibility requirements for websites, documents, software, hardware, apps for the European region. On my slide, I have a three-point diagram with an EU directive pointing to European law, that then points to the European standard, which actually is that EU legislation always refers to the European standard.

There can also be regional standards, so for each market, there could be variations on this because of previous standards that have come in and they yet have not updated, but they are the presumed or the minimum requirements that are needed. On my slide a three-point diagram with an EU directive pointing to European law, that then points to the European standard, which actually is that EU legislation always refers to the European standard. There can also be regional standards. For each market, there could be variations on this because of previous standards that have come in and have not yet been updated but they are the presumed or the minimum requirements that are needed. EN stands for European norm. There are markets that actually aren’t part of the EU that follow these, Norway, for example, they’ve embraced the European norm because they’re part of the Nordics, but they’re not part of the EU.

Firsthand, when there are accessibility requirements for ICT products, we look at the 301 549. It’s very good to have in hand if you’re working with us. It states the accessibility requirements on all ICT products. As I said, it’s 12 chapters, lots to read. It covers, for example, smartphones. There are images on my screen now, visualizing a user with a smartphone, a person sitting in front of a screen, so the screens are part of this, even the software on the side where zoom or magnification are needed.

A person with a check-in or a kiosk, using that is also part of the directive, and the actual machine when you’re boarding the check-in counter at airports or train stations, and of course, vending machines, as I mentioned before on the previous example. To include all ICT standards, it’s really wide. Digital requirements that we focus on today. It also covers physical aspects and the environment of the product. It’s good. As I mentioned, 9, 10, and 11 are about web documents and software, mostly mobile applications. These chapters are actually a copy of the relevant requirements from WCAG WCAG 2.1 AA.

I have a screen of what the document actually looks like for those interested. It’s a visual of a page inside of one of the chapters where it’s actually Chapter 9 and it lists the success criteria from the WCAG. 9.1 is perceivable. 9.1.1 is text alternatives, and it goes forth. Actually, you can see and you can feel safe that the WCAG is part of this. It’s very, very clear. Each of the sections is also linked if you have the electronic documents with hyperlinks, for example. It takes you to the update.

We believe that this will be updated September this year so that it matches June requirements for next year, but we don’t know. There’s a task force, we’re working full time on this. I’m not sure what the status is as of today. We’ll see what happens on the 28th of June 2025. There is a grace period for certain projects, but I’m not going to go into all the details of how and how long it’s after. There will be a little bit of a gray zone before we receive practices and prejudice on it.

That was all on the legal and the standards that we recommend that you look into.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Okay. If it is expected to happen in September, out of experience, let’s wait, maybe next year. It won’t happen, right?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I think so too.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Okay, so now for finishing. I will be giving you some tips to address those laws and standards, because of course, all the theory is great, but we need to actually put this into reality. Let’s start, first of all, something that is important and that there’s a question about it, applicability. All the countries where someone can buy, use my services or products, I have to comply with the laws of those countries. Especially for huge companies that have different branches and so on, they need to comply with all the laws of all the countries.

First of all, we need to understand what the directive or the different national laws or regional laws are requesting. That would answer the question, “What do I need to comply with?” Once I know that, I have that information, I will set the standards that will be, “How do I technically achieve that?” In that, we could have like two different scenarios. One would be that we have a law that refers to a standard. It would be EN 501, it could be WCAG 2.1, even WCAG 2.0, that is the case of the Argentinian law.

Sometimes you will have these general laws that are anti-discriminatory, such as the ADA, but in that case, I will refer to the last published official standard that would be in this case, WCAG 2.2. There, what we do, we set the standard. Remember let’s say, that in one country, we don’t even have laws, accessibility laws. What happens in that case? If that country subscribes to the declaration, the universal declaration of human rights, they may have other tools in order to enforce and make these human rights. You could ask for demanding a violation or whatever. You can use those tools because remember, the first thing we said, it is a human right.

