Digital Accessibility – That’s why online retailers should act now

LnRiLWZpZWxke21hcmdpbi1ib3R0b206MC43NmVtfS50Yi1maWVsZC0tbGVmdHt0ZXh0LWFsaWduOmxlZnR9LnRiLWZpZWxkLS1jZW50ZXJ7dGV4dC1hbGlnbjpjZW50ZXJ9LnRiLWZpZWxkLS1yaWdodHt0ZXh0LWFsaWduOnJpZ2h0fS50Yi1maWVsZF9fc2t5cGVfcHJldmlld3twYWRkaW5nOjEwcHggMjBweDtib3JkZXItcmFkaXVzOjNweDtjb2xvcjojZmZmO2JhY2tncm91bmQ6IzAwYWZlZTtkaXNwbGF5OmlubGluZS1ibG9ja311bC5nbGlkZV9fc2xpZGVze21hcmdpbjowfQ ==


From 2025, a barrier-free design for online shops will be mandatory by law. So it is high time to deal with the topic intensively. Katrin Kolossa, Chief Strategy Officer at Sapera, describes what needs to be considered. And it shows that social and economic goals can be optimally combined with one another. Because an online shop with user guidance that is understandable to everyone will ultimately be more successful economically.

Blocked paths, stairs that suddenly appear, forms that are difficult to understand or signs that are barely legible: everyday life for people with disabilities or impairments is often not easy. Again and again obstacles appear that they can only overcome with difficulty. The Internet also joins the canon of these barriers. Only recently, a survey by the social organization Aktion Mensch showed that websites that are confusing or difficult to use regularly make life difficult for people with disabilities. Common mistakes: Text and form fields are difficult to distinguish from the background, videos don’t have subtitles, links are misleading.

A study by the non-profit organization WebAIM (web accessibility in mind) shows that the online industry is only gradually realizing this. According to this, only a fraction of the most used websites for people with visual impairments, hearing impairments, physical or cognitive impairments have no barriers. Against this background, it becomes clear how important digital accessibility is. The EU therefore passed the European Accessibility Act (EAA) in 2019. This requires that every website and every online shop, every e-book, every app and every self-service terminal can be used by people regardless of their physical and mental abilities. The EU member states are obliged to implement this directive into national law by 2022 and to apply it from June 28, 2025. The only exceptions to this rule are micro-enterprises that have fewer than ten employees and an annual turnover of no more than 2 million euros.

Simple usability increases conversion

The so-called “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines”, an internationally developed standard for the barrier-free design of internet offers. Essentially, these focus on four points:

  1. The information must be presented in such a way that it can be perceived by all users.
  2. All functions must be usable, even if no mouse is used.
  3. The content must be easy to understand.
  4. In addition, tools such as speech recognition software or Braille readers should be able to convey the content.

This makes it clear that these guidelines are not only a plus for the approximately eight million people with disabilities who live in Germany. But for everyone. After all, simple and clear usability in e-commerce fundamentally increases conversion.

Digital accessibility: 9 points to consider

For online shops this means: It is high time to deal with the barrier-free design of their pages. They should pay attention to the following points, among others:

  • Text alternatives are important for an easy-to-understand website. A lot of information can also be displayed in large letters, as a symbol or in simple language.
  • In general, understandable language is important. Complicated sentences with foreign words or poorly translated sentences are a nuisance for everyone.
  • Images and buttons should always have an ALT attribute. It explains what is on them and what their function is. Talkers can convert the inserted text into an audio format and thus explain it.
  • Videos or slide shows should not start automatically and can be stopped at any time. A text-based description would also be ideal here.
  • Elements and buttons of the shop should be clearly distinguishable, foreground and background should be clearly separated in color. It is helpful if users can adjust the contrast in the display themselves.
  • The online shop should not only be navigable with a mouse, but also controlled via the keyboard.
  • Navigation should be as simple and understandable as possible. Countless subcategories and confusing links mean that users lose their bearings in the shop.
  • A barrier-free appearance also includes doing without tight time limits. Users should be able to enter their data in peace.
  • If the information is incorrect, specific information is useful. Example: Did you forget to enter your house number? Input fields should also be able to be filled out by voice input.

Digital accessibility: This is how the conversion works

The requirements already make it clear: converting an online shop into a barrier-free site is not a task that can be done on the side. That is precisely why it should have top priority in the company. A well-founded test concept provides information as to whether the requirements are actually being met. One of the best known is the BITV test, an established and continuously evolving procedure of the German Accessible Information Technology Ordinance. The WCAG test, which is based on European guidelines, is also recommended for companies that are internationally positioned. In addition, there are a number of tools on the market, some of which are free of charge, from various technical service providers who carry out a check and then compile a list of errors and warnings.

Cover of e-commerce magazine-black car on black background

The new e-commerce magazine is here:

The topics:

  • In-Car Commerce
  • E-Commerce and Accessibility
  • Interview with inclusion activist Raúl Krauthausen
  • Why the payment market is currently being turned inside out
  • Help – the logistics areas are getting scarce
  • And of course much more…

A small service industry has emerged around the effort to really make the Internet accessible to all users without barriers. It also includes technical service providers such as Equalweb, Equally AI or Accessibe, who promise a largely automated solution for converting to the WCAG guidelines. The tools dim garish colors, frame important information, create a clutter-free drop-down menu and the ability to navigate the site with the keyboard.

If you want to know how pleasant the usability of a barrier-free website is, you should take a look at scope throw. The Disability Equality Organization’s website is considered a pioneer in accessibility. Visiting the platform is also recommended Lonley Planet, on which, for example, image, sound and animations can be hidden. In addition, users can regulate contrast and change font size and line spacing. Other successful examples are the website of the BBC and the financial service provider Monzo.

There are many reasons to make the pages of an online shop barrier-free as soon as possible. The Human Action lists the five most important ones on your website: You reach more customers, make your customers happier, increase your reach, become a role model and show that your company takes on social responsibility.

That is exactly what is needed in these times.

Also read: Analogue and digital accessibility – what’s the difference?

Digital accessibility, Katrin Kolossa
Image: Sapera

The author Katrin Kolossa is Chief Strategy Officer at Sapera.