By Matthew Greener, Accessibility Specialist
Thursday, May 19, 2022, marks the 11th anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion globally and how important accessibility is to the more than one billion people worldwide with disabilities. New Editions is proud to sponsor the Social Impact award this year at the ICT Accessibility Testing Symposium and present the award to Jennison Asuncion for his work and co-founding GAAD. As Accessibility Professionals in the United States, we are well aware of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AAA and Section 508 Standards, but we should be mindful of other disability laws/standards across the world, especially as we want to encourage Global accessibility. One of those standards is the European Accessibility Laws (EN 301 549).
EN 301 549 is a standard of digital accessibility for all information and communication technology that has been implemented in 28 European Union member states, three European Free Trade Association countries (Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland), and two European Union candidate countries (Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). The standards focus on users who are blind, have low vision, are colorblind, are Deaf or hard of hearing, cannot communicate vocally, have limited hand strength or limited reach, or may experience seizures. EN 301 549 incorporates WCAG 2.1 AA standards for Web content and expands its application to documents and non-web software (such as native mobile applications).
EN 301 549 allows the European Commission to enforce accessibility policies across Europe and applies to public sector bodies, but the law also influences the private sector. Vendor companies selling products and services to the public sector have to ensure that they comply to the new regulation. Every European organization requires that products and services comply to the EN 301 549 standard.
There are an estimated 70 million persons with disabilities in Europe. Utilizing EN 301 549, companies can offer products and services that are conformant in all European nations. The standard also produces motivation to create accessible products and services. While adhering to EN 301 549, businesses can focus on new European target demographics that they may not have reached otherwise.
The standards can be downloaded from https://www.etsi.org/.
For a list of GAAD events across the world, go to https://accessibility.day/events/.