Accessible Websites – Why Are They So Important?

Accessibility: Definition and Effects

The internet has become a significant medium in many areas of daily life. It is paramount that digital services are easily accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or knowledge. This is the founding principle of accessibility. In conjunction with usability, it aims to make it as easy as possible to access web content.

In Switzerland, accessibility has been considered important for a long time, particularly for public authorities. This guarantees legal equity for people with disabilities. However, we know that simple access is also critical for all other digital service providers

In Switzerland alone, there are 1.8 million people with moderate or severe disabilities. That’s about 18% of the population. In Germany in 2022, there were about 8 million people (13% of the population) with severe disabilities (the figures for Germany don’t include moderate disabilities such as colour blindness, which affects about 8% of the population).

In addition, any of us might have temporary difficulties with accessibility, for example, if we’re in loud surroundings or bright sunlight or simply don’t have a good internet connection.

Accessible Web Content Benefits Everyone.

This means that companies will benefit from prioritising accessibility when it comes to their content, products and services, as this data from W3C shows:

  • Online accessibility can have direct and indirect financial benefits, due to increased use of websites.

  • Accessible websites are easier for people to find, access and use successfully. Such websites therefore attract more visitors (increased number of users) and are more effective (increased use).

  • Many aspects of online accessibility lead directly to cost savings and greater success in digital marketing:

    • When accessibility reduces the amount of care a website requires, you spend less on personnel costs for maintenance

    • When accessibility reduces the burden on servers, you need less server capacity and save additional server costs

    • When accessibility enables content to work across a range of devices, you no longer need to create several versions of a website for different situations

    • When accessibility helps you benefit from advanced web technologies and be ready for future ones, you spend less on upgrades

    • When your website is accessible, your search engine ranking improves (positive effects for search engine marketing/SEO)

Statutory Principles and Standards

The international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) define the global standards for accessible online content. In Switzerland, the Access for All foundation checks sites for WCAG compliance, which is mandatory for the public sector. The law is in the process of being changed to apply to private enterprises, too.

In Germany, the Accessible Information Technology Regulation (BITV) has been in force since 2019. It applies to all of the country’s public offices. It is based on the WCAG standards and aims to make websites, apps and other web applications accessible to people with disabilities. The Accessibility Reinforcement Act (BFSG), implementing European guidelines, will come into force in Germany in mid-2025.

The BFSG also affects Swiss companies that offer products and services in the EU or Germany. Violations may result in fines of up to €100,000.

Before we explain how we can guarantee online accessibility, we’ll briefly summarise what accessibility means. Then, we’ll share some of the principal consequences of the change in the law for companies active in Germany and the European market.

What Does the Accessibility Reinforcement Act (BFSG) Mean by Accessible?

Accessibility is defined in Section 3, Paragraph 1, Sentence 2 BFSG as follows: A website is accessible ‘if the products or services can be found, accessed and used by people with disabilities in the usual way, without particular difficulty or the need for help from others’.

Correct implementation is defined in EN 301 549, a European accessibility standard. The BFSG therefore makes it mandatory to meet the criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

What Products and Services Have to be Offered in Accessible Form from Mid-2025?

The act will apply to products that are placed on the market after 28 June 2025 and to services provided after that date. The BFSG names the following products in particular:

  • Computers, notebooks, tablets, smartphones, mobile phones

  • ATMs and automatic ticket and check-in machines

  • Televisions with internet access

  • eReaders

  • Routers

The services mentioned include:

  • Telephone services

  • eBooks

  • Messenger services

  • Services offered on mobile devices (including apps) by national passenger services

  • Banking services

  • Electronic business transactions

Passenger services (in the case of municipal, suburban and regional transport services, interactive self-service terminals only)

Which Companies are Affected, According to the BFSG?

‘The Accessibility Reinforcement Act applies to manufacturers, distributors and importers of the above-mentioned products and providers of the above-mentioned services. Very small businesses (fewer than ten employees and an annual revenue of not more than €2 million) that provide services are exempt from the law. However, very small businesses that place products on the market are subject to the BFSG’ (Bundesfachstelle Barrierefreiheit [Federal Office for Accessibility]).

What Exceptions Does the BFSG Allow?

The law allows an exemption if:

  1. Meeting the requirements would require disproportionate effort from the individual business and

  2. Meeting the requirements would demand a fundamental change to the products or services.

There is a separate process to determine whether a business is eligible for an exemption.

How Does Being BFSG-Compliant Benefit Your Company?

  • Complying with accessibility guidelines enables companies to make their products and services available to a wider public, including people with disabilities.

  • Companies that aim to be accessible may be seen as socially responsible, which contributes to positive brand awareness.

  • By adhering to statutory requirements, companies avoid legal risks and potential fines due to non-compliance.

What Does This Mean in Figures?

According to a Forrester Research report from 2022, the ROI on accessibility varies from company to company. However, estimates indicate that accessibility and improved usability bring back 100 dollars for every dollar invested (source).

