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Common accessibility problems: Part 1

Maarten Hoogvliet
Maarten Hoogvliet
Photo of laptop with code snippet

Many websites and apps are difficult or not at all usable by people with disabilities for various reasons. In some cases, this even applies to people without disabilities. In a world that is rapidly digitizing, it is essential that we do something about this. The good news: on June 28, 2025, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) will come into force. This will mean that (digital) service providers across Europe will be obliged to make websites and other digital products properly and easily accessible to everyone. In practice, this means they have to comply with the requirements of WCAG.June 2025 seems far away, but testing and improving the accessibility of your digital product can take a lot of time. So it makes sense to take action and see what aspects you can improve now.

To make this more tangible, I write in three parts about common practical accessibility concerns.

Assumption 1 "Our app or site is easy to understand"

Many organizations assume that their site or app is easy to understand and operate. In doing so, they ignore the fact that many people have difficulty understanding text or going through certain steps. For example, people who have language level difficulties read a sentence down to a word they don't understand and are then completely lost as to what that sentence was about in the first place. Reading the sentence multiple times is necessary, meaning that steps take much longer than the provider thinks. For people with disabilities such as ADD and ADHD, this can be especially difficult because they can quickly drop out if something takes longer than expected.

Often the creators of websites and apps, as well as the copywriters for these platforms, operate on a completely different level than their users. What seems logical and simple to the creators may just be an insurmountable obstacle to a user. For example, if someone encounters a difficult word at the first question of a benefits form, they may drop out right there. However, people are often expected to provide the correct data themselves.

Examples of common problems:

  • Using complicated sentences with difficult words.

For example, the following sentence: "Research will be done to determine the cause of your pain symptoms. Blood will therefore be drawn from you." To make this sentence understandable to a wide audience, it is important to maintain B1 language level. For example: "We will investigate why you are in pain. Therefore, the assistant will take blood from you".

  • Videos do not have subtitles and audio is not transcribed.
  • Images do not have descriptive alternative text. This is of concern to people who use a screen reader.

The solution

You can address these concerns by using short(er), actively worded sentences and avoiding pincer constructions. Use simple words and explain complex issues with easily recognizable imagery. Make sure graphic elements add value by providing them with explanatory "alt" text, which a screen reader can read aloud. Also offer other ways of representation for image and sound, for example with subtitles and transcription. The same applies to all processes: keep it simple. In the end, everyone reaps the benefits.

This blog provides some brief examples. If you are not yet so familiar with the subject of accessibility, I can tell you much more about this. I'll discuss 2 more common accessibility issues soon!

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