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In the Netherlands live two million people with disabilities. It can be difficult for them to use online information and services. Even if someone is (color)blind, partially sighted, low-literate or dyslexic, or has a motor disability, they must be able to use apps and websites.

The law requires government services to meet digital accessibility requirements. That obligation will also apply to many commercial organizations starting June 2025, when the European Accessibility Act (EAA) 2019/882 takes effect. The EAA should ensure that more products and services, such as smartphones, tablets, ATMs, or e-books, are accessible to people with disabilities. It is estimated that more than 80 million people with disabilities in the European Union will benefit from the new legislation. Not only that, but web accessibility also increases the findability and usability of websites for all users, which increases traffic and sales.

Taeke Reijenga

Taeke Reijenga is an accessibility expert and CEO of the internet agency Level Level. His agency is part of Dutch Digital Agencies (DDA). This organization unites and represents the best digital agencies in the Netherlands.

EAA? What is that?

This means good news, but unfortunately, many organizations are unready to meet the legislation requirements. And that’s worrisome. Most have never heard of the EAA and are unaware of the potential consequences, such as fines and loss of customers if they fail to comply or make their platforms accessible.

Level Level‘s research shows that half of the 15 largest online stores in the Netherlands do not allow visitors with disabilities to place an order. Even though these are public services, organizations such as municipalities, housing corporations, and schools also often need to have their affairs in order. So there are millions of Dutch people for whom using websites or webshops is not self-evident—a missed opportunity of unprecedented social and commercial magnitude. Indeed, research shows that users often click away from a website if they experience any barriers.

Not an ALT tag issue

Correcting this situation takes time. Digital accessibility is not a matter of putting an ALT tag in the right place but a strategic objective with measurable results that must be embedded in the process, from concept to design and development. That means companies need to start creating support for accessibility in their organizations now, train people, and become familiar with the topic. And we haven’t even used the words “long lead times” and “syrupy ICT projects.
The good news is: we can skip the (expensive) music. It is not patching everything up afterward because someone forgot about accessibility today in the tender. It’s not too late. Not for digital agencies, organizations, and companies to take Web accessibility even more seriously, but not for the government to get the law in the minds of companies with a significant public campaign. That campaign should dispel myths because accessible Web sites are not dull and are much more than a cost. In addition, the consequences for organizations that do not meet the new requirements should be clarified quickly.

Lack of incentive

For example, it is still unclear whether companies can be legally prosecuted. The lack of this incentive also means that many organizations are taking a wait-and-see attitude and should be moving quickly. To avoid leaving millions of Dutch citizens out in the digital cold any longer and being ahead of any legal consequences. This inclusive online world to which everyone has access and wants will not just happen. We have to put our shoulders to the wheel – today already. We are ready; who is with us?