Digital accessibility and inclusive design

Digital accessibility and inclusive design are two essential components of the digital journey. Based on my experience with clients, I feel that it is also one of the least understood aspects of the digital roadmap.

Introduction to digital accessibility and inclusion

Digital accessibility is the extent to which a digital product, service or device can be used by as many people as possible, including persons with disabilities. Digital inclusion is also a related concept. It refers to the section of target users who have access to digital products and services - considering disability, accessibility, social factors, and connectivity. For example, to make digital products accessible, we must consider people with partial or full blindness or limited mobility. To make them inclusive, we should also consider those who may not have consistent internet access.

Understanding the pain points

As a user, have you ever come across a poorly designed webform where the "Submit" button is difficult to find? Imagine how difficult this would be for people with impaired vision or color blindness.

Let's say you are a web developer creating a website in English, but mistakenly typed <html lang="FR"> instead of "EN" in the HTML tag. If a sight-impaired person using a screen reader tried to access the site, it would be interpreted as a French website. It might read the English text aloud in a French accent or even translate it into French, rendering it useless.

These examples illustrate the problems of designing and developing digital solutions without considering accessibility or inclusive design principles. It is also applicable to mobile apps, desktop applications and other digital or physical user interfaces.

Our objective must be to design and develop technically accessible, equally usable, and configurable interfaces that will work with assistive technologies like screen readers, speech recognition, magnifiers, and cognitive accessibility aids.

How can enterprises make this a reality?

Digital inclusion and accessibility should be a priority in any organization’s digital journey. However, in the absence of shopfloor to top-floor alignment, inclusion and accessibility practices can become ad hoc activities. Leaders must incorporate digital inclusion and accessibility priorities into their corporate strategies to provide the required impetus for adoption by all product and service teams. Once an organization has enacted a digital inclusion and accessibility policy, it can adopt specific standards and frameworks.

Who sets the standards and guidelines?

Several international conventions and legislative bodies focus on accessibility and inclusion:

  • The UN Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) works to make persons with special needs full and equal members of society.
  • The International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) helps accessibility professionals advance their careers and supports organizations in integrating accessibility into their services, products, and infrastructure.
  • Digital accessibility and inclusion concerns are addressed by the UK Equality Act, the European Accessibility Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and France Law N° 2005-102.
  • The most authoritative work is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a global body responsible for setting standards and guidelines for the Internet and other digital applications.


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set out technology-agnostic success criteria, which are proven, testable methods to measure accessibility. The latest published version of WCAG has three levels of conformance: A, AA and AAA.

Level A sets a minimum level of accessibility to realize broad accessibility for most scenarios. I recommend that companies strive for AA conformance for all digital interfaces. AAA is the highest level, designed to meet the needs of people with limited motor control. However, it may not be cost-effective to attain level AAA for most corporate content. Therefore, it should not be considered mandatory for an enterprise's digital products or websites.

Moving from strategy to execution

Professional training and user design workshops are two fundamental ways to make digital products accessible. All product design efforts should include the perspective of individuals with special needs.

If such individuals are not available, their requirements can be simulated in user workshops.

Professional training and user design workshops are two fundamental ways to make digital products accessible. All product design efforts should include the perspective of individuals with special needs.

All digital team members should be trained on the relevant W3C guidelines, depending on their role. For example, web developers should focus on making web pages compatible with assistive technologies. QA testers and UI/UX experts should gain expertise in validating conformance with WCAG success criteria and checkpoints.

Every organization is in a different phase of its digital journey, but digital accessibility and inclusion must be part of the digital roadmap — from strategy to execution.

By Manish Jain, Director, Digital Consulting, Atos, Canada

Posted on: March 4th, 2022

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About Manish Jain
Principal Consultant/Director
Based in Toronto, Manish Jain is a director of Digital Transformation Consulting with specialization in Agile Industry 4.0 solutions. He is also a member of Atos Expert Group on Immersive Experience, and Decarbonization Special Interest Group. Before his current role, he was heading Sales Strategy & Operations at Atos Syntel. With an MBA in Strategy and Finance, and 16 years of experience in technology strategy, architecture, design and development, Manish has served clients in multiple industries. He is passionate about customer experience and digital technologies and believes that the customer should always come before technology.

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