The EU Web Accessibility Directive: What Is EN 301 549?

EN 301 549 stipulates the requirements that governmental institutions in European nations are supposed to fulfill to ensure that all informational resources on their web platforms are equitably accessible by every citizen.

While EN 301 549 bears a lot of similarities to other Acts of law meant to enforce web accessibility in other nations, it has a unique component. This is because EN 301 549 includes a provision for accessibility to biometric features by people living with disabilities.

This helps to ensure that even as developers continue to integrate biometric technology into security processes, people living with disabilities are able to easily navigate those procedures as well.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

In order for the EU Web Accessibility Directive to be enforceable and legally-binding , there is a specific set of guidelines that provides a metric for determining whether an organization is in violation of Accessibility requirements or not. Just like the Accessibility Disability Act (ADA) in the USA, the EU Directive uses the internationally recognized WCAG.

A Metric for Assessing EN 301 549 Compliance

The EU web directive stipulates that businesses, organizations, and governmental institutions have to meet WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. Using these internationally recognized guidelines as a metric for compliance helps to achieve two things;

  • Public entities are able to know how accessible their web resources are and how much more they need to do to make sure people living with disabilities can optimally access, navigate, and interact with their web platforms.
  • Ensuring that there is uniformity in the levels of the web accessibility of different international, governmental, and non-governmental organizations. This makes cooperation and collaboration easier and more time and cost efficient.

For institutions’ web platforms to be considered accessible, they must fulfill the following parameters;

  1. Be perceivable; Users of different abilities should be able to adjust web settings to enable them access and interact with web resources in their own individual capacities e.g, adjustable font sizes, ability to enable captions, e.t.c.
  2. Be operable; All users should be able to navigate websites and web content by having the option to use assistive technologies.
  3. Be understandable; Users should be able to easily comprehend the web content as well as the functions of web features so that they can extract value from them.
  4. Be robust; Assistive technologies and user agents must be able to effectively interpret web content for optimal service to people of all abilities.

Impact of EN 301 549 Compliance on Businesses

  • While the EU directive is primarily meant for ensuring web accessibility in the public sector, it has a direct impact on businesses. This is because if a private sector entity wants to conduct business with a public institution, its products have to be accessible as well. As such, a business stands to have better business outcomes when trying to work with the public sector if it is also compliant with web accessibility guidelines.
  • Business organizations that are compliant with EU Directive and UK accessibility guidelines have a larger potential customer base that includes people living with disabilities. This is because people of all abilities are able to access their products thereby increasing their sales volume. Consequently, compliant businesses are able to realize higher revenues which noncompliant businesses may not be able to achieve.
  • Because web accessibility is anchored in law and therefore enforceable, noncompliance with the EU Web Accessibility Directive and UK Accessibility Act spells legal consequences for a business. If a business is does not meet the stipulated accessibility standards, it is liable to fines and penalties. These fines represent loss of valuable funds that may have been allocated to more productive endeavors.
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