Make your website accessible to all visitors
- Frances Gallimore
- Edited 23 January 2023
- 4 min
- Managing and growing
A quarter of people in the Netherlands have a disability and therefore cannot interpret information on websites or find it through search engines. How can you optimise your website to accommodate for people who are visually impaired, hard of hearing or low-literate? Discover online requirements, potential issues and tips for creating a user-friendly website.
Suppose a visually impaired visitor would like to buy your product online. If they can only browse your website with a cursor, they will not get past the homepage. Visually impaired visitors tend to prefer keyboard shortcuts because it requires less visual effort. However, this is not always possible.
Many websites were not designed with visitors with disabilities in mind. By designing inaccessible websites, business owners miss out on millions of potential customers and sales.
Search engines (in Dutch) accessible websites with a higher position, Digitoegankelijk product manager Kristian Mul explains. “Ease of use is key for both online findability and readability, and ease of use is an important metric used by search engines. After all, search engines also browse your website like visitors do. If your website is easy to browse, your search ranking will be higher and it will be easier for visitors to find you.”
Want to make your website more accessible? Mul recommends following the WCAG . “These guidelines outline accessibility requirements for web content. Website visitors should be able to perceive all information and components on a website. This includes copy, captions, images, videos, infographics, and podcasts.”
As of 2025, businesses will be required to design accessible websites under the European Accessibility . “Start preparing now, because designing an accessible website is a big job. Get started now and make sure that everyone can access and understand all your information online.”
You need to know what your website is and is not doing right before you can improve it. The following tools can help you figure this out:
- Use the accessible website (in Dutch) to identify what accessibility measures you already have in place and what you can still improve.
- Take the self-scan (in Dutch) developed by thuiswinkel.org to assess the accessibility of your online shop.
- Follow the Digitoegankelijk.nl (in Dutch) to make sure you meet all web accessibility requirements.
Tips by target audience
These tools will provide insight into some common issues on websites. But the accessibility of your website can differ for people with different disabilities. Mul shares a few tips on catering to different types of visitors below.
Visitors with physical disabilities
1.6 million people in the Netherlands have a physical . (in Dutch) This ranges from people with an amputated limb to people with rheumatoid arthritis. The tