In 2025, the European Accessibility Act will write digital inclusion standards into the law, and everyone, from users to makers, will be affected. Having a digitally accessible platform has been mandatory for government agencies for some time now. But in the coming years, European guidelines in the field of digital accessibility will become mandatory by law for many commercial organizations as well. The obligation will not come into effect until 2025, but teams will need time to familiarize themselves with the standard. In this article, experts from government and digital agencies offer a helping hand.
In NL, over two million people identify with a disability.
It’s not obvious to many that it may not be possible for you to read this article now. There are over 2 million people who identify with a disability in the Netherlands, that’s over 10% of the entire population. For these individuals, it can be difficult to access online information and services, possibly because they are visually impaired, blind, have a sensory or motor disability, or are illiterate, dyslexic or color blind.
“These individuals must be able to use apps and websites”, says Raph de Rooij. At the Interior Ministry and Kingdom Relations (BZK), de Rooij is one of the Digital Inclusion team, which is a part of the Directorate-General for Digital Society (DS). “Not everyone can use websites or apps well – with digital inclusion, we want to change this by focusing on the needs of all users of online information and services. Everyone should be able to participate in our digital society. This means that everyone must be able to communicate with the government in an understandable and safe way. Public authorities are required by law to take the necessary measures to comply with digital accessibility requirements.”
Accessibility must become a hygiene factor
What’s already an obligation for government agencies will therefore also become an obligation for many commercial organizations in 2025. The European Accessibility Act (EAA) 2019/882 will enforce accessibility market-wide in June 2025. The EAA must ensure that more products and services such as smartphones, tablets, ATMs or e-books are accessible to people with disabilities. It is estimated that more than 80 million people with disabilities in the European Union will benefit from the new legislation. In addition, Google must take into account the indexing of accessible and less accessible websites. Accessibility should become a hygiene factor of online platforms, just like information security.
The business case
In addition, digital accessibility is commercially interesting. Millions of Dutch people cannot easily use websites or web stores. That’s a large group with enormous potential, according to Taeke Reijenga, CEO of digital agency Level Level – and an ardent advocate of accessible websites. “In Great Britain, research has been conducted into the consequences of poorly accessible websites. The British Click-Away Pound Survey shows that 71% of users with disabilities click away from a website that is not easily accessible. According to the research report, this group of Britons has a purchasing power of 12 billion pounds per year. That is about 10% of what is annually spent online in that country. That percentage will not be much different in the Netherlands.”
Web accessibility saves costs
Web accessibility also helps to save costs, says Reijenga. “For example, when SNS Bank improved the accessibility of their website, the number of calls in their call centres decreased by more than 15%. SNS Bank indicated that this reduction was directly related to the improved website.”
A third reason why web accessibility pays off financially, is that it prevents lawsuits. Worldwide, laws are becoming more specific, stricter and more frequently enforced. In the United States, there has been an explosive growth in the amount of lawsuits to enforce digital accessibility. But even closer by, as in Norway and Switzerland, companies are already being held accountable. Reijenga: “There’s a good chance that the laws in the Netherlands will also become stricter. So by complying with the requirements, you prevent nasty claims.”
No time to waste
“As a company, it’s therefore important to thoroughly immerse yourself in digital accessibility and the upcoming legislation to help your own company and your customers move forward. There’s no time to lose”, says Marloes Bosch, frontend developer & accessibility expert at the Amsterdam digital agency LimoenGroen. “2025 sounds far away, but it’s closer than you think. If you only test a product or service for accessibility at the latest step, this also has a major impact on the number of hours you spend on a project. Create support for accessibility in your organization now. Invest in your people, let them follow training and make sure they become familiar with it.”
After all, everyone is responsible for web accessibility, Rian Rietveld knows. At Level Level she supervises projects so that they are accessible for everyone. She also teaches at The A11Y Collective, where she provides workshops and training courses on web accessibility. “It’s a team effort. The project manager must put together a well-trained team and check whether web accessibility is taken into account throughout the entire process. The designer delivers an accessible design. The developer ensures that the front-end is accessible with semantically error-free HTML and sufficient information for blind visitors. And content creators write understandable texts with distinctive colors, clear links and easily scannable content. Websites are only accessible if they are well designed, well built and the text is well written. Unfortunately, making a site accessible cannot be done with one line of code, but you can put your ego aside and put your user first. Good luck!”
Making a website welcoming to everyone is a time-consuming process. We are currently optimizing the DDA website. This concerns development, design and copy adjustments (including the homepage) with which we ensure that as many people as possible can use the site.