I don’t necessarily need a digital accessibility law to be able to ask for this human right to be complied with. Now, what the next thing we will do, we will list the products and services that must be compliant. Of course, the idea is that we have everything we have, externally and internally in our companies must be compliant. Of course, we will prioritize in order to comply with the laws. We will prioritize those products and services that are part of the scope of the laws. Don’t take this as, “Okay, once I comply with the law, I don’t need to keep working.” No, no, no. We start there because we want to avoid legal risk. Then we move and keep going to all the parts of the organizations.

Number four, what are we going to do once I know what I need to comply with, how I must do it? I list the products and services, then I run an audit. What does it mean? It’s a test. It is a comparison. I will compare how my product and service is, and I will compare it against the standards, and see, am I compliant with this point or not. That is an audit because I already have a standard that is external and I test my product against this standard. That’s why it is called an audit. We address the gaps that would be the issues, and we remediate those issues or create a remediation plan.

Sometimes it is better to wait if I am about to redesign my page, for example, if I am going to refactor my page in the short term, then I might start from zero with accessibility, that always is the best scenario than remediating. Importantly, you must achieve accessibility but you need to maintain accessibility, and sometimes it is one of the hardest parts. Learn from those gaps, learn from those issues, and see your software development cycle to the left, like see when it starts in the very beginning of design, what are those things that I didn’t consider and that made my product inaccessible in the first place.

We will learn from those issues and of course, then we must integrate these new activities, this new knowledge, these things that we need to do, our team needs to do, because it is a team effort that different people should be addressing and adding these new activities to maintain and to improve accessibility because the standards are the floor of accessibility, not the ceiling. We will start by addressing standards but we will try to elevate that and go one step beyond and make sure that usability is part and that experience is a part of what we’re offering to all of our users.

We integrate that, don’t try to integrate everything in one day, just do it slowly, do it at the pace that the culture of your organization allows you to, don’t get frustrated. It is something that won’t happen overnight.

Now we’re closing. Finally, this has been a really big cognitive load for such a short time but let’s close with some things that it is important that you take away from this talk. Digital accessibility is a human right, it is a habit, it is not something you do once, it’s something that you do now and you adopt forever. It is a team effort, you don’t have to be the superhero. It is super important to understand that technological discrimination is a form of poverty and social exclusion. When we deprive a part of citizens of essential resources to develop and generate wealth, it’s when we create these inaccessible products.

121 million people in the world do not have access to the internet. For those who have access to the internet, 99% of our digital products right now are not accessible.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I can share that, Susi, that in the European Union, statistically, there are 135 billion people living with a disability. There’s a lot, it’s about every 20th.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Meanwhile, and especially after the pandemic, essential services and educational and employment opportunities migrate more and more to digital spaces every year, digital space that is doing nothing to be more accessible. Making digital environments accessible has a direct consequence on the quality of life of people. It is important that we know that everything that we do, if we do it accessible, we are changing someone’s life, that here, the ones that we have the privilege to create the digital world, we have the power to do it, to give access.

Finally, a quote that I love from Steve Jobs, that says, “Technology is nothing, what is important is that you have faith in people. -and if you give them tools, they do wonderful things with that.” You are the ones creating those tools, have faith in people, do it, it’s better done than perfect. Most of all, our intention for today was to give you a tool to do this digital world more accessible, and now, go and do wonderful things with that. Thank you very much.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I’d like to end with a slide because this is something that we really believe in. There is no such thing as the average user. It comes from a lot of studies and user testing with personas that everyone makes and it’s a trend, but there’s no such thing. No one’s alike with the same needs. Ending with that.

Back to you, Amber, for questions. I’m happy to bring on. As I agree with Susi, there are a lot of interesting questions there.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: There are a lot of questions, actually,–

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, a lot of questions but they’re good questions. I love them.

>> AMBER HINDS: This has been a phenomenal presentation. Thank you. Hopefully, we can work through all of these questions. I’m going to go in order, but I’m going to skip the first one and come back to that one at the end because I want to touch on things related to the presentation first.

