The first wheelchair, then crutches – and continuing to study at a time, in a city and at a university where accessibility, or digital learning did not yet exist. Fortunately, however, it meant not being permanently restricted, being dependent on accessibility. How is today? Why is barrier-free so much more than stepless access to a public building? What needs to be considered for e-business, and what does a European directive have to do with it? Lots of questions, important questions. We are attempting an approximation – in five understandable points and five further reading tips.
Accessibility: Sooner Or Later, It Affects Everyone
What Is A Disability, And Who Does It Affect?
Not a week ago, we talked about Divers-IT, about diversity in the IT industry, at the Handelskraft Conference 2022. The assortment is very diverse. Nicola Baumgartner, the founder of the tea company Shuyao, showed in her conference contribution, for example, that the inclusion of people with disabilities ensures diversity in the everyday work of a digital business. But how can people with disabilities be included in the increasingly digital everyday life?
The figures on the subject of disability are astounding: although the universal symbol of disability is the wheelchair, only five percent of people with recognized disabilities worldwide use one – and this even though around 15 percent of the world’s population, i.e., around one billion people, have a disability! The number of unreported cases is far higher for many reasons.
And who now thinks, so what, I’m young, fit, hip, wait and see! Thirty-three percent of employees in their twenties today will have to learn to live with a permanent disability before they retire – and still have to master their job and everyday life: hearing loss, severe cognitive impairments, blindness, motor disabilities – the list is long.
Even many people who are not officially disabled have a congenital limitation that makes it difficult to find their way around in the online world: every tenth person is red-green-blind. Luminous red checkout buttons or green elements on websites that suggest sustainability are always inconspicuously greyish-brown to these people.
Definition Of Accessibility
Section 4 of the Act on Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities states: »Constructional and other facilities, means of transport, technical items, information processing systems, acoustic and visual information sources, and communication facilities and other designed areas of life are barrier-free if they are accessible to people with disabilities, in general, can be found, accessed and used in the usual way, without particular difficulty, and in principle without outside help. The use of necessary aids due to the disability is permitted here.«
Ufftata, don’t be ashamed if you have to read this three times to understand the most important thing: Accessibility is defined here as a social dimension. It enables all people, regardless of age and almost regardless of the degree of disability, to live on an equal footing, be self-determined and independent and participate in society. Theoretically, in practice, this is not so easy to implement.
At the same time, the pressure to deal with the topic is increasing, especially for companies in digital business. A new EU directive will apply from June 28, 2025.
Accessibility Becomes Mandatory – Also Digitally
The New Binding EU Directive: The BFSG
It has been in force since August 2021 and will become binding on June 28, 2025, the Accessibility Strengthening Act (BFSG for short) based on an EU directive.
2025 – that sounds like a long way off. But three years to implement everything that the BFSG implies is not much. The law has an impact on our daily digital touchpoints in particular. Ultimately, however, all economic actors should look at accessibility in the run-up to the July 2025 deadline.
The law obliges private companies for the first time to offer barrier-free digital products and services in particular – this has an impact on e-commerce trade in specific and on web design in general. Far-sighted advice is particularly important to avoid expensive consequences – similar to the GDPR.
Accessibility In Digital Business
But how does that work, accessibility on the Internet? Where are the steps there that not everyone can climb? One thing in advance: it is not easy for real professionals to research this because there have been few concrete use cases so far – not to mention information in understandable language. Everything is very legal, complicated, detailed, and vague – no wonder: the Accessibility Strengthening Act is a barrier of words, 32 characters long.
We’re not going into what companies will generally have to consider to comply with the standard but rather concentrating on presenting what user experience design can already do to make the customer journey as inclusive as possible. Because when in doubt, this fulfills complicated standards and opens up new customer groups (we remember: one billion people, and the trend is rising).
Accessibility Improves Usability For Everyone
Inclusive User Experience Design
But when we talk about possibilities, we change the wording to inclusive instead of barrier-free here at the latest. Because the whole thing is a process, and it is wiser to speak a little defensively of inclusivity and concentrate on which target group you want to make more accessible for – for example, the visually impaired – than to talk of utopian-universal accessibility.
Suppose you want to become more inclusive with your digital business. In that case, you first have to ask yourself which usability poses which hurdles for which target group: These include complex page layouts, pixelated content that cannot cope with enlargement and becomes illegible, poor contrasts, annoying CAPTCHA images, who want to check whether the user is a human (and train AIs), complex or difficult forms, too many links or navigation elements, …. this list could also be continued.
A UX audit geared towards barrier-free design or modern usability can reveal many pain points here and help improve things sustainably. Incidentally, this also guarantees a lot of improvements for users without restrictions!
Together, you can design a strategy to meet the EU as mentioned above directive or the BFSG, meet the corresponding DIN ISO standards for inclusive design, implement the recommendations of the Web Accessibility Initiative, and, for example, enable screen readers to work optimally. Many measures in the code can be intelligently implemented in an already planned relaunch or migration – just like our customer frost did, our first reading tip!