The European Accessibility Act sets a common accessibility baseline for publishing ebooks within the European Union member states.

Publishers, with some exceptions, will be required to meet these requirements starting in 2025.


The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is the colloquial name for Directive (EU) 2019/882 2 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the accessibility requirements for products and services.

The act was created in response to the commitments assumed by the European Union (EU) in ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Its goal is to harmonize accessibility requirements across various products and services most important to persons with disabilities, in particular ebooks.

Prior to the introduction of this act, publishing ebooks in the EU required dealing with a patchwork of national accessibility laws. The act addresses this pain point for publishers by establishing a common accessibility baseline based on the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The act was introduced in 2019 and member states had until June 28, 2022, to enshrine this law into national legislation. (Most members have now enacted such laws, but review the current implementation status of each for more information.)

Publishers have a phase-in period to begin producing accessible ebooks that ends on June 28, 2025. After that date, publications must be accessible, with some exceptions, as noted below.


The conformance requirements for ebooks are defined in Annex I Section IV of the EAA, specifically:

(f) E-books:

(i) ensuring that, when an e-book contains audio in addition to text, it then provides synchronised text and audio; 7.6.2019 Official Journal of the European Union L 151/103 EN

(ii) ensuring that e-book digital files do not prevent assistive technology from operating properly;

(iii) ensuring access to the content, the navigation of the file content and layout including dynamic layout, the provision of the structure, flexibility and choice in the presentation of the content;

(iv) allowing alternative renditions of the content and its interoperability with a variety of assistive technologies, in such a way that it is perceivable, understandable, operable and robust;

(v) making them discoverable by providing information through metadata about their accessibility features;

(vi) ensuring that digital rights management measures do not block accessibility features.

The key clause we will review is (iv), which states that the content must be "perceivable, understandable, operable and robust." Anyone familiar with WCAG will already be aware that these are the same four principles it uses to categorize the needs of users. The similar language is not a coincidence. If you go to paragraph 47 of the act, it defines the purpose of each principle in the same way as WCAG.

Although this generally informs publishers they need to follow WCAG, the EAA is not specific about what conformance means (i.e., what version of WCAG and what level). Instead, you have to follow a couple of references to related directives.

The first comes in paragraph 47 itself, which, in defining the four principles, says they are the same as defined in Directive (EU) 2016/2102. That Directive in turn states in paragraph 37 that: the relevant clauses of European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04) should be considered as the minimum means of putting [the] principles into practice.

Only when you reach EN 301 549 are the minimum version and conformance requirements spelled out. As EPUB is web content, the requirements detailed in Section 9 apply, which according to the latest version of EN 301 549 requires conformance to WCAG 2.1 at Level AA.

Publishers should therefore consider WCAG 2.1 Level AA as the minimum they need their ebooks to meet to be conformant with the EAA, but this is subject to change as the relevant directives are updated. Keeping pace with latest version of WCAG is always strongly advised and is a key recommendation of the EPUB Accessibility standard.

The other ebook requirements cited above are also covered if you create EPUBs that conform to the EPUB Accessibility standard at WCAG 2.1 Level AA:


Refer to the EPUB Accessibility - EU Accessibility Act Mapping document produced by the W3C's EPUB 3 Working Group for more specific details about how these clauses are met.

The only requirement not directly met by conforming to the EPUB Accessibility standard is in clause (vi). The requirement that digital rights management (DRM) measures not block the accessibility of ebooks cannot be enforced by the EPUB Accessibility standard since DRM is normally applied by vendors (i.e., it is out of scope of content authoring).

As the EAA is broader in application, including to the providers of bookstores, the act can make DRM non-interference a requirement. Checking the interoperability of DRM with assistive technologies is typically not a concern for publishers, however, unless they are also directly distributing their publications to users with DRM (i.e., they sell through their own bookstore). This is why it is generally safe to say that EPUBs that meet the requirements of the EPUB Accessibility standard at WCAG 2.1 Level AA also meet the requirements of the EAA.


Although the EAA is intended to apply to all ebooks, it does include a limited set of exemptions where production would represent an undue burden for publishers or would require them to change the content such that it would alter the basic nature of the work.

The specific wording of these exemptions is as follows:

Although the act allows an exemption for disproportionate burden, it should not be read as absolving the publisher of making any effort to make their content accessible. There may be a criterion or more of the act that cannot be met, but the publisher should still make all reasonable efforts to meet the rest of the requirements. (Refer to paragraph 72 of the act for more information.)


Claiming a disproportionate burden requires that a publisher meet the criteria set out in Annex VI of the act.

What would allow a publisher to claim a fundamental alteration exemption for an ebook is less clearly defined. This page will be updated whenever evidence of how publishers are using this exemption becomes available.

Be aware that claiming any of these exemptions requires publishers to carry out an assessment to prove their legitimacy. Although microenterprises are exempt from documenting their assessments, they may be requested by regulators to provide the facts that led them to claim the exemption.


The W3C Publishing Maintenance Working Group is expected to soon publish new metadata for EPUB that allows publishers to express exemptions in the package document (an a11y:exemption property). A link to the document will be added once it is available.

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