Marsha was asking if the directives apply to AI. I feel like you probably give a whole presentation on AI, but what do you think?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: There has just recently been passed a directive on AI within the European Union. I think it came in January so it’s still quite fresh. It will absolutely do that because of inclusivity needs. There’s the bias that we need to take care of. As of today, I’m not aware of any regulations or anything on such for standards, but I know that we are working on it. [inaudible] [crosstalk] answer that.

>> AMBER HINDS: I can imagine though if you’re using a chatbot, that in particular, that would fall under the communication directives.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, but not only the service itself, but actually the AI and the algorithm behind that. Say if you were using an AI functionality with an HR recruitment service, the AI may not understand a diversity of facial expressions or the user, because of impairments of disability, may not also understand the AI expression. I think we’re going back to beginning of 1980s with maturity of AI. People, computer interaction, and needing to learn from there.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Something else is that, well, in the States, it is already a requirement because the ADA says everything must be accessible for everyone, so it is included. It is important to consider those technical limitations because there are still technical limitations to new technologies. The same thing happens with XR, I think that someone asked something about it.


>> SUSANA PALLERO: Yes. That is another thing that we must consider when it’s technically impossible to do something in order to comply because the law cannot request you to do something that is impossible. Another important thing is that, of course, AI right now is fed by data that comes from an accessible digital world because people who need accessibility cannot interact with the very same products that take that data. It is pretty biased right now.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes. They would need to be fed a preamble of lots of information first. We’re not there yet. That’s what I mean. We’re still Stone Age cavemen with AI, I think. My opinion.

>> AMBER HINDS: Isla asked, what happens when you comply on the EU level, but you fall short on certain national laws? Who has the say when a conflict occurs?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: It is the national law that is the minimum requirements that you need, but the national law is the one that you need to conform to. Unfortunately, you would need to look at that, even though you’re meeting the minimum requirements of the directive.

>> AMBER HINDS: I’m assuming you would need to follow the national laws for any nations where you do business.


>> AMBER HINDS: If you don’t sell to Ireland and you don’t have any employees in Ireland or anything like that, then you don’t have to worry about Ireland, but if you’re in Germany, you got to do Germany, that kind of thing?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Exactly. Yes.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Something that is important also is that when you comply at the regional level and then you don’t and at the national level, proving that you address the regional one, can be interpreted as good faith. It’s not that you don’t want to comply with accessibility. You have been actively working in accessibility, you are still developing. Of course, you cannot say, “I don’t know the law, it doesn’t apply to me.” It doesn’t work like that. What could happen is that maybe you won’t get, let’s say, for example, a sanction. Maybe you will get a warning, like, “You have like one year to comply now with the national laws,” or something like that. It is better than not complying with any directive or law.

>> AMBER HINDS: A follow up on that, Isla had asked a little later was, “If a business is in the United States and is selling to the EU in 2025 and their website is not accessible, what is the chain of events? Would their website be blocked? What do you think might happen?”

>> ANNA MALMBERG: It’s not a European website per se, but if they have the support functionality or supports or service for that product or web service that they have, then they would need to comply. If it’s a product and they’re not meeting the chain requirements, then their product would be taken off the market and they would receive some kind of fine or a sanction.

>> AMBER HINDS: Basically, the chain would be a citizen of one of those countries might complain through an official complaint form, and then the government would investigate and contact the company if necessary.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, that’s what we’ve understood. As we said, it’s not in force yet, but everyone’s trying to agree on the same things.

>> AMBER HINDS: On that note, on the complaint process, David had asked, is the complaint process that Anna mentioned across the entire EU, do you have any links to documentation that explains that requirement?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, it depends on the market. What the Web Accessibility Directive says in the accessibility statement, there needs to be a feedback form and a complaint statement. That differs slightly from market to market. It could be generalized. The complaint goes to the monitoring authority in that market. There’s always an authority that’s regulating and making sure everyone’s doing the thing. The complaint goes to them and then the authority will inquire and investigate.

