Digital Accessibility: What is it and is it worth investing in?

Digital Accessibility: What is it and is it worth investing in?
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 03 Mar 2023

Our world is increasingly transformed in a digital direction given the proliferation of digital products and services. This digital revolution is providing a host of opportunities to both businesses and citizens. Nevertheless, it is also raising concerns about a possible digital divide that could cause several groups of people to be left behind. This is the case for special segments of the population like elderly and disabled individuals. In this context, governments and businesses are increasingly concerned about the best ways to create an inclusive digital society that leaves no one behind. To this direction, industrial organizations and the public administration are undertaking investments in digital accessibility, including investments for their proper compliance to applicable regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Digital accessibility is the practice of designing digital assets, products and services in ways that make them accessible to all people, including the disabled.  Digital accessibility practices are applied in website design, web applications development, mobile applications development, and digital content production. They ensure that websites, apps, and content can be easily navigated and understood by people with a wide range of abilities, including people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments.

Digital accessibility is of great socio-economic importance. It ensures that everyone has equal access to the digital world, which is a key for safeguarding citizens’ social, educational, and economic participation. Inaccessible digital content and services can create significant barriers to accessing information, engaging in social activities, and participating in the job market. IT companies must design digital products and services with accessibility in mind, as this is a prerequisite for a more inclusive and equitable digital world. Nevertheless, the importance of digital accessibility is not limited to people with disabilities. Rather, it extends to the society as a whole. As a prominent example, the availability of accessible designs and content can improve the user experience for older adults or people with temporary disabilities. For instance, it can enable people with a broken arm or a sprained wrist to keep up with their work activities.

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Standards and Regulations

Digital accessibility is mandated by many governments all around the world. In several countries it is a legal commitment as well. As already outlined, in the United States of America (USA), companies must adhere to the mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA compliance requires that public entities and businesses to provide accessible digital content to people with disabilities. Similarly, in California, companies must comply with the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which provides protection from discrimination by all enterprises in the state. At the same time, there are many standards for digital accessibility. The ones that are most widely used include:

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): It is a set of guidelines that have been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure web accessibility. They provide guidance and insights for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG includes three levels of conformance (A, AA, and AAA) and covers a wide range of accessibility issues. The latter include the provision of text alternatives for images and videos, support for proper color contrast, as well as making content navigable with keyboard only.
  • Section 508: Section 508 is a another set of accessibility standards that apply to the U.S. federal agencies and their websites. It requires that electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. The standard covers many different accessibility issues, such as providing alternative text for non-textual content, offering captions for videos, as well as providing keyboard navigation possibilities.
  • European Accessibility Act (EAA): This is a rather new accessibility law, which aims to make products and services more accessible to people with disabilities. It applies to a wide range of products and services, including ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines), smartphones, e-books, and websites. Apart from design-related mandates, the EAA includes provisions for testing and certification.
  • Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA): This is a standardized set of attributes that can be added to HTML (HyperText Markup Language) code to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. It provides a way to add information about the structure and purpose of web content. This makes it easier for people that use assistive technologies to navigate and interact with the content.


Best Practices for Digital Accessibility Content and Services

Over the years, IT and software vendors have improved their ability to produce accessible content and services. To this direction, they usually apply some best practices that help them develop truly accessible content and services:

  • Use of clear and simple language, which is easy to read and understand. Technical jargon and complex terminologies must be avoided as much as possible.
  • Providing alternative text for non-textual content, including descriptions for images, videos, and other non-text content items. This enables people that use screen readers or other assistive technologies to understand these content items.
  • Ensuring that text and other visual elements have sufficient color contrast, in order to be easily read by people with visual impairments.
  • Providing keyboard navigation to enable people that cannot use a mouse or another pointing device to access the content.
  • Avoiding flashing or blinking content given that this can trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy.
  • Providing captions and transcripts for videos content to enable people that are deaf or hard of hearing to understand the content.
  • Using headings and lists in content organization since this facilitates content navigation based on assistive technologies and devices.
  • Employing accessibility tests using both automated tools and manual testing methods. This is important for identifying accessibility issues and taking actions to remedy them such as the deployment of adaptive technologies.

By following these best practices, companies can ensure that their digital content and services are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.


Overall, digital accessibility is an important consideration in the design and development of digital products and services. By ensuring that digital content is accessible to everyone, we can create a more inclusive and equitable digital world. Companies must advocate for digitally accessible services to improve their brand image and social profile. However, investing on digital accessibility is not a matter of choice. It is a matter of being socially responsible and contributing to an inclusive society.

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