What is digital accessibility?

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Digital accessibility means making your website, app and online document available to everyone, including people with disabilities.

People with disabilities

When we talk about people with disabilities, it often involves one or more of the following functional limitations:

  • Visual impairment. Think of someone who is blind or has severely impaired vision. Someone who is colour-blind also has a visual impairment.
  • Auditory impairment. This refers to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Motor impairment. This involves people who cannot use certain body parts or cannot use them properly.
  • Cognitive impairment. This is a broad group of people who, for example, cannot concentrate well and are easily distracted or who have difficulty remembering things or getting their bearings.

For them, using the internet can offer a lot of value, but in practice it unfortunately leads to barriers in many cases.

Potential problems with digital accessibility

If you experience one or more of the above functional limitations, you may encounter multiple problems on websites, in apps and with documents. Some examples include:

  • If you are colour-blind, you may not be able to distinguish between a piece of text that is green and another text that is red. These colours are often used to indicate whether something is good or bad.
  • If you are visually impaired, you may miss information that is just outside your field of vision or has too little colour contrast.
  • If you are blind and use a screen reader, this screen reader may not work properly on a particular website or in an app. Documents are also frequently not read out (properly).
  • If information is only in an image, you may miss it if you are blind or visually impaired.
  • If you cannot use a mouse, some parts of the website cannot be reached and operated.
  • If you have difficulty concentrating, you may not be able to process information properly if there are all kinds of movements on the screen or if sounds are audible.
  • If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you cannot fully understand a video if there are no subtitles.

These are just some of the problems people with disabilities face if your website, app or online document is not accessible.

How to avoid digital accessibility problems

Fortunately, there are many things you as the owner or developer of the website, app or document can do to make sure everyone can use it properly. For example, the following:

  • Make sure information is not just dependent on colour, but that it is also clear in other ways.
  • Make the structure of the website as logical and clear as possible.
  • Give texts and important images sufficient colour contrast compared to the background.
  • Make sure the website is well-made and does not hinder assistive technology such as screen readers.
  • Give informative images a clear text alternative so that this can be read aloud to people who cannot see these images.
  • Make it possible for people to operate the website without a mouse and using only the keyboard.
  • Don’t distract your visitors with movements and sound or make sure people can turn these off.
  • Always have videos subtitled for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. This also helps people who do not understand the language well or cannot turn on the sound.

And so there are more things you can do to make it accessible to everyone. This applies not only to websites and apps, but also to online documents, such as PDF files.

The international web standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) consists of measurable criteria with which you can check if your website is accessible.

By the way, it is not only people with disabilities who benefit from accessible websites, apps and documents. Digital accessibility makes your communication better for everyone.