Breaking Down Barriers

An Overview of the European Accessibility Act and Its Implementation Across the EU Countries (Ireland and Germany)

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is an EU Directive 2019/882 established to improve accessibility across member states for people with disabilities. Enacted with a focus on accessibility standards throughout the European Union, the EAA’s aim is to enhance access to a broad range of products, services, and infrastructure, particularly benefiting the over 80 million individuals in Europe affected by disabilities.

The EAA targets both public and private entities and covers sectors with a special emphasis on digital products and services, including e-books, e-commerce, computers, smartphones, TV equipment, and banking services. By setting out specific accessibility requirements, the EAA focuses on key aspects like usability, understanding, and perceivability, ensuring that products and services are designed to be inclusive for people with disabilities, such as visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive impairments.

One of the primary objectives of the EAA is to remove barriers within the internal market, making it easier for companies to offer accessible products and services across different countries. It also strives to promote full participation in e-commerce, new technologies, and societal engagement.

In addition to improving accessibility, the EAA is seen as a driver for innovation in the digital market. By mandating accessible design, it encourages the development of new technologies and solutions that cater to a broader audience, including those with disabilities.

The Irish Implementation

Recently, the EAA has been implemented into Irish law through the “European Union (Accessibility Requirements of Products and Services) Regulations 2023” (the Regulation). It is an important legislative step towards achieving greater accessibility and inclusivity, reflecting Ireland’s commitment to uphold the principles of the EAA within its national context.

The goal of this Regulation is to reduce barriers for people with disabilities and promote inclusivity and participation in various aspects of social and economic life, including e-commerce and digital services.

The Regulation provides ways to monitor and ensure compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This includes potential penalties for non-compliance, aligning with the broader EU directive’s approach to enforcing the EAA.

This Regulation in Ireland assigns the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) as the market surveillance authority for product compliance of e-books and dedicated software and e-commerce services, and other bodies such as the Central Bank of Ireland for banking services. Furthermore, the Regulation empowers the CCPC and other compliance authorities, for other service, to enforce compliance, including issuing direction to businesses.

Consumers, with support from public bodies or private entities, can initiate legal actions against non-compliant businesses.

Section 32 of the Regulation lists penalties for non-compliance, which includes a class A fine (€5,000) or up to 6 months imprisonment for summary convictions, and up to €60,000- or 18-months imprisonment for indictments. Companies and their officers can be held accountable.

The Regulation is an important step towards achieving greater accessibility and inclusivity, reflecting Ireland’s commitment to upholding the principles of the EAA within its national law.

Overall, the EAA represents a significant step towards creating an inclusive and barrier-free environment across the European Union, aligning with broader principles of equality and non-discrimination and fostering a more inclusive digital economy.

 The German Implementation

The German Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz (BFSG), the Barrier Free Act – enacted in 2021, and in force from June 28, 2025 – is the national implementation of the EAA on accessibility requirements for products and services.

BFSG applies to private market businesses, covering manufacturers, importers, retailers, and service providers. It addresses products such as operating systems, smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, and services like telecommunications, passenger transportation, consumer banking, and e-commerce.

Under the BFSG, products and services must be accessible in a way that they can be detected, accessed, and used by people with disabilities without assistance. This includes providing access via two of three senses: hearing, sight, and touch. Each state in Germany will set up an authority to check compliance with the BFSG. This body will have powers to prohibit or restrict non-compliant products and services.

German consumers and associations can file complaints with the market surveillance authority and may litigate against administrative decisions denying their requests. The penalties for violations can result in fines of up to €100,000. Non-compliance also opens businesses to warnings and cease-and-desist claims from competitors and consumer protection organizations under the German Unfair Competition law.

In summary, the BFSG represents Germany’s alignment with EU-wide accessibility standards, setting clear rules for businesses to ensure their products and services are accessible to people with disabilities, with significant penalties for non-compliance.

The UK Position.

In the UK, meeting accessibility standards is a legal obligation for both public and private sector organizations, especially when considering that one in five people in the UK live with a long-term illness, impairment, or disability. This definition of disability, which encompasses “physical or mental impairment with substantial and long-term negative effects on normal daily activities,” now includes long COVID.

Failing to ensure accessibility compliance in websites, apps, and physical premises could result in claims of unlawful discrimination and damage to reputation. Furthermore, the obligations regarding accessibility cover both physical aspects (like accessible buildings) and digital presence. The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 imposes more stringent digital accessibility requirements on government bodies compared to the private sector. Moreover, the Equality Act 2010 (Equality Act) requires service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” for people with disabilities, applicable both online and offline.

The UK Equality and Human Rights Commission enforces accessibility requirements and has issued a detailed Code of Practice. Non-compliance, in the public sector concerning website and mobile app accessibility, can lead to violations of the Equality Act.

Additionally, UK businesses that engage with customers in the European Union must comply with the EAA, leading many to adopt EAA standards across Europe, including the UK.

Looking ahead, the UK is likely to witness increased focus on online service accessibility, driven by technological advancements and the development of various accessibility tools. Despite no significant upcoming changes in UK accessibility legislation, compliance with the EAA’s requirements for cross-border trade is expected to promote greater accessibility compliance in the UK. Investing in accessibility aligns businesses with unmet customer needs and enhances their reputation as socially responsible organisations.


The EAA and its implementation across these countries marks a significant advancement in the pursuit of an inclusive, barrier-free society. It encourages innovation, drives economic growth, and, most importantly, empowers millions of people with disabilities, allowing them equal opportunities to participate in all aspects of life. As technology continues to evolve, it is imperative that accessibility remains at the forefront, ensuring that no individual is left behind in our rapidly advancing digital world.