Enabling Digital Accessibility – How to Make Your Website User-Friendly and Improve the User Experience for Everyone

Enabling Digital Accessibility
Source: Unsplash/Viktor Forgacs

Accessibility in all areas of day-to-day life is not only demanded by those affected by disability – it is increasingly becoming mandatory. It is also a topic that is more present than ever in the design and implementation of digital services. This is a long overdue development from which companies can benefit in two ways. In addition to helping people with disabilities, the accessible design of digital systems also has positive effects for all other users. The general usability – and thereby the user experience – is improved.

Find out in this article who will need to provide accessible websites in the future, what this means and what to look out for.

Digital Accessibility: Sooner or Later It Will Affect All of Us

On the web, accessibility means making it possible for everyone to use your digital services. These could be websites, apps or digital documents. They should be perceivable, operable and usable for everyone. To ensure this, it is necessary to adapt not only the purely visual aspects but also the functionalities of your digital services. This way, people reliant on tools such as screen readers, for example, will also be able to use an app or website without restrictions.

In addition to people with a visual impairment, it can also be a challenge for hearing-impaired people as well as those with cognitive and motor impairments to navigate the digital world. Yet the proportion of the population who are impaired in some way is high: Almost one in ten Germans live with a severe disability. Another 13.04 million are impaired in other ways. Additionally, there are people who are only temporarily impaired as a result of an accident or other situational circumstances.

This graphic shows how the topic of accessibility can impact us all at one point or another:

Digital Accessibility Microsoft
Source: Microsoft Inclusive Design

This sounds relatively complex in theory and is no less challenging in practice. However, addressing accessibility is not only an important factor on a social level, but has also become crucial to the success of your e-commerce website.

Digital Accessibility Made Binding

In 2019, the European Accessibility Act was passed – an EU directive that lays down specific requirements for accessible design. In Germany, this has already been implemented with the Act to Strengthen Accessibility (Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz, BFSG). The accessibility requirements must be met by 28 June 2025.

This will be the first law to oblige private companies to offer accessible products and services, especially in the digital sphere – and this will have an impact on all e-commerce transactions for consumers.

Two years is not a lot of time to implement everything required by the Act to Strengthen Accessibility. Therefore, it is never too early to start thinking about how you can meet the 78 criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to which the Act to Strengthen Accessibility refers. The implementation of the law will be monitored. If you do not meet these criteria by the deadline, you may be faced with a sizeable fine. It is even possible that you will no longer be allowed to offer the service in question.

Digital Accessibility: Getting Started

But how does accessibility on the web work? Where are the stairs that not everyone can climb?

To begin, ask yourself this: What hurdles does your online shop or website pose to your target audience? The most frequently occurring issues have been the same for years.

The 6 Most Common Hurdles on Websites

  • Low contrast text (83.9%)
  • Missing alternative text for images (55.4%)
  • Empty links (50.1%)
  • Missing form input labels (46.1%)
  • Empty buttons (27.2%)
  • Missing document language (22.3%)

A UX audit geared towards accessible design or usability can reveal many pain points and help improve things in the long term – and also guarantee improvements for users without disabilities!

Together, you can develop a strategy and set a timeline to comply with the previously mentioned accessibility laws, to meet the relevant DIN/ISO standards for inclusive design and to implement the recommendations of the Web Accessibility Initiative. It is best to start with the low-hanging fruits – measures that you can implement quickly and easily.

For example, your website’s editorial team can take care of the alternative texts that are necessary for images. Furthermore, you can change the size or colour of your texts using simple Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Fundamental code changes or extensive modifications by your development team need more long-term planning. The food supplier bofrost*, for example, used its already planned relaunch to ensure a customer journey with as few barriers as possible.

Digital Accessibility for Superior User Experience Design: Best Practices

UXD Best Practice

You can find even more inspiration and tips on how to strengthen customer relationships through improved usability in our »User Experience Design Best Practices« publication. Exciting success stories featuring leading companies from B2B and B2C show how it is possible to optimise the customer experience through user-centred design across all touchpoints.

Fill out the form now and receive a free copy in your inbox!

(17 vote(s), average: 4.76 out of 5)

Leave a Reply