Unic-UX-Archictect-HS6A9288

Why user experience is a factor of success for your website

Don’t leave your customers standing out in the rain. Offer them an impressive user experience which will convince them to try your offer.

User Experience

What Should You Do if Your Company is Not Yet BFSG-Compliant?

Adjusting websites and online shops to meet accessibility standards can require considerable time and cost in the first instance. It’s worth consulting experts to help keep implementation costs in check.

For smaller companies in particular, the technical requirements for implementing accessibility standards can be a challenge. Here, too, we recommend that you consult our experts.

What Will Happen if You Don’t Adhere to the BFSG?

If a company is accused of not meeting BFSG requirements, it will first be checked whether the suspicion is valid. If a website is found not to be accessible, the company will be required to rectify this. If the company does not meet the requirement, it will receive a warning that the service may be suspended. If the company continues to refuse to meet the accessibility requirement, measures will be taken to ensure compliance (fines or suspension of the service).

»How Can You Tell Whether Your Website is Accessible?«

Check whether your website adheres to the four basic principles of accessibility, as defined in the standards and guidelines.

Is your content:

  1. Perceivable?

  2. Operable?

  3. Understandable?

  4. Robust?

Perceivable

All users must be able to perceive the information and interface presented. In other words, individual users must still be able to discern the information and interface, even if they are not able to use all of their senses.

  • People with visual impairments can only use your website if all the content (text, images, navigation elements, menu elements, entry fields, etc) has a text equivalent that can be read by screen readers. They cannot perceive content that is hidden in downloads or only communicated using a change in colour.

  • People with hearing impairments need captions or transcripts for videos and audio descriptions for audio documents.

Operable

All the website’s functions must be usable for everyone, with an accessible interface and easily identifiable interaction options.

  • People with motor disabilities must be able to use your website even without a mouse.

  • People with severe visual impairments depend on strong contrasts, large or adjustable fonts and buttons that are clearly labelled and easy to use, etc.

  • Depending on the impairment, users may need different communication channels. There needs to be a mix of written and verbal ways to get in touch.

Understandable

Users must easily grasp how to use the website and understand all the information presented.

  • People with cognitive disabilities, people under stress or people with reading comprehension difficulties appreciate a clear navigational structure with a small number of steps. Tables, checklists and a clear structure with headers are helpful here. Language should be as clear as possible with simple vocabulary and understandable terms.

Robust

It must be possible to perceive and use the website reliably using a wide range of devices. This includes the use of future devices.

  • Depending on the impairment, users must also be able to navigate without a mouse or display.

Are You Finding it Hard to Judge Whether Your Web Solution is Accessible?

Feel free to get in touch. We’ll be happy to help you check the current status and take measures if necessary.

Unic Services that Help Make Your Website Accessible

  • Concept/design: We focus on accessibility right from the design phase. We structure and prioritise content and information clearly, based on its relevance. We include aspects such as contrast ratio or content output from the very beginning of the design process.

  • Adjustment of existing websites and apps: We help your company identify current accessibility weak points and define measures you can take to improve them.

  • Accessible frontend code: We focus particularly on frontend development. Our developers are familiar with the WCAG standards and ensure that their code is accessible right from the start. One of the things we test for is whether interactions using keyboards and screen readers work reliably. We work closely with the Access for All foundation, which offers certification for the public sector in Switzerland.

Whenever possible, we use an agile approach with regular testing by blind and visually impaired users. Experience has shown that this is more efficient and ensures higher quality.

We also support Access for All by providing technical expertise for their Accessibility Developer Guide and are involved in accessibility training and conferences.

Our Service

Frontend Development

Our frontend engineers develop a accessible, performant and responsive frontend for your user interface.

Frontend Development

More Unic Services Related to Accessibility

  • Editorial and text training We train editorial staff and content managers to keep the guidelines and principles of online accessibility in mind when working in their content management system. For example, does everyone remember to tag images with meaningful ALT (alternative) text? How can you avoid making life difficult for screen readers?
    In our copywriter training, we take writers through the most important guidelines and requirements for online accessibility and provide checklists to help you ensure your texts are as accessible as possible.

  • Accessible email marketing: We bring together various email marketing standards, which we’ve continued to improve and expand on over the months. We’ve integrated requirements from bodies such as WCAG, and TEN, as well as recommendations from our collaboration with the Swiss Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We consider ourselves a worldwide pioneer of accessible marketing emails.

Contact for your Digital Solution with Unic

Book an appointment

Are you keen too discuss your digital tasks with us? We would be happy to exchange ideas with you.

Jörg Nölke
Gerrit Taaks
Gerrit Taaks

Contact for your Digital Solution

Book an appointment

Are you keen to talk about your next project? We will be happy exchange ideas with you.

Melanie Klühe
Melanie Klühe
Stefanie Berger
Stefanie Berger
Philippe Surber
Philippe Surber
Stephan Handschin
Stephan Handschin