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The European Commission (EU) is currently at work developing digital accessibility guidelines focused squarely on mobile apps.

In April, the EU issued Mandate 554, which instructed the European Standards Organizations (ESOs) to develop digital accessibility standards for public sector websites and mobile apps. The mandate builds on last year’s EU Directive on Digital Accessibility, which called on EU member states to make their websites and mobile apps accessible.

While prior EU standards—notably EN 301 549—set non-binding guidelines for public sector websites, this mandate goes further. In addition to creating binding standards, M/554 also includes mobile apps.

Like the EU Directive on Digital Accessibility, the mandate envisions the specifications will be based on relevant industry standards, such as the World Wide Web Consortium’s WCAG 2.0. The mandate expressly adopts WCAG 2.0’s four principles of accessibility:

  • Perceivability,
  • Operability,
  • Understandability, and
  • Robustness.

In addition to general rules about website accessibility, the mandate also asks the ESOs to consider two additional things about mobile apps:

  • The particular technical and conceptual circumstances of mobile devices, and
  • How the accessibility provisions in EN 301 549 would apply to mobile apps.

According to Susanna Laurin, CEO of the accessibility firm Funka, however, developing technical specifications for mobile apps is complicated, as no European standard exists and the ESOs have had difficulty agreeing on how to move forward. Thus, it may be quite some time before mobile app specifications are finalized.