Ireland Digital Accessibility Laws: EAA and Beyond

This article provides information about accessibility laws and regulations, but is not legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues or problems.

The European Union’s (EU) European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a central piece of legislation for defining requirements for the accessibility of private sector products and services, including for Ireland’s 640,000+ disabled individuals (1 in 7 Irish citizens).

Now adopted into Irish law, the EAA is expected to play a central role in defining digital accessibility requirements in the country for many years to come.

In this article, we provide an overview of the EAA in Ireland, the law’s key provisions concerning digital accessibility, and how it relates to the broader landscape of Irish accessibility laws.

What is the EAA? The Path to An Accessible Ireland

Originally adopted in 2019, the European Accessibility Act seeks to establish common rules for accessibility across the European Union, protecting the rights of disabled people while simplifying compliance for businesses that operate across the EU’s 27 member states.

Importantly, the EAA extends accessibility requirements to private businesses. Requirements for public institutions (and organizations that wish to do business with them) were previously established by EN 301 549, the European Standard for Digital Accessibility.

The EAA covers a variety of products and services deemed most important for disabled persons, ranging from e-commerce to video streaming to e-readers. Our article takes a deeper look at the general background and provisions of the EAA.

When does the EAA take effect in Ireland?

The EAA required EU member states to pass legislation aligning each nation’s laws with the EAA by June 2022 and subsequently implement conformant practices by June 28, 2025. This initial implementation will be followed by periodic reviews to be completed by 2030 and every five years thereafter.

Ireland missed the original 2022 deadline, but has since officially implemented the EAA into Irish law via the European Union (Accessibility Requirements of Products and Services) Regulations 2023.

While the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) will oversee compliance for all products within the scope of the law, a broader set of regulatory authorities will oversee compliance for various digital services. For example:

  • Electronic communications services will be overseen by the Commission for Communications Regulation.
  • Accessibility for audiovisual media services will be overseen by the Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s chief broadcast regulator.
  • E-books, software, and e-commerce services will be overseen by the CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission).

Under Ireland’s EAA adoption legislation, the National Disability Authority is specified as the designated advisory organization to assist compliance authorities in managing EAA requirements.

What are the penalties for non-compliance with the EAA?

The EAA is a directive that does not directly establish penalties and depends on implementation and compliance monitoring by member countries.

In Ireland, designated compliance authorities are empowered to direct businesses to comply with requirements and may establish designated processes for individuals to take legal action against allegedly non-compliant organizations. Penalties for breaching requirements may include:

  • A fine of up to €5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months in case of a summary conviction.
  • A fine of up to €60,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 18 months in case of an indicted conviction.

If a defendant can prove that they exercised due diligence, this may be a defense against the breach of requirements, and Irish businesses will benefit from working to proactively improve the accessibility of their websites and other digital assets.

How does the European Accessibility Act relate to other Irish digital accessibility laws?

Ireland’s adoption of an EAA–based accessibility law is the latest development in a series of disability legislation. Important laws pertaining to different aspects of digital accessibility in Ireland include the Disability Act (2005) a keystone law complementing earlier protections established in the Equal Status Acts (2000-2018) and Employment Equality Acts (1998-2015).

The Irish National Disability Authority provides a comprehensive list of all legislation pertaining to disabilities in Ireland here.

The 2005 Act empowered the National Disability Authority to establish a Code of Practice for meeting the law’s legal obligations. This code ultimately recommended the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level AA standard.

You can learn more about WCAG in our guide here.

Ireland Digital Accessibility: What is required under the EAA?

Designed to align standards across the EU, the EAA establishes that products and services conformant with the standards published in the Official Journal of the European Union will be assumed to be EAA compliant. The European Commission has issued a request for agencies to develop more detailed standards in support of EAA.

However, the EAA has not provided technical accessibility standards at this time. We anticipate that the European Accessibility Act will most likely follow EN 301 549 in adopting WCAG Level AA as its compliance standard.

The EAA exempts organizations with fewer than 10 employees and annual revenue under €2m (two million euros). Products and services may also qualify for an “undue burden” exemption.

Learn More About EAA Compliance and Beyond

The clock is ticking toward the June 28, 2025 deadline, and organizations will benefit from working proactively to ensure that their websites and other digital assets are accessible to all. Doing so is not only necessary to conform with EAA, but helpful for ensuring that your organization’s message can reach the broadest possible audience.

If you need help achieving EAA compliance by 2025, TPGi is here to help. Our EAA resource center is a great place to start, featuring webinars, accessibility testing solutions, and other tools designed to help organizations improve their approach to digital accessibility.

If you are looking for an in-depth educational resource, we invite you to download our Essential Guide to the European Accessibility Act, which provides a detailed trail map to help guide your team forward on their accessibility journey.

Categories: Accessibility Strategy, Legal, World of Accessibility
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