>> AMBER HINDS: The complaint may be more at a regional or a national level versus one complaint for everywhere in the US.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: National; it’s national, yes. I can’t specify which, but I know of some markets that have a different process where they send in the accessibility statement to the authority rather than publishing it on the website. A slight variation, but on the main, it’s sending it back to the authority.

>> AMBER HINDS: Okay. On that note, I like how we’re just setting you up. Marsha had asked, “Are the accessibility statement formats consistent across countries?”

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, I hope so.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Accessibility statements don’t have a mandatory structure, let’s say. Of course, you have to have some specific information there, but if you comply with that, you can add more information or just comply with those points. I highly recommend there’s a template in the W3C page, go there and use that as a minimum, and you can add more information after.

>> AMBER HINDS: Our accessibility checker plugin, also when you install it in WordPress, it creates a draft page that’s based on that template that you can go and edit. An accessibility statement isn’t really a legal document. Sometimes you’re legally required to have them, but it’s not like a contract or terms of service or something.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Exactly, yes. It’s a declaration.

>> AMBER HINDS: You have a little more freedom in how you word it.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: It’s very useful for our users because there I can tell them what is the level of conformance to the different features in my page. If I’m planning to improve something or by a given date, I will fix something, so they know and they know what to expect.

>> AMBER HINDS: On the other side of reporting issues, Neil had asked, “Does the EU recommend a particular VPAT?” Is it just the international VPAT?

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Yes, VPAT Version 2.0 is the one pointed out in the EN 3. 0.1. It would be VPAT 2.0.

>> AMBER HINDS: Then David had a question about how will vendors show they are compliant with the EAA? Is that just the accessibility statement and a VPAT or is there something else that needs to be done?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: A vendor is in the e-commerce? It depends on the product and service as well because it’s different.

>> AMBER HINDS: It’s going to depend on the kind of business?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes. I would go with Susanna’s [inaudible] what is the problem, what is the service, and what’s needed to do there for each of them. There’s no yes or no on that question.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: If you as a vendor, let’s say, you want to show that you’re compliant, then you can have a VPAT that is up to date. You can have an audit and use it as proof that your product is accessible.

>> AMBER HINDS: If you work at a university or some entity and you’re doing procurement, you would want to ask for a VPAT? Is that what you recommend?

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Yes, that’s it. That’s the best practice for procurement to ask for a VPAT.

>> AMBER HINDS: Okay, great. Marsha had asked, do some products get to the marketplace without conformity? If so, how are they inducted?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Complain, support, and then removed or revoked depending on the– Yes.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: I like the first part of the question, “Do some products get to the marketplace?” Yes, 98% of them actually go out to the market. Right after you have the feedback from your users, “This is not accessible.” We’re kind of at time, but I do have captioner for a little longer. Are you okay with doing some of these quickly? Does that work for both of you?



>> AMBER HINDS: If anyone else has to hop off, we will have the recording with all the questions so you can come back and just listen to the end if you want to or listen to the whole thing. Okay, let’s see. A question from David for the scope of the EAA. “I believe that it mentions that it covers computers and operating systems. What about business-to-business software or software that a company uses to run its business? Do you have any clarification on what software is in scope?”

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I love that question; business to business. It’s like this big hole.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: That is one of the most asked questions about EAA. Well, EAA is not clear about B2B, actually but my personal opinion is that it is a little bit of a paternalistic way of addressing people with disabilities because they are not perceived as the business owners, the people who need that kind of digital products. If you want to change the world, we need to start addressing that. Even if it’s not–

>> AMBER HINDS: Like an accountant can be blind– The accounting software needs to work for blind people too, right? Is what you’re saying.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, exactly.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Also even if it’s not in the scope of the EAA, that doesn’t mean that it’s out of the scope of the law. Because if you have other laws that take care of the rights of people with disabilities to work, in that case, you have to have accessible software for your business because you must be able to hire people with disabilities. It is important to know that maybe something is not in the scope of EAA, but it might be in the scope of other laws.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Absolutely because in the European Union, we’ve got regulations and directives on discrimination. Age and disability are two points of those. We have the rights of being employed so that you can fulfill the rights of employment and so you can perform your actual work. As Susi says, there’s other conformity that we should uphold, even though it’s not business to business.

