How do you create an accessible website?

"Having everything technically set up, but no accessible content? Like building a modern laboratory full of smart gadgets, but forgetting to turn on the lights."

Requirements for accessible websites: take care of your IT, think about your content

Blog by Elke

You may have already read it: on 23 September 2020, all (semi-)public authorities in the Netherlands must comply with modern accessibility requirements for websites and other digital information. This means that people with visual, hearing, cognitive, speech or physical disabilities can also make their way through government websites. And that they understand the content. Of course, every smart entrepreneur immediately thinks: not a bad idea for my company website either. Especially when you know that 25% of the Dutch population has a disability. In this blog, more on digital accessibility and why you should start working on it now.

With a month to go, various media report that municipalities and related organisations in particular are still a lot of work to do have to perform to meet the 23 September requirements. Research of Stuurlui in 2019 already revealed that among the home pages of all 355 Dutch municipalities, only 83 websites (23%) comply with digital accessibility legislation. In short: an accessible website turns out to be quite a task. Especially when you consider that municipalities first started working on it back in 2008. What lessons can businesses learn from this?

4 lessons for an accessible website

First, I'd like to tell you about my good friend Dirk. Dirk is a rather enterprising type. Social, smart. At 25, he set up a successful industrial design studio and develops sustainable automation solutions with a social impact. Truly one of those model millennials who gives his friends (me included) the idea that we are just messing around. The fact that Dirk is visually impaired (he has retinitis pigmentosa), does not stop him from pursuing his dreams. What does hold him back is that his disability prevents him from visiting many websites. No LinkedIn, or But also no websites of clients, potential clients or partners. Online exile, he calls it himself.

Lesson 1 - Hello, businesses of the Netherlands: you're up next

Keep Dirk in mind. The fact that the Digital Government Act only applies to digital products of (semi)public authorities for now does not mean that you can sit back as a company. Developments that happen in government tend to trickle down to business. At Voxx, we see this too. For example, how requirements around information security are becoming increasingly stringent in government tenders. How text writing at B1 language level is now the norm for government jobs. Or the increased desire for accessible annual reports.

With digital accessibility in mind, there is even a clear deadline. For instance, commercial organisations are required to comply with accessibility guidelines by 2025. How and to what extent this will be enforced remains to be seen. But anyone offering their services through a website will have to deal with the legislation.

Lesson 2 - Forerunners are endurance runners

Mandatory or not, it is certainly smart to start focusing on digital accessibility now. Some 4.5 million people in the Netherlands have a disability. If your website is not digitally accessible, you are therefore excluding 25% of the population as potential customers, readers or employees. But people without disabilities also benefit from videos with subtitles, a pdf with bookmarks or a website with smart use of colour.

An accessible website forces you to look again at the content of your texts, and perhaps update your positioning. Some municipalities and governments have put the job off for years. But as a company, you want nothing more than to expand your target audience, right? Moreover, it improves the customer experience, accessible pages ensure search engine optimisation and is also good for your CSR (your social image). You happy, Dirk happy.

Lesson 3 - Not just IT, also content

Digital accessibility mainly a functionality party? Then you will come home from a cold content box. A functional, inclusive SEO website sounds like a job for the ICT department. But even if you meet the technical requirements, without accessible content the visitor still gets lost. A bit like building a modern laboratory full of smart gadgets, but forgetting to switch on the light. So cohesion between functionality and content is essential, as is good cooperation with the communications department. Unless you believe that Gert from the ICT department should update (old) website texts in terms of content to B1 or C1 level.

Lesson 4: Know your content

A heads-up, but the sooner you start taking stock of the job at hand, the better. The Roadmap of DigiAccessible, a Home Office website, is also a good starting point for businesses. To zoom in on producing accessible content for a moment, what kind of requirements should you consider?


  • Texts are tailored to language level and tone-of-voice of your persona/target audience
  • Headings and titles clearly describe what the text or paragraph is about
  • Texts have a clear structure and structure


  • Offer an alternative to images, e.g. textual or speech
  • Provide adequate description: tell what you see or what you do

Video and sound

  • Add alternatives for visitors who cannot see or hear the images and sounds, such as a transcript, subtitles or spoken text

Documents (such as PDF)

  • Provide structured text with a clear navigation and reading order
  • Devise alternatives to tables or graphs
  • Make sure links (URLs) are clearly indicated

In conclusion: opportunities for every sector

Whether you are in the construction, healthcare, government, finance or you name it, every company would do well to see digital accessibility as an opportunity. Because besides Dirk, I haven't told you about my cousin Meike, who works at an IT consultancy firm and is colour-blind. Or my friend Bob, who is dyslexic. And so there are thousands of potential customers, including in B2B, whose online lives we can make just a little bit easier.

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