Why Is Accessibility in Digital Products and Services a Win-Win?

Lessons Learned with GDPR 

Do you remember having to implement GDPR? This was a major piece of European Legislation that was adopted in 2016. I think it’s safe to say that it was a major headache for most of us as we rushed to implement it as the deadline of May 2018 approached. The goal of GDPR was to ensure your customers had control over their personal data. Although there were legal implications of not complying with the measures, including significant fines, there was also a potential reputational and business risk of customers not trusting a business identified as non-complaint. 

Enter the European Accessibility Act 

There’s another upcoming piece of European legislation that could have significant impact on private businesses selling digital products and services within the EU, regardless of where they are based, the European Accessibility Act (EAA). This was adopted in 2019 and is intended to come into force in June 2025. The goal of the EAA is to make digital communication accessible to all, including the estimated 135 million people in Europe who are living with some form of disabilities, including seniors and people with temporary and situational disabilities. 

As this legislation comes into force in just over a year, and a year is a relatively short time in IT, then it’s time to start considering the implications for your business, if you are not already working on ensuring that your digital channels are compliant. 

With this legislation there are again legal implications and risk of penalties. How big these penalties will be will depend on your country’s implementation of the act in their legal code.  

However, in my opinion, removing accessibility barriers to your digital products and services is a winner for everyone.  

Ensuring your web and mobile applications are accessible is not just a matter of legal compliance, but also of ethical responsibility, and has the potential to enhance your company's reach and reputation. You can make a contribution to enabling people with disabilities lead fuller lives, make you feel good for having helped others, and can also benefit your business. 

What needs to be done? 

The most obvious impact will be on things like e-commerce and banking services on both websites and mobile applications. However, the EAA also covers things like ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines, digital television services and e-books. The requirements are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, which are internationally recognised. There are plenty of tools that can help check whether your website meets some of the WCAG requirements, but there is some need to do some additional manual checks, which could be performed by a competent software tester. Developers will need to fix any issues you find. The good news is that implementation is not rocket science, the bad news is that there will be a bit of a learning curve for your staff until accessibility becomes an inbuilt part of your development standards and quality assurance process.  

A good way to start would be to get some feedback by having an organization with some experience with accessibility perform an assessment. In our experience it’s important to involve people with disabilities in the assessment, as they can give the most relevant feedback about how accessible, comprehensible and user friendly your applications are.  

Why this is a win-win? 

1. Expand your Audience 

By making your applications accessible, you open your digital doors to an estimated 135 million people in Europe and 1.3 billion worldwide who are living with some form of disabilities. This inclusivity not only increases your potential customer base but also taps into a market segment that is often overlooked, which could provide a competitive edge in an overcrowded marketplace. 

2. Boosting Search Engine Visibility 

Search engines like Google give preference to websites that offer a better user experience, which includes accessibility. By adhering to web accessibility standards, your site becomes more easily navigable not just for people but also for search engine crawlers. This improved navigability can lead to higher search rankings, increasing your site's visibility and potentially driving more traffic to your application. 

3. Enhancing User Experience for Everyone 

Accessibility features designed to aid people with disabilities often have the added benefit of improving the user experience for everyone. Features such as clear navigation, text-to-speech capabilities, and high-contrast colour schemes make your app more usable and enjoyable for all users, which could lead to increased satisfaction, higher retention rates, and more positive user feedback. 

4. Enhancing Corporate Reputation 

Prioritizing accessibility demonstrates your company’s commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility. Customers are increasingly favouring businesses that show a genuine concern for societal issues, including accessibility and inclusivity. By embracing accessibility, you signal to your customers and stakeholders that you are committed to providing equal access for all, which can strengthen your brand and foster loyalty among your userbase. 

5. Avoiding Legislation Risks 

With the adoption of the EAA legislation in 2025, ensuring your applications are accessible will soon be not just beneficial but mandatory. Failure to adhere to such guidelines could result in legal repercussions and damage to your company's reputation. However, considering the previous points, this should just be the cherry on the cake. 

Is One Year Enough? 

With these compelling benefits in mind, the question arises: Is one year enough time to prepare for this new EU legislation? The answer depends on the current state of your applications and the complexity of the needed changes. Most digital agencies should already be well aware of the legislation and know how to apply WCAG, so if you are currently building a new digital platform, then accessibility should be built in. For older digital platforms however, considerable work could be required.  

In our own case we performed an assessment on our own website, which was implemented as part of a company rebranding in 2019. We quickly found a number of accessibility problems. Since we plan to replace our current implementation in the next 12 months, we decided to focus on ensuring the accessibility of the new web pages rather than spend time and money fixing the old one. 

Whatever your situation, it’s probably a good idea to try to get an initial assessment as soon as possible so you know where you stand and how far away you are from compliance. 

To enable you to get some quick and easy feedback, Tesena in cooperation with our experienced accessibility testing partners at SONS and TestDevLab can perform an assessment on the landing page of your website. This "gateway" to your digital products and services will often reveal problems that will be common throughout your platform. Our consultants will clearly explain any findings and explain their potential impact. 

Book your free consultation!

Ready to make your digital services accessible to everyone? Schedule your free, no-pressure consultation with us today. Let's explore together how we can enhance your digital accessibility and open your business to a wider audience.

Author: Phil Royston

After a bit of a journeyman IT career starting in the late 1980s, he practically fell into the software testing world in 2002. He hasn't looked back since and still loves what he does. In 2013, he co-founded Tesena | Smart Testing with the slightly ambitious, but very seriously intended goal of changing the software testing world. He enjoys working with our clients to help solve their testing and software quality challenges at individual, team, group, and organizational levels. Beyond his commitment to advancing software quality, he is also dedicated to education and professional development. As a lecturer of courses, he shares his extensive knowledge and experience, shaping the next generation of IT professionals. Phil regularly shares what he learned as a speaker at conferences, further contributing to the industry's growth and evolution.