>> AMBER HINDS: You might have touched on this already, but just a quick reminder, how will the EU Accessibility Act be enforced? In other words, how is it ensured that the directive is complied with? I’m just wondering if that’s at the nation level.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: That will be the national monitoring, that little loop of the three areas. There will be some kind of national, and it’s still being put into place into the different countries. Some have it already in place, but generally, you have an authority that will monitor and govern. It could be a shared responsibility or it could be the one. They will report back to the European Commission, as we do with the web accessibility directives. We’ve had reports, I think, is it three or every five years? I’ve forgotten. I’m sorry.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Definitely five.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: We do report back on the status. From that, we get new recommendations of tactics or actions or research that we need to do to improve the accessibility level in the European Union.

>> AMBER HINDS: Great. I’m going to skip–

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Sorry, I wanted to add something else.


>> SUSANA PALLERO: Other things that states do to enforce is sanctions, of course, but most importantly, public policy. I love this quote from [inaudible] that was said by Lainey, I highly recommend her, in the Axe-con talk she gave. It says that the legal framework gives us permission to dream what is possible. It will tell us what would be the ideal world, like, “Well, everything must be accessible.” Awesome. That’s the law. The law doesn’t create reality per se. How do we change our culture, people, organizations? Well, for that, usually states create policies and through policies. We will see a lot of that in the next years. Different resources that we can learn about, different actions, events, and things from the states in order to help people comply with the EAA.

>> AMBER HINDS: I want to skip down to Marisol’s question about, do you know a list of the countries that it says transponded the act to local laws? Is there a good place to find all of these laws?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, I was going to say, I will email you a bunch of further reading and links because the European Commission has gathered– all the directives are actually published in English, Easy Read, and also in each of the national languages. The national law will be published in English and the local language. The directive is also translated into the various union market languages. They’re free. They’re in HTML, PDF, and one other format that I don’t remember.

>> AMBER HINDS: Wonderful, yes, if you send those links–

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I will also send out the standards as well for resources.

>> AMBER HINDS: That would be great. We’ll include them with the recording for everyone. Dean had asked, “Do you have any information about Article 32 of the EAA? 2025 to 2030 seems to be a bit of a gray area. Do you have any thoughts on this?”

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, he’s talking about the grace periods for implementation of the various regulations or when it comes into force. It’s binding from June next year but because of the product’s physical placement or cost, for example, ticket machines all over Germany for trains, that’s going to take a long time to update all of the machines for a physical aspect to the required accessibility height and length and width. I’m not sure of the physical requirements as such. The grace periods are usually for those really hardware, physical products until 2030. Some are even until 2045 for the long-term ones.

I think for 2025 to 2030, there usually is a little bit of a gray period because we need to enforce the law, then we need to understand what it actually means on a local level. How we will enforce it and what is needed to be done is still a little bit of a gray zone. Even with the Web Accessibility Directive, we had a gray zone before we could work on it. I think now, only five years later, we’re more on track.

>> AMBER HINDS: Do you feel like this grace period is more applicable to physical accessibility versus a website?

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Not really. I think in comparison to the cost and nature of the product or service. If you have a mobile app, you would be expected to update that. The same with a phone. Within your next deployment, you would probably need to consider the accessibility needs if you’re developing a new keypad or such. I think it’s more in parallel to what the type of product or service is. Do you have anything else on that one, Suzy?

