Five hurdles between you and an accessible digital product

Floris Jansen

Along the way to making your products and services accessible, you can face lots of hurdles, small and large. But we’ve seen a few come up again and again, so here are the main ones, in no particular order.

A narrow understanding

While a lot of people aren’t aware yet of accessibility, some already know a little bit. But knowing a little can be a problem, too. For example, designers might know about the colour contrast requirements, but lack knowledge about the rest. If they don’t realise there is more to it, this can prevent them from learning more. Training and other activities can help create awareness about the depth and breadth of accessibility, and overcome this hurdle.

Stopping after an evaluation

An initial evaluation is an invaluable tool to get a grasp of where you stand. It can lead to projects and smaller fixes to improve the accessibility of your product. However, because your product is probably continuously evolving and expanding, it’s important to keep working on its accessibility. Testing new features, doing regular evaluations and updating your processes are all good ways to make sure you don’t stop after a quick scan.

Ignoring third party tools

Your product teams might not be responsible for the design and development of all of its parts. For example, you might have a chat widget from a third party vendor. This means that the product teams can’t ‘fix’ the accessibility of that widget. And yet, if there is a problem, the experience for a user will break nonetheless. That’s also why, under the European Accessibility Act, you’re still responsible for the accessibility of those tools. So, make sure to request fixes from your vendors, or switch to a different vendor with an accessible alternative and a commitment to keep it that way.

Lack of buy-in

In many companies, small initiatives arise to improve accessibility. This might be a one-person initiative or a product team working to make their own bit more accessible. However, as long as upper management doesn’t emphasise the importance of accessibility, it’s unlikely to result in a completely accessible experience for users. That’s why it’s important to convince managers and stakeholders about the value, for example by emphasising legal requirements, the large amount of excluded users, and potential for innovation.

Stopping at WCAG compliance

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a great tool to reach a basic level of conformance: it helps more people use your product without major hurdles. However, going further is better. The guidelines ensure access, but they do not ensure inclusion and a pleasant user experience. Additionally, it’s easy to treat the guidelines as the only way to check accessibility. But you shouldn’t forget for whom you’re doing this, and to involve people with impairments in the development and testing of your products. 


At our recent Beyond Design roundtable on accessibility, overlapping problems were shared: we discussed figuring out how to go beyond checking the boxes, how to measure accessibility, and integrating it in the day-to-day. There, too, involving people with impairments in research, evaluations and as co-workers came up as a useful step in the right direction. Additionally, we heard that advocating in all parts of your organisation and getting top-down buy-in while also working on it bottom-up were important parts of the puzzle. And the experiences from different organisations served as a reminder that accessibility requires a long-term effort.


If you’re aware of these hurdles, you’re already set up to be more successful in making your products accessible. And if you’ve read the earlier blogs, you also know why accessibility is important, what guidelines and legislation there are, and how to get started. If you need any help along the way, let us know!

Floris Jansen
UX Researcher

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