The European Accessibility Act (EAA) will soon require consumer-facing digital content and services to meet extensive accessibility standards. While this landmark legislation presents challenges, savvy marketers should be ready to embrace accessibility as an opportunity to improve experiences, uncover insights, and future-proof their brand. With some forethought and effort, proactive accessibility enhancements can act as a catalyst for marketing innovation.
Much like the GDPR, the EAA will have an influence far broader than the EU, in that all websites that can be accessed by EU citizens will be affected.
Understanding the European Accessibility Act
Entering into force in June 2025, the EAA establishes mandatory accessibility requirements for key products and services identified as crucial for independent living and full participation in today’s digital society. The act aims to harmonize accessibility standards across the EU, avoiding a fragmented approach across different member states.
For marketers, the EAA’s scope extends beyond websites and mobile apps to encompass:
- eBooks, digital documents, and e-commerce platforms
- Self-service kiosks and digital signage
- e-ticketing for events, transport, and entertainment
- Digital services enabling access to essential sectors like government, banking, and healthcare
These digital assets must adhere to the four core accessibility principles, POUR:
Perceivable – Information is available through modes beyond visual text, such as audio, icons and machine readable metadata. This benefits those with vision or cognitive limitations.
Operable – Components allow navigation and interaction without triggering seizures or other reactions. This aids those with motor impairments.
Understandable – Messaging is clear and straightforward without complex language or jargon. This assists users with cognitive disabilities.
Robust – Full compatibility with assistive technologies like screen readers. This is crucial for blind users..
Public sector organizations face earlier conformance timelines starting in June 2025. Private companies have flexibility based on their size. However, non-compliance brings financial penalties and reputational damage.
Turning Requirements into Opportunities
To gain strategic value from accessibility efforts, your marketing efforts should already be adopting an innovation mindset that views requirements as opportunities rather than obligations. Flip the script, and consider how enhancing accessibility can:
- Expand audience reach to the over 80 million people with disabilities across the EU. Creating digital experiences that meet their needs is inherently more inclusive.
- Drive creativity by moving beyond just text to use graphics, videos, and audio to engage all users with multimedia messaging.
- Increase understanding through clear, simplified copy conforming to strong readability standards. This benefits people with cognitive disabilities while also improving general usability for all your users.
- Build loyalty and trust by demonstrating a brand cares enough to ensure seamless compatibility with assistive technologies like screen readers. Your users feel valued, not excluded.
- Provide valuable user insights by collaborating directly with people with disabilities. Their perspectives and feedback lead to better design across your entire portfolio.
- Gain a competitive advantage over brands delaying or only doing the bare minimum for compliance. Proactive efforts position companies as leaders.
- Mitigate legal risks such as financial penalties under the EAA. Non-compliance also risks damage to a brand’s reputation.
A Strategic Roadmap for Inclusive Digital Marketing
June 2025 is going to be here sooner than you think. Here is a roadmap for how marketers can tap accessibility enhancements for innovation:
1. Audit digital assets against EAA criteria using online automated checkers to identify gaps. Focus on fixes, budgeting appropriate time and resources.
2. Adopt agile content strategies producing reusable content components for omnichannel reuse. Flexible content is easier to rework for diverse formats.
3. Collaborate with developers on technical fixes to meet standards like WCAG 2.2 and WAI-ARIA. Specific techniques include semantic HTML, keyboard navigation, and alternative text. Do not rely on overlays.
4. Work with writers on simplified, straightforward copy that increases understandability for all audiences. Use readability metrics to guide improvements.
5. Build an accessibility user testing panel including people with diverse disabilities. Let their real-world experiences shape design and content decisions.
6. Work with your creative team to explore new multimedia content formats including charts, audio, video and graphics to make messaging more lively and engaging.
7. Audit and adjust advertising and marketing automation for greater flexibility in changing font sizes or colors and reducing animation.
8. Update e-commerce platforms for screen reader support through ARIA tags, alt text, removing time limits, and optimizing checkout.
9. Conduct staff training on inclusive design principles and accessibility best practices to raise awareness on why this benefits users and the brand’s values.
10. Plan regular re-testing of digital assets even after launch to catch issues. Accessibility requires continual iteration as technologies evolve.
Examples of Accessibility Driving Marketing Innovation
- Global clothing brand H&M redesigned its website with accessibility in mind, specifically for the visually impaired and added other accessible features. This expanded reach and set an example for other fashion brands.
The Path Forward
The EAA makes clear that digital accessibility can no longer be an afterthought. To extract real strategic value, brands must embrace inclusive design as an opportunity to engage wider audiences, gain user insights, and make meaningful progress in representation.
With vision and commitment, proactive accessibility enhancements can act as a catalyst for marketing innovation. When designed properly from the start, digital experiences that work for everyone have limitless potential and will improve your bottomline.
The EAA’s impact will also likely spur accessibility advances worldwide. As global brands adapt for the EU market, consumers everywhere will discover the benefits of more inclusive digital experKey Resources:
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/
The A11Y Project accessibility guides:
The views expressed herein are personal and do not reflect the views of any of my clients, partners or employers.
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