DEV Community

Emma Dawson
Emma Dawson

Posted on

The European Accessibility Act != EN 301 549

I read a lot of blog posts about accessibility where people confuse the European Accessibility Act and EN 301 549 as being the same thing. While they both have roles in improving levels of digital accessibility, they are not actually the same. I'll admit it's something that confused me for a long time too, so I wanted to write about the differences.

What is the European Accessibility Act?

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a European directive.
Directives tell the 27 individual countries within the European Union (EU) what goals they must achieve and by when. Then each EU country has to create their own national laws that implement the goals of the EU directive.

The European Accessibility Act is converted into 27 national laws. In some countries this means writing entirely new laws and in others they add it to their already existing accessibility laws. The deadline for these laws to be transposed was 28th June 2022 and the deadline for implementation by (most of) the affected products and services is 28th June 2025.

The goal of the European Accessibility Act is to harmonise the level of accessibility across certain products and services within Europe, meaning anyone with a disability in Europe can expect a certain minimum level of accessibility wherever they are. It is also meant to promote a free market between any of the 27 member states by removing barriers that have previously been created by each country having their own differing laws.

What is EN 301 549?

EN 301 549 is a European technical standard of digital accessibility. It was also developed several years before the EAA was written.

It was originally designed for public procurement processes for digital services and products. This means it sets out actionable ways to meet the digital accessibility requirements for public sector services such as government organisations.

EN 301 549 incorporates the level A and AA criteria from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 standard into it. However, EN 301 549 includes other requirements on top of WCAG 2.1 that also need to be implemented in order to be considered accessible such as obeying user preferences for things like dark/light mode and font size.

Standards are easier to update compared to laws which is why many laws refer to specific standards. This means standards can be kept up to date with evolving technology. In the case of EN 301 549, this means it will probably update from WCAG 2.1 to WCAG 2.2 in the near future.

By fulfilling the requirements of a standard you, in turn, fulfil the requirements of the law.

So how do EAA and EN 301 549 relate to each other?

By now you might be thinking that the European Accessibility Act refers to the EN 301 549 standard. Fulfil EN 301 549 standards and you fulfil the requirements of the EAA. But funnily enough, the European Accessibility Act makes no mention of EN 301 549 at all.

However, a previous European law, the Web Accessibility Directive, which is targeted at public sector such as government bodies, does make reference to the standard.

Therefore, it is widely anticipated that EN 301 549 will also be the standard used to measure that any products and services falling under the new EAA live up to accessibility requirements set out in the directive. It would be impractical to have two separate standards to measure digital accessibility.


The European Accessibility Act is a legal directive that EU member states must implement into national law, while EN 301 549 is a technical standard likely to be used to measure compliance. They are distinct yet complementary.

Though it's unclear whether all or just parts of EN 301 549 will be required to meet the goals set out by the EAA, it's a safe bet to start improving your websites by adhering to at least the WCAG 2.1 A and AA criteria. This proactive approach will help ensure compliance and enhance accessibility even before the law comes into force.

Top comments (2)

corinamurg profile image
Corina: Web for Everyone

Thank you Emma! This was much needed (I'm also guilty of thinking they were the same thing - embarrassed face emoji)

emmadawsondev profile image
Emma Dawson

No need to be embarrassed, it’s not easy to know when they seem to be used interchangeably. It took me a couple of years to really work out the difference