European Accessibility Law may not become UK Law post-Brexit

A picture of a man dressed in a top hat with Brexit on it draped in an EU flag. He is holding banners but text cannot be readThe European Accessibility Act is all set to create an equal digital landscape for older and disabled people.

There are an estimated 80 million Europeans with disabilities, and over 190 million older people.

Brexit means we may need to subtract from those numbers those who happen to be living in the UK. 

What is the European Accessibility Act?

The Act aims to “remove and prevent barriers for the free movement of accessible products and services.” 

It will also create standards. Currently, an example of divergent rules is the case of web accessibility, where Member States use different versions of the W3C/WCAG guidelines.

Countries will have three years to enshrine it in their local legislation, followed by a further three years to put it into full effect; ensuring that it is monitored and enforced.

Who will benefit from the Accessibility Act?

It’s a win-win situation. Businesses will benefit from standard rules on accessibility in the EU leading to costs reduction, easier cross-border trading and more market opportunities for their accessible products and services.

Persons with disabilities and the elderly will benefit from: more accessible products and services in the market, accessible products and services at more competitive prices,  and fewer barriers when accessing transport, education and the open labour market.

There will also be more jobs available where accessibility expertise is needed

What does this mean for UK businesses?

Now here’s the rub. Resulting from a freeze on the automatic adoption of any new EU directives post-Brexit, the European Accessibility Act may not be brought into UK law. 

We’ll face the bizarre situation where companies creating products for Europe will need to meet higher standards abroad than in their home market.

The freeze doesn't, however, mean that accessibility will slip down the corporate agenda.

As the Act points out, in 2020 approximately 120 million persons in the European Union will have multiple and/or minor disabilities. 

AbilityNet offers a range of accessibility services to ensure your business is inclusive, and to give you a competitive edge

Picture of a rolled five pound noteBusinesses that don't embrace the purple pound will miss out, as revealed by Scope at last year's TechShare Pro.

Similarly, the recently published ClickAway Pound report reveals that online retailers who don't embrace accessibility could be missing out on £17.1 billion of potential revenue.

That's £17.1 billion compelling reasons for a business to embrace accessible standards.

Learning accessible lessons from the rest of the world

Accessibility needn't be a casualty of Brexit. Implementing legislation is only one means of tackling the barriers created by people and organisations who don’t consider accessibility & inclusive design when building digital services & products. 

Our panel at last year's TechShare Pro conference offered a perspective on this question from around the globe - including the US, Europe, Israel and Norway.

Listen to the TechShare Procast podcast to hear the session. (Transcript available to download).

Are UK citizens with disabilities or impairments of less value than their European counterparts? Add in the mix the fact that inclusive products are more accessible for everyone to use, and it’s easy to predict that Digital UK Plc will lose its competitive edge along with any moral standing it may have had. 

Listen to technology regulations expert, Heather Burns, discuss how the Brexit timing has put paid to the European Accessibility Act becoming UK law...(download transcript)


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