What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility, or web accessibility, is about universality and making websites and digital services that can be accessed and used by everyone - people on different devices, in different environments and with different abilities.

Consider buildings with wheelchair ramps and Braille as an alternative to printed materials. Accessibility in the digital world applies in a similar way, with many digital service users having specific access needs or requirements.

Find out more about digital accessibility below, including answers to the following questions:

At AbilityNet our vision is a digital world accessible to all, and we believe the power of technology should be available to everyone. Our charity’s team of expert consultants help organisations of all types and sizes to become more inclusive and to build accessible digital products and services.

Contact us if you are interested in making accessibility a priority at your organisation.

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Why is digital accessibility important?

Robin Christopherson smiling in an office setting“As a blind person, technology has totally transformed my life... However all this amazing tech only works if people, like you, delivering digital services such as websites and apps, design them in an inclusive way.” 
- Robin Christopherson MBE, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet

It’s very important to consider the barriers you might be creating for disabled people.

There are an estimated 16 million disabled people in the UK, and in 2019 the ‘Click-Away Pound’, which measures the volume of people who abandon a retail website because of the barriers they found, grew to £17.1 billion.

Despite compelling data and insights like those shared above, we often find that it is seeing the impact of an inaccessible website or app on a disabled person that really brings to life the importance of digital accessibility. In the video below one of our Accessibility and Usability Consultants highlights some of the challenges a blind person might face attempting to book a flight on an airline app:

Download transcript - How to book a flight when blind – Which? YouTube Video

However good accessibility practices benefit everyone, not just disabled people. Consider a person using captions when watching a video on a noisy train, or a worker with a sprained wrist using speech-to-text to compose an email. Many of us use accessibility features every day without realising.

Digital services and websites need to be easy to use for everyone - it's all about your audience and meeting their needs. When you embed accessibility practices into your processes, and from the start, it enables you to reach every customer on every platform - unlocking your digital services and making them accessible to all.

Our free guide to the Business Case for Accessibility will help you win hearts and minds inside and outside your organisation. Speak to our accessibility experts if you are not sure how or where to start your digital accessibility journey.

 

What is digital accessibility policy compliance?

Accessibility is a legal requirement under the United Kingdom Equality Act of 2010. You may be breaking the law if your website or app does not meet accessibility requirements.

For websites specifically, there are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which explain how to make web content more accessible to disabled people. WCAG consists of guidelines with testable success criteria.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) maintains WCAG. WCAG version 2.1 became a W3C recommendation in June 2018, with WCAG version 2.2 published October 2023 and WCAG version 3 under development.

The Public Sector Bodies (Website and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR 2018) apply to the public sector specifically and require public sector organisations to make their websites and mobile apps accessible.

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) seeks to ensure equal access to digital products and services throughout Europe and becomes law in all EU member states in June 2025.

 

How do you ensure digital accessibility?

Accessibility is everyone’s responsibility, with everyone able to make a difference. From service users who can provide feedback when they encounter barriers online to organisational leaders who can make digital accessibility a priority on the board agenda.

To ensure digital accessibility, several key practices can be implemented:

  1. Provide feedback about inaccessible websites: our free factsheet on how to complain about inaccessible websites provides a step-by-step guide on how to feedback about inaccessible websites and services. It also contains useful information for organisations, including how to avoid complaints.
  2. Conformance with Accessibility standards: we have supported organisations with their accessibility goals for over 20 years with our range of Digital Accessibility Products and Services that includes accessibility audits, user testing, accessibility consultancy and training.
  3. Ongoing evaluation and maintenance: our Digital Accessibility Maturity Model (DAMM) helps you understand how well all aspects of a best practice approach to digital accessibility are embedded within your organisation.
  4. Build awareness: we have various free Digital Accessibility resources listed on our website, made available from our experts and other online sources.

 

What is digital accessibility testing?

Digital accessibility testing generally refers to tests and audits conducted to check a website or digital service for accessibility conformance and any usability issues. Tests are undertaken using a combination of automated software and a range of manual checks.

Due to the specialist nature of the work involved, many organisations will seek support from or use external experts to conduct their accessibility testing at scale. Here at AbilityNet, we use industry-leading testing solutions and a team of specialist consultants; Certified Professionals in Web Accessibility (CPWA) with the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).

Speak to our accessibility experts about the requirements of your digital project and our consultants will advise on appropriate products and services to ensure accessibility compliance. We also regularly deliver online training on how to begin your own accessibility testing if you are passionate about gaining skills in this area.

 

What are the benefits of good accessibility?

Accessibility is a legal, ethical and moral responsibility, but it also makes good business sense. By making your website and digital services accessible more people in more locations can access and understand them more easily. You will also win more customers, drive innovation and boost brand reputation.

The threat of legal action remains a key driver, but in our free guide to the Business Case for Accessibility, published in July 2021, we report how we are possibly reaching a tipping point where digital accessibility has equal status to securing your website, and with major technology companies now “competing on accessibility.”

Of course, progress made varies greatly across sectors and when comparing one organisation to the next, but what is clear and generally agreed on is if your website isn’t accessible, you’ll lose customers.

We have supported companies and organisations with their accessibility goals for over 20 years. Speak to our experts about your projects and make accessibility a priority at your organisation. Sign up to our mailing list to receive the latest accessibility news and details of our business and charitable activities.