Why accessible design helps everyone (WCAG)
What is accessibility?
Accessibility is of vital importance for an optimal online experience. Its goal is to create an inclusive digital environment where everyone, regardless of their physical or technical limitations, can seamlessly navigate and utilize websites and digital content.
Accessibility might make you first think about people with disabilities - blindness/low vision, motor dysfunctions, etc. - it also concerns every one of us, at some point in our lives. Accessibility is about making sure a text is readable, it’s about making a website load fast, it’s about enabling people to access an equivalent user experience, however they encounter a product or service.
We’ve all experienced it: squinting at badly-chosen fonts, pages crammed with too much diverse content or the despair of trying to navigate a mobile unfriendly page. While this may sound like inconveniences to us, this can fully restrict someone from interacting with your website.
The benefits of accessible design
Accessibility is a big-picture issue that can sometimes get overlooked when we’re intensely focussed on a challenge we’re trying to tackle within our projects. We realized that after completing an accessibility training course, we ran into many accessibility issues on the web.
The key is to be mindful when creating content or designing digital products. We should check whether everything is easy to find, read and understand. Do we provide enough color contrast? Does the content scale properly when you increase the font size? How do we navigate without a computer mouse? Are animations, images and other visual elements helping the user or are they distracting or even disturbing? But it also means filling out image tags, providing descriptions and captioning video and photos.
These accessibility matters sounded complicated, but it turns out that they weren’t that hard to correct; it would have been just a matter of investing time and research to solve them.
So, why invest?
Reason 1: Increased reach
On average 20% of society has to deal with either situational, temporary or permanent disabilities. Temporary and situational disabilities are short term impairments. For example, healing an ear infection or even holding your newborn with one arm while browsing on your mobile phone. While permanent disabilities, like its name suggests, have to be managed for the rest of your life. According to the click-away pound survey 71% of users with disabilities don’t engage with a website if it isn’t accessible. In the Netherlands that counts up to more than 3,5 million people who possibly can’t or won’t engage with your website! By preventing (or overcoming) barriers to accommodate different user needs for people with disabilities you can reach a bigger audience.
Reason 2: Increase user engagement
Solving problems or making someone’s life easier is at the core of what we do as user experience designers. When we find a product or service pleasant to use, we tend to return to it - or at least appreciate a positive user experience. Besides increasing user engagement, accessible design brings a great opportunity to bring people together and support a full range of human diversity.
Reason 3: Optimise your SEO
Search engines like Google will love you if your website complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For example, by giving your image a meaningful and descriptive alt text you’d help search engines to better understand what your page is about while screen readers can describe the context to visually impaired users.
Reason 4: It’s the law
Many governments have adopted WCAG guidelines as the standard for their accessibility regulations. Currently in the Netherlands, there is a legal obligation regarding digital accessibility for (semi-) government institutions. As of 28 June 2025, companies must ensure that newly marketed products and services covered by the European Accessibility Act are complying to the WCAG guidelines.
Pick your low hanging fruit
Even if a product or service has already been released, you can and should still make improvements to accessibility. Despite the project’s status or background, you can always do the following:
- Make accessibility an integral part of your development process. Depending on the project goals, prioritize accessibility requirements in the same way as things like usability or high-quality code.
- Clarify your content. Plain language is an essential part of accessibility, and editing the content does not require an extensive development project or technical changes.
- Check your metadata such as page titles and alt texts to improve search engine coverage.
- Audit or test your product in terms of accessibility. There are plenty of options like browser add-ons that help you get a basic idea of your product’s accessibility. Or give us a call.
It’s important to remember that WCAG standards are keeping up to date with technological advancements. At Harborn, our processes are human-centered. As we continue to innovate and create, so do accessibility guidelines.