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Understanding International Digital Accessibility Laws

Explore the key international digital accessibility laws shaping how organizations worldwide make digital content accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Ensuring that web content and services are accessible to all, including those with disabilities, is not just an ethical imperative but also a legal requirement in many countries. This blog explores the major international digital accessibility laws instrumental in creating a more inclusive digital environment. From the Americans with Disabilities Act to the European Accessibility Act, these laws play a pivotal role in guiding businesses, governments, and organizations on how to make their digital platforms and content accessible to everyone. 

What is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? 

Before we can dive into the different accessibility laws worldwide, it’s important to first discuss the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Many digital accessibility laws have adopted the WCAG, which provides a set of recommendations designed to make web content and mobile apps more accessible, primarily for people with disabilities. Developed through the W3C process, the guidelines aim to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. 

WCAG is organized into three levels: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). These levels provide specific guidelines and success criteria with increasing degrees of accessibility.  

What are the Major International Digital Accessibility Laws? 

United States  


European Union (EU) 

The following international accessibility laws apply to EU member states. 

  • European Accessibility Act (EAA): Sets common accessibility requirements for key products and services like smartphones, ATMs, e-commerce, and transport services, aiming to ensure better access for the elderly and people with disabilities. This Act was adopted in 2019 and is set to be applied by 2025. 
  • European EN 301 549 Standard: Specifies the accessibility requirements necessary for information and communication technology (ICT) products and services to ensure they are more usable for people with disabilities. 


  • General Accessibility Reference Framework for Associations (RGAA): Provides specific guidelines and tools to ensure digital accessibility, particularly for public websites and applications, to comply with the French Law 2005-102. This act is regularly updated to align with evolving standards and technologies, with the latest version referencing WCAG 2.1. 


United Kingdom 

  • The Equality Act of 2010: Makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities and requires companies to make reasonable adjustments to their websites to make them more inclusive. While the Act requires reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination, explicit requirements for digital accessibility are not detailed in the Act but are often interpreted through guidelines and legal outcomes. 
  • Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations: Requires public sector websites and mobile apps to meet specific accessibility standards, including WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines, and publish accessibility statements detailing their compliance. 
  • British National Standard (BSI 8878): Framework and set of guidelines designed to assist organizations in integrating accessibility into web products. It provides a step-by-step accessibility guide that focuses on user-centered design and ensures inclusivity from conception to launch. 


  • Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act: Requires that all enterprises’ digital solutions, including websites and mobile apps, be accessible to people with disabilities. It makes accessibility mandatory to enhance equality and prevent digital discrimination. 


  • Israel Standard (IS) 5568: Requires government agencies, the public sector, and most businesses and nonprofit organizations to meet WCAG 2.0/2.1 digital accessibility standards. 


New Zealand 

  • New Zealand Human Rights Act: Prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including disability, which can be interpreted to include ensuring accessibility in digital platforms to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Organizations are encouraged to follow best practices in digital accessibility.  
  • Web Accessibility Standard 1.1: Mandates that all public service and non-public service agencies ensure their web content conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA.  


  • Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act: Mandates that private organizations provide digital resources that reasonably accommodate people with disabilities. Although they don’t specifically cite the WCAG guidelines. 


  • Japanese Industrial Standard X 8413-3 (JIS X): Provides guidance for public- and private-sector organizations on complying with WCAG standards 2.0 Level AA. Conformance is required for public sector organizations, but voluntary for private sectors organizations.  


Other International Laws and Agreements 

  • Marrakesh Treaty: Facilitates the production and global exchange of accessible formats of published works (books and other printed formats) for individuals who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled. This treaty was administered in 2013 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and adapted or ratified by over 120 different countries worldwide. 
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD): Focuses on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities and includes specific articles (Article 9) that address the accessibility of information and communications technologies and systems. 

Best Practices for Complying with Digital Accessibility Laws 

  1. Implement WCAG Guidelines: Adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and aim for at least WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance. 
  1. Involve Stakeholders Early: Engage stakeholders including legal advisors, IT professionals, designers, and importantly, users with disabilities, in planning and testing phases. 
  1. Shift Left Testing: Integrate accessibility from the beginning of the design process with shift left testing. This ensures that accessibility is a core component of the design rather than an afterthought. 
  1. Conduct Regular Audits: Perform regular accessibility audits. Use both automated tools and human testers, particularly those who use assistive technologies, to identify and fix accessibility barriers. 
  1. Train Your Team: Train your team and implement a digital accessibility checklist to your web or app content creators, developers, testers, and managers.  
  1. Create Accessibility Statements: Publish an accessibility statement on your website, outlining your commitment to accessibility, provide details on the accessibility features of the site, and give information on how users can request assistance or provide feedback on accessibility issues. 
  1. Focus on Universal Design: Adopt universal design principles to design interfaces and content that are flexible and accommodate various user preferences and abilities. 
  1. Monitor Legal Developments: Stay informed about the latest in accessibility laws and guidelines through legal advisories, industry groups, and accessibility advocacy organizations.  

Conclusion: Complying with International Digital Accessibility Laws 

International digital accessibility laws set the framework for creating an inclusive digital landscape. These laws encourage organizations to adopt universal design principles and comply with guidelines like WCAG to enhance accessibility. 

Staying informed about these laws and continuously applying their standards can significantly impact the inclusivity of digital content. Complying helps organizations avoid legal repercussions, improves customer satisfaction, and promotes a positive image. By prioritizing accessibility, businesses and public entities can ensure they are contributing to a more equitable society.