Europe's Digital Accessibility Landscape
Key Developments and Strategies

By Pierre-Henri Seynave

A converging Multifaceted Landscape: Europe’s approach to digital accessibility differs significantly from the US’s, with its stricter enforcement. But if Europe presents a varying legal framework that is constantly evolving and influenced by national cultures, it is now converging.

The European Accessibility Act (EAA), signed in 2022 and enforceable from June 28th, 2025, broadens the scope of the public sector websites and internal systems. Now, the private sector, with companies exceeding €2 million turnover, must comply. Additionally, a wide range of digital products falls under the act, encompassing computers, smartphones, their operating systems, ticketing and check-in machines, Digital Television services, Passenger transport services, Banking services and E-books as E-commerce platforms.

Culture Shapes Compliance

Behind the expansion, we should not overlook the fascinating interplay between national cultures and the adoption of accessibility inside organisations. Countries prioritising diversity and inclusion, like the UK and Sweden, lead the charge with high accessibility levels for companies. Their legal frameworks on digital accessibility are firmly rooted in non-discrimination principles. Holland and Spain follow closely, where inclusive social models foster respect for the law, resulting in good accessibility levels. In Spain, the national lottery, whose name means “National Organization of Blind Spaniards”, has been financing accessibility initiatives across buildings, products, and the Internet since 1938.

However, the picture isn’t uniform. Countries like Italy, Germany, and France currently exhibit a lower to moderate level of digital accessibility. While the European Directive has been in place, compliance hasn’t been universally embraced. Here, disability is less readily integrated into the business environment, and legal frameworks tend to lean towards a medical or charitable approach from the government. For governments, this situation is changing with growing recognition of the economic burden of disabled people’s exclusion. Governments are realising the potential to shift this high cost into an economic opportunity that represents the autonomy and inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.

Learning from International Leaders

Interestingly, international companies have often taken the lead in accessibility efforts, thanks to subsidiaries operating in countries with more advanced regulations like the US, Canada, and the UK. This experience underscores the importance of international or at least European-level governance to stay ahead of evolving national legislation. Such an approach allows companies to adopt best practices anticipating the EAA deadline.

Beyond Compliance: Embracing Usability

True success in digital accessibility goes beyond mere compliance. It’s about ensuring usability for users with extreme needs. A high compliance score is commendable, but a single barrier in an e-commerce checkout can ultimately hinder a disabled customer’s ability to complete a purchase. Compliance isn’t the ultimate goal; genuine usability is.

The Power of Inclusive Design

Usability requires good design. Leading companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google actively hire accessibility experts and advocates with disabilities to develop inclusive features. Their commitment has cemented their position as accessibility pioneers. Others, like, collaborate with external partners to rigorously test and research the needs of extreme users. With an estimated 135 million people with disabilities residing in Europe (source World Health Organisation), this population represents a double opportunity: one of the largest untapped market segments and the largest population of potentially talented candidates for IT and digital.

The key to accessibility lies in inclusive design, or “design for all.” This philosophy emphasises involving people with disabilities throughout the design process (“nothing about people with disabilities without people with disabilities”).

Building Bridges for the Future: Key Principles

  • Prioritise By Design Accessibility: Overlay solutions are tempting but unreliable. Accessibility is an ongoing process, not a project or a one-time fix. Plug-ins can only address a fraction of legal requirements.

  • Focus on Usability: Aim beyond compliance to create a genuinely usable user experience.

  • Recognise Existing Efforts: Many companies already possess a baseline level of accessibility. Good design principles often align with accessibility criteria and benefit SEO and mobile-friendliness.

  • Long-Term Vision: Accessibility should be a core consideration throughout the entire build and run lifecycle.


In essence, accessibility isn’t just another compliance checkbox. It’s a powerful driver for good design and improved performance. By acknowledging the needs of “extreme users,” we can not only remove barriers for this crucial segment but also uncover pain points that benefit everyone.

For more information, please reach out to Pierre directly < click here >

Be the first to know about our latest offers

by subscribing to our newsletter.

Europe's Digital Accessibility Landscape
Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter
3 May, 2024
Share this post
Sign in to leave a comment
IT Business Partner Vs. Product Manager
What's different and what's common between the roles?