Digital accessibility is a broad topic, and requirements impacting digital accessibility for product companies can come from many sources.
Some jurisdictions have specific accessibility laws relating to consumer products – this includes the EU Accessibility Act (Directive (EU) 2019/882). The European Accessibility Act covers things like:
- Digital products including consumer general purpose computer hardware systems (and operating systems) including but not limited to desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets; consumer terminal equipment with interactive computing capability, used for electronic communications services or for accessing audiovisual media services; and reading lights; and payment terminals and certain self-service terminals such as ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines and interactive self-service information kiosks;
- Digital Services including electronic communications services; access services to audiovisual media services; certain elements of passenger transport services; consumer banking services; electronic books and dedicated software; and e-commerce services.
Businesses should also consider digital accessibility requirements that may arise from:
- Laws relating to specific sectors or functions (for example, impacting the provision of public services, the military, education and health care).
There has been a paradigm shift in consumer expectations and behaviors in response to perceptions of a company’s ethical framework. Consumers turn away from companies that don’t uphold the values they do and seek out those that do. Across all markets, consumers are also increasingly aware of the various issues of diversity, equality and inclusion, which naturally translates into a change in consumer attitudes. As “Ethical Purchasing” gradually gains momentum across all regions (with Europe and North America currently the most advanced), businesses must follow suit and align with changing demands. and the needs of their consumers.
Let’s take a closer look: what’s happening in the APAC region?
Legislative efforts on digital accessibility have mainly focused on public sector organisations. While there are apparent and tangible benefits and opportunities in tapping into the market of consumers with different accessibility needs (i.e. broadening the consumer base, improving the image business, etc.), delivering a more accessible digital infrastructure to consumers is not straightforward given the costs and resource allocations. At present, private sectors in APAC have generally not yet invested heavily in enhancing the accessibility of digital platforms as a whole. One could generally say that the region lags behind the developments we see in Europe and North America. Private sector companies that are already implementing digital accessibility often do so by aligning with their own global initiatives: that is, APAC subsidiaries follow where global headquarters leads. That said, those companies that increase accessibility early are likely to reap the rewards in terms of an expanded user base and a growing global focus on accessibility and inclusion. Kudos to the game changers.
A look at the EU: progress towards digital accessibility
Businesses outside of APAC often focus their thinking on digital accessibility, especially as legislators increasingly push for minimum digital accessibility requirements for manufacturers or vendors. This is illustrated for example by the Web Accessibility Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/2102) which has been in force since 22 December 2016 and aims to provide people with disabilities with better access to websites and mobile applications of public services, and by the introduction of the European Accessibility Act, which had to be transposed by 28 June 2022 by EU member states.
A snapshot of the United States on digital accessibility
Digital accessibility is a priority for the Federal Communications Commission, given the steady increase in digital products and services, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In early 2022, the FCC announced an update to its filing on accessibility rules for video programming. Specifically, the FCC has indicated that it will seek to amend or pass new legislation to update the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (the CVAA). This was confirmed more recently by the FCC which sought public comment on two aspects of the CVAA:
- seeking public comment on the meaning of the word “interoperable” in the context of “interoperable videoconferencing services”, which the CAAC requires to be accessible; and
- In soliciting comments on interim findings, the FCC has compiled comments submitted by public/private interest groups on the accessibility of telecommunications/communications services provided for in the CVAA.
We expect further refinement of the CVAA following public consultations from the FCC, and possibly new legislation regarding digital accessibility in the latter part of this year, as we move forward towards 2023.
What three things should companies focus on when it comes to “digital accessibility” needs in the coming years?
- Consider committing to universal design principles – The concept of universal design affirms that everything should be designed to be accessible not only to people with various disabilities, but generally to the widest possible range of people. Companies are encouraged to create websites and other digital platforms in accordance with this principle. For example, allowing consumers to enable an anti-seize feature on a website to eliminate flashes and reduce vivid colors on the screen. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium1 and the guidelines issued in the various jurisdictions serve as references.
- Use local resources – Although compliance with specific digital accessibility standards is generally not a legal obligation for private companies in some regions, government entities often take the initiative to disseminate good practice guides, seminars and information services. audit to support and encourage the private sector to adopt digital accessibility. practices: and this has happened in the APAC region. For example, the Office of the Government Information Officer in Hong Kong offers free technical workshops to help companies comply with best practices for making their digital platforms accessible and runs a recognition program to show appreciation to organizations that do it successfully.
- Think from the perspective of your consumers – Very often, the main ingredient of a successful business strategy is the willingness to adapt to consumer needs. Businesses are encouraged to consider the perspectives of consumers with disabilities when developing digital infrastructure. Consider consumer needs, utilize new innovations and technologies, and ultimately run your business ethically.
How can Hogan Lovells help you?
Hogan Lovells is uniquely placed to help companies think through digital accessibility. Hogan Lovells has a long history of advising key players in the digital economy on a wide range of issues, from monitoring legislative processes to lobbying (including on digital accessibility). We have an impressive knowledge of the intricacies of various requirements to enable us to provide solution-oriented advice to our clients. We are at the forefront of helping to bring innovative products to market – and digital accessibility has become a priority for many of our customers.
This item is part 1 of a series of articles, which examine the development considerations and legal challenges that companies must take into account when creating and launching a new technology product or service. We’ll take an in-depth look at the key issues that affect companies bringing innovative products and services to market and explore specific factors to consider before product launch, including accessibility, product liability, privacy and data protection. , product safety, supply chain, antitrust and intellectual property.