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Yes. One of the critics around that is that then we have a risk of 2025 not being perceived as a hard deadline. It is important to understand that it applies to all of the services or products created prior to the 2025 deadline. Technology usually moves really fast. It might be really difficult in 2030 to have something so old still going on. If you have to do it again, if you created that after 2025, then it must be accessible and comply with the AA.

>> AMBER HINDS: Leonie had said it’s going to be tough to comply with all the individual laws since the laws will be published and effective at the same time in 2025 because some are ahead and some haven’t. My thought on that, and I’m curious if you have the same, is start now and just strive for WCAG. Maybe that will put you in a good place, at least as a baseline. I don’t know if you have any other thoughts on that.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I agree. Yes. Minimum requirements are always going to be a good start. They are best practice today. You will get a long way with that.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Yes, because at the end of the day, what the law is trying to do is enforce accessibility. If your product is actually accessible, then it will be in some way compliant with all the laws.

>> AMBER HINDS: Great. I’m looking through, I’m trying to figure out– Some of these I feel like we’ve covered a little bit. The electronic communication services include AI chatbots. I think the answer on that was just yes.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, and chatbots. Doesn’t have to be AI, but chatbots also.

>> AMBER HINDS: Then Robert had asked about how the penalty works. I think it’s going to be different on every nation. You’re going to send some resources or maybe links on where we can find that information.


>> AMBER HINDS: I don’t know if you have anything else to add in the minute.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I think the penalties will be on national-level sanctions through the monitoring agencies. I haven’t heard of a specific general sanction. Not to my awareness.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: In the last weeks, I think, or months, a big airline had a penalty from its state.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Yes, Vueling.

>> AMBER HINDS: That’s a fine?

>> SUSANA PALLERO: They got a fine that was not that big. Actually, they got a fine. I think it was €90,000. That is not a lot for a huge airline like that.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: For an airline.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Until they are not accessible, they cannot access benefits from the state. That would be things they cannot submit to. There are different discounts they may have in the taxes. Different other things they get. Actually, they publicly accepted that that part was harder and more damaging than the actual fine.

>> AMBER HINDS: If you were getting grant funds or tax credits, then you might lose those too?


>> AMBER HINDS: That’s interesting. Then, of course, you mentioned the Ireland law, which I had to go tweet because that’s the first time I’ve heard that jail time.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: It was a post by Nomensa. I think he shared it. I think it was a TPDI. I’ll look into it and send you the link also.

>> AMBER HINDS: I think I can also post. Mircelle just posted a link in the Q&A, which I’ll put over in the chat for everyone about that particular airline. We are at time with our captioner. I think we’ve mostly covered what was in this. Can you all give a quick– like if someone wants to follow up with you or get in touch with you or find you on social, what’s the best place?


>> SUSANA PALLERO: LinkedIn, yes.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: Funka, LinkedIn, or just Anna Malmberg.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: I will leave my handle there. You can find me like that or @SusanaPallero. You can find me on LinkedIn.

>> ANNA MALMBERG: I’m the same there.

>> AMBER HINDS: Funka is just funka.com.


>> AMBER HINDS: Great. Thank you, both, so much. This has been phenomenal. I know I learned a ton and I’ve seen a lot of great chat messages from everyone. We very much appreciate you sharing your expertise. I’m just going to wait for the captions to catch up and then I will end this. Everyone have a wonderful day.


>> ANNA MALMBERG: Thank you and thank you for being here. It was great.

>> SUSANA PALLERO: Thank you.

>> CHRIS: Thanks for listening to Accessibility Craft. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe in your podcast app to get notified when future episodes release. You can find Accessibility Craft on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, and more. And if building accessibility awareness is important to you, please consider rating Accessibility Craft five stars on Apple podcasts. Accessibility Craft is produced by Equalize Digital and hosted by Amber Hinds, Chris Hinds, and Steve Jones. Steve Jones composed our theme music. Learn how we helped make 1000s of WordPress websites more accessible at equalizedigital.com.