Design for Everyone: Accessibility Becomes a Digital Standard
Digital accessibility becomes a legal requirement
In all honesty, when you look at your company’s digital offerings: How big a role has the topic of accessibility played in development so far? Are your websites and apps, for example, easy to use for people with visual impairments? Up til now, if the brand has been the focus of your design, you are not alone. Because accessibility means a lot of work in detail, which for many hasn’t been a focus so far.
However, this will now have to change, because from 2025 an EU directive will make accessibility a standard for all digital offerings in Europe. In principle, this is a good thing, because in Germany alone there are around 8 million people with severe disabilities. For software-developing companies, however, this means that in the future all digital products will have to meet the specified accessibility standards. And for that, you need the appropriate know-how, for example to integrate the topic into the development processes or to establish documentation.
Many laws, one standard
The EAA does not only refer to software, but also includes hybrid products and touchpoints:
> Computers, operating systems, and smartphones
> ATMs, ticket and check-in machines
> Services in air, bus, train and ship transport
> Banking services and electronic commerce
> TV sets for digital television services
> Software, apps, websites on all relevant devices
The devil is in the details
Accessibility is about making our media and especially the Internet easily usable for everyone – regardless of permanent or temporary physical or cognitive handicaps. This can mean optimizing a website for the color-blind or for people who can only use one hand. Accessibility becomes complex because there are many similar examples, and all of them have to be considered when designing digital touchpoints. Because at its core, accessibility means design for all.
As is often the case, there are details to the implementation that present challenges and a steep learning curve. On the one hand, this includes the technical side, and on the other, the integration into the development processes is also a driver of complexity. The specified WCAG standards require content to be easily perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. They are described in more detail in the Accessibility Journal of the German UPA, among others. The standards each require interpretation in order to be incorporated into the company’s own products in the best possible way. And, of course, this should be done consistently across the products. In addition, the verification of AA conformity requires integration into the development process and the definition of done; test tracks, quality assurance, and documentation must also be established for this purpose.
Regarding complexity, take a look at the following example:
Who says that accessibility always has to be a quick fix, but can’t also lead to better usability and more satisfaction for everyone?Anna Kuchtin
Human meets brand
In order to achieve this goal, we as providers of websites and other digital media must put ourselves in the shoes of potential users as early as the conceptual design stage. Only in this way can we take into account the range and diversity of human needs. And in this sense, this is not a one-way street, because a good UX also has a positive effect on people’s encounters with the brand. For this reason alone, many companies have already addressed the issue, even without legal pressure.
Fundamentally, getting started early also means that you can work more thoroughly to create a meaningful and high-quality overall concept. And who says that accessibility always has to be a quick fix, but can’t also lead to better usability and more satisfaction for everyone? Our advice is therefore clear: Give the topic the attention it deserves and start gathering experience. The lawyers may say that 2025 is still a long time away, but you should not underestimate the organizational effort it might take to realize accessibility.
Author and contact
Anna Kuchtin is in charge of accessibility at Iconstorm. If you want to prepare for 2025 or have general questions about the topic, feel free to contact her. In our projects on this topic we always work closely with our customers and will surely tailor a solution for you that will allow you to follow all the new requirements.
+49 (0) 69 15 32 018 26