March 2024

Digital accessibility 1/3 - The absolute basics

Abstract forms

What is it anyway? How accessible is digital? And why is it important? Part 1 of the three-part series.

Less is more. This is also the case with digital accessibility. In other words, fewer barriers in digital products result in greater usability for all users. However, there will only be more accessibility if more people participate and talk about it more. And there is currently a lot of talk about it. Because "digital" has been playing a much bigger role for more people since the coronavirus pandemic anyway. And because many companies will be obliged to make their websites and digital services accessible from June 2025 under the Accessibility Strengthening Act (BFSG). Thank you European Accessibility Act.


  • Digital accessibility is becoming increasingly important as digital products become a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives. Companies are increasingly required by law to make their websites and digital services accessible.
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the standard for making digital content accessible and address problems such as poor contrast, missing alternative text for images and empty links.
  • Digital accessibility is an ongoing process and requires awareness, structures and know-how.
  • Although many people think primarily of websites, digital accessibility also affects other digital services and devices.
  • Despite progress, there are still widespread accessibility issues on websites, but most of them are easy to fix.
  • Digital accessibility is crucial, as the internet is a basic source of information, shopping, work and much more for many people.
  • Accessibility leads to improved usability, more satisfied users, a lower risk of complaints and better findability in search engines.

Accessibility is not a fixed state, it has to be achieved again and again

First the groundwork. What is digital accessibility? With digital accessibility, you make it possible for EVERYONE to use your digital offerings. Your goal: Restrictions in seeing, hearing, speaking, moving or processing information should not have a negative impact on the use of your digital offerings. 

Here it becomes clear that accessibility is not a fixed state. Rather, it is the goal and must be achieved again and again. It requires awareness, structures, processes and know-how. So, how does digital accessibility work?

A few clever people from the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) have written down rules for the accessibility of web content. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines contain things you should do to make a website accessible, for example. For editors, designers and developers around the world, the WCAG are the absolute standard when it comes to web content accessibility. Really helpful. The third version has been available as a working draft since July 2023. We are currently working with WCAG 2.2. According to these rules, this is how web content should be designed:

  • Perceptible: Display information in such a way that everyone can perceive it.
  • Operable: Provide components and functions in such a way that they can be operated by everyone. 
  • Understandable: Make sure that the interface and information are easy to understand.
  • Robust: Your digital offering should be reliable on as many devices as possible laufen and be interpretable with the help of supporting technologies.

When people think of digital accessibility, they often think of websites first. But that's not all, of course. It's also about other digital offerings, content and devices - apps, editorial systems, terminals, wearables, smart TVs, IoT devices, documents (keyword: accessible PDF), browsers, media players - you name it. Fortunately, there are also guidelines from the W3C for orientation.

Accessible websites - the typical errors are comparatively easy to rectify

Back to websites and accessibility, because there is good data on this. And it speaks for itself. 96.3% of the 1 million most-visited websites have accessibility problems. In other words: Of these 1 million top homepages, only 37,000 are without problems. Let that sink in first.

Where does this figure come from? From WebAIM. Over the past five years, the initiative has repeatedly examined the homepages of the 1 million most-visited websites for accessibility. Of course, this is all automated and the method has its limitations. But the study still provides a good starting point for assessing the current state of digital accessibility.

In 2019, 97.8% of the websites surveyed had accessibility issues. In 2023, the figure fell by 1.5 percentage points to 96.3 %. So a little better now. 

The typical problems read like the 1 × 1 of web content. One might assume that these should not really be problems. Nevertheless, they appear on many websites and have always been the same over the last four years:

  • Poor contrast for texts
  • No or unhelpful alternative texts for images
  • Empty or meaningless links
  • No labels for forms
  • Empty buttons
  • No fixed language (lang attribute)

On average, each website had 50 problems in the 2023 study. Pages from the categories government, politics, society, science etc. had fewer problems than pages from the categories home and garden, travel, style and fashion.

So we see that websites are becoming more accessible overall. Even if only very, very slightly. But something is happening. Faster in some areas than in others. That's good. But there is still a lot of work ahead of us. The typical errors are comparatively easy to fix. And that would have a really big effect on the usability of the websites. For everyone. 

Access is for everyone, or why we should do more for digital accessibility

Short answer: That's why! The long answer: 80% of Germans use the internet every day, daily usage time has risen steadily in recent years to over 2.5 hours, and there are almost 70 million smartphones in circulation in Germany. News, shopping, work, gaming, contacts, job searches, banking, bookings - everything takes place on the Internet, via interfaces on digital end devices.

On the one hand, digitalization is present in all areas of life and we know that this will only increase. On the other hand, we see a large group of people for whom accessibility is very important (namely for all people). In between are digital products, applications and content. Most of them are not designed to be accessible. But they should be in order to enable everyone to participate. The aim is to create an inclusive environment in which everyone has the same opportunities. 

Accessibility is good for everyone

And there are actually no further reasons for making the Internet a place for everyone. Nevertheless, here are a few:

  • Accessibility leads to more usability: Accessible design offers advantages to all your users, as accessible sites are easier to use
  • More satisfied users: Accessible offers bring more users and increase satisfaction with your product and you will be recommended.
  • On the safe side: The classic - you avoid lawsuits and fines.
  • The search engine likes this: Your SEO improves because the crawlers also like many measures for more accessibility. Bounce rates are reduced, which is also good for the search engines.
Click here for part 2 of the series: Checklist for accessible websites. Part 3 will follow soon.

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