Digital accessibility: The 7 criteria for accessible websites

Digital accessibility: The 7 criteria for accessible websites

Do you know the 7 topics of digital accessibility? Because the EU continues to push equality on the web. The consequences are enforceable obligations for companies. Decisions are therefore needed, because the EU directive European Accessibility Act (EAA) is to be transposed into national law by mid-2022 and legally applied from June 2025. Learn the most important things to make this complex task feasible.

Digital accessibility: A complex challenge

Are you already looking for solutions on how to make your website barrier -free ? Wondering what really matters? There are different answers depending on the industry. 

One thing is clear: 7 areas need to be addressed in order to make your website barrier-free and better for users.
The selection refers directly to the specifications of the relevant guidelines :

  • The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops technical specifications, guidelines, techniques, and supporting resources that describe accessibility solutions.
    These are regarded as international standards for accessibility on the web. For example, WCAG 2.0 is also a specified ISO standard: ISO/IEC 40500 .
  • The WCAG standard evaluates accessibility in three levels – with various criteria that can be measured to different degrees. The middle level – AA – is considered an appropriate, ambitious goal. 

These specifications lead to the following issues.

7 criteria for accessible websites

  1. Alternatives for graphics and multimedia iaNot all websites are displayed on the screen. Alternatives – such as a screen reader, need a suitable text alternative for all graphic content , which is offered in parallel. This is the only way they can be understood on the reader.In the case of audiovisual media, alternative content is even more complex. In particular, subtitles and audio description must be taken into account. For example, this is about users who cannot hear the content. Or blind users who do not use screencast content because alternative texts or a synchronized audio description are missing.
  2. contrasts and colorsImpaired eyesight or a particularly bright or dark environment can impair the web experience on the screen. Flexible color spectrums and sharp contrasts are decisive here. Therefore, it is recommended to offer the possibility to choose any color scheme on any browser . The same applies to the options for contrast strength.
  3. expandabilityThe next complex concerns the font size. A large enlargement of the font can be decisive for the website visit for the visually impaired. People with severe disabilities often use their own magnification system for this. Rather slight enlargements are also used. Here the task of web design is to provide enlargeable texts with a flexible layout . The explanation for this: browser-based zoom functions are not always sufficient. Users should be able to change the font size of all text without having to scroll or adjust the browser .
  4. linearizabilityOn the regular desktop, important page elements are usually graphically prepared. For example, they have special colors or a specific position. All elements (such as navigation, headers, content) are available in parallel.However, if the content is broken down into linear software – as for a voice output – then this content must be discussed or presented in succession. You will go to the list .The order of all page elements must therefore be coordinated and should be consistent. Structurally , this is important. It is important that websites work even when the layout is switched off. And they should use tools and extensions for browsers, readers and help systems to enable structural navigation even without a layout.
  5. Focus management and dynamic componentsAnother important aspect of accessible web design is device independence . Here, too, the usability of the website, with keyboard or switch controls , plays an important role. Dynamic components and other client-side applications have proven to be tricky for accessibility. The accessibility of widgets in particular can become a challenge in web design. From this point of view, the web page content should be operable with the keyboard as well as with the mouse . And elements that are not mapped natively via HTML need to be supplemented by Accessible Rich Internet Applications – ARIA for short
  6. understandability, navigation and orientationThere are many key questions here that speak for the particular importance of these three aspects for accessibility. The approach is maximum assistance to break down all hurdles of content. 
    The formulated requirements are as follows:
    • general understanding of the content
    • Error prevention instructions and error handling for forms
    • Search functions and an overview to take into account different skills of the users
    • Correct information about the language of the content so that screen readers can read it correctly.
    You should also consider whether content is provided in easy language as well as in sign language. Only then will the core of accessibility be fully met.
  7. Structured ContentHTML structural elements form the core of accessible web design. It’s the common language behind every working website.Therefore, the semantics in HTML must be observed for all content elements (headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.). And all form elements need a descriptive caption.The basis for the standard conformity of each web offer is the separation of its different levels. That means the separation of content (HTML) , presentation (CSS) and behavior (JavaScript). The basis for this, in turn, is the sensible structuring of the content.


Making your own website barrier-free is up-to-date – and unavoidable from the point of view of EU regulations. But you can only address all users in all situations by completely removing barriers! 

The task of digital accessibility is complex . It is important to first identify the core areas – as in this article – and to work on them continuously. However, even this list of core topics does not guarantee complete accessibility for every website.

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