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Digital accessibility in the workplace: A guide to digital accessibility

Gina Schumacher

Although we live in an increasingly digitalised world, many people are not aware of the many barriers in daily life. The barrier-free design of digital content and work environments is crucial, because people with various types of disabilities should also be able to use digital content without any problems.

This article is dedicated to the importance of a barrier free internet, explains the many benefits of barrier-free content and offers practical tips for creating digital accessibility.

What is digital accessibility?

To understand why accessibility on the Internet is so important, we must first clarify what “digital accessibility” actually means. The University of California defines the term as “people's experience of being able to find and use IT solutions (software, websites, etc.) without barriers” — because although the World Wide Web is accessible to everyone, it is not necessarily usable by all people.

Digital accessibility therefore meets the challenge that a lot of web content cannot be perceived, understood, navigated and used by people with different disabilities. The aim is to make websites and web design equally accessible to all people — regardless of individual abilities or limitations.

In the digital age, accessibility is of great importance because it promotes the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in social life and in the workplace. But barrier-free websites and apps reach not only people with disabilities, but also older people and users with slow Internet connections, which further increases the circle of beneficiaries.

All people have equal rights to access digital content and services. In order to eliminate potential grievances, many federal governments around the globe have now even passed laws that are intended to ensure accessibility on the Internet.

What are the most important criteria for barrier-free websites?

A young woman is being led by another woman and needs a walking stick, symbolising how important digital accessibility is for visually impaired people.

Many people are not aware of the impact of disabilities when using the Internet. It's obvious: People with visual disabilities, for example, could have problems recognising texts or form fields on websites if they only stand out slightly from the background. Deaf or hard of hearing people, on the other hand, can find videos difficult to understand if they don't include subtitles. Blind people also have difficulty using websites if images, forms, and buttons are not adequately described in text.

However, this does not mean that digital accessibility only benefits those affected. From a business perspective, too, it is worthwhile to attach importance to barrier-free content. That's because Google prefers accessible content when rating your website — the more inclusive your content, the better your SEO ranking.

This results in principles for inclusive web design, including the areas of perceptibility, usability and comprehensibility. By taking into account a wide range of needs and implementing the following design principles, we can ensure that all people can benefit equally from the opportunities offered by the Internet:

  • A flexible presentation enables the adjustment of contrast, colors, and text size in order to improve readability for all users.
  • Text alternatives for images and graphics enable screen readers to capture this content and make it accessible to people with visual disabilities.
  • Subtitles and alternative audio files offer deaf people the opportunity to understand audio and video content.
  • A clear page structure with clear headings, paragraphs, and lists makes navigation and orientation on the website easier.
  • A keyboard navigation allows users who cannot use a mouse to still browse and operate the website.
  • Content in easy to understand language facilitate access for people with cognitive disabilities.
  • Sufficient time, to read and use content is also important to accommodate people with learning difficulties or slower reading speeds.

What laws and guidelines are there for accessibility on the Internet?

In order to ensure that everyone can easily use digital content, there are now important laws and guidelines for accessibility on the Internet. Two important guidelines are the “Accessibility Information Technology Regulation 2.0", abbreviated to BITV 2.0, and the so-called “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” (WCAG).

BITV 2.0 is a German regulation that ensures that websites and mobile applications of public authorities are accessible. This regulation contains clear requirements and standards that must be met in order to ensure the accessibility of electronically supported administrative processes — an area where barriers pose particular challenges to those affected.

WCAG on the other hand are international guidelines that provide detailed instructions and criteria for designing barrier-free web content. The subject of these guidelines are four principles (perceptibility, usability, comprehensibility, robustness) and twelve guidelines for designing inclusive websites and barrier-free mobile applications.

This in turn results in 78 defined success criteria for an accessible website according to the WCAG: Depending on how many of these criteria a homepage meets, a compliance ranking of A to AAA is assigned. Since the highest level of compliance is rarely achieved, the committee has enshrined level AA in law — in order to find a compromise between optimal accessibility and requirements that can actually be implemented.

Both laws aim to make content on the Internet accessible to all people — regardless of their personal abilities.

What measures can be taken to ensure digital accessibility?

By taking certain measures, companies can ensure that their digital content is barrier-free and meets legal requirements. And this not only helps to improve accessibility for all users, but also strengthens the company's image as a socially responsible player. The following accessibility measures pay off:

  • Implementation within our own ranks: Especially in the workplace, content, applications or web design with barriers lead to major challenges for employees that make work unnecessarily difficult. Therefore, only use applications and tools in your company that are BITV 2.0 and WCAG compliant, such as the desk sharing platform Flexopus. Flexopus already meets the WCAG and BITV 2.0 accessibility criteria to ensure that all of your employees can fully benefit from our solutions.
  • Accessible web design: When designing your websites and mobile applications, follow the principles of barrier-free web design and the WCAG guidelines. This includes using clear fonts, sufficient contrasts, and providing alternative texts for non-text-based content such as images and videos.
  • Review and testing: It's important to regularly review and test your digital content for accessibility. Automated tools and manual checks help to ensure that all current requirements are met and that your homepage is suitable for the largest possible number of users.
  • Continuous improvement: Accessibility is an ongoing process that requires continuous improvements — but if you regularly review your web design, the effort is limited. Get feedback from users and react immediately to any barriers to continuously optimize your digital content.

Conclusion

Accessibility is not only a legal obligation, but also an ethical and social concern. By designing barrier-free digital content, you can ensure that your web content is accessible to all users, regardless of their individual abilities or limitations. This not only helps to improve the user experience, but also strengthens your Google ranking and, last but not least, your company's image as an inclusive and responsible player. By integrating accessibility principles into your web design, you are contributing to an inclusive digital world that is accessible to everyone.

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