The European Accessibility Act was approved by the European Parliament in March 2019. It aims to increase the availability of products and services that are accessible to people with disabilities. The full legislative text is available on this European website, but we’ll summarize them by asking five questions.
1 Why is accessibility important for the publishing industry?
Since eBooks are considered a service, those active in the publishing industry need to make sure they produce their digital publications in accessible formats. This involves considering the entire supply chain (retailers, e-commerce sites, hardware and software solutions, online platforms etc.).
All products and services placed on the European market after June 2025 need to comply with the new accessibility standards. For more details you can visit this article:
2 What disabilities does the Act cover?
In line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), the Act considers as persons with disabilities all those who have ‘long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may impede their full and equal participation in society’. So disabilities are not defined purely by each person’s individual conditions but by their interaction with their social environment, which may ease or obstruct active participation in society. The European Accessibility Act aims to encourage book-trade professionals to work together to reduce such barriers and facilitate the inclusion of people with disabilities.
3 What are the benefits?
The Act aims to benefit all those who struggle to access information, products and services because of their disabilities. Businesses will also benefit because it sets common rules on accessibility in the EU, which points to a cost reduction (different companies will not need to adapt their materials to each European country’s legislation). The Act will also provide more marketing opportunities as it makes cross-border trading easier.
4 What does ‘accessible format and services’ mean?
Essentially it means that the information, instructions, interface design and any digital communication should be made available via more than one sensory channel, in an understandable way, presented using adequate fonts and font sizes, and with adjustable spacing.
For more details, you can visit the Appendix of the main text:
5 Am I facing a long journey?
Changing perspectives and practices is a big (and necessary) challenge for any market, and the publishing industry is no exception. 'Fundazione Lia' is an Italian non-profit organization that promotes accessibility in the publishing field and offers various online resources, including an accessibility check, online training and manuals. For example, in this link, the foundation provides digital ‘tools for born accessible publishing’: https://trello.com/b/BoOoVOse/tools-for-born-accessible-publishing.
If you are looking for more inspiration, in the following video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDH6h0vU4xs&t=17980s (minute 5:00:00) you can also watch the Frankfurt Fair 2021 Panel "Accessibility Now: Will you be ready for the European Accessibility Act in 2025" where Cristina Mussinelli, Secretary-General of Fundazione LIA, explains the main points of the European Accessibility Act in a few minutes and stresses the importance of embracing accessibility as a mindset. You can also find the 2021 Ceremony of the 2021 ABC International Excellence Awards, and two examples of good practices in accessible publishing (Minute 5:19:30) with the testimony of Rachel Comerford (Mcmillan Learning) and Laura Grady (House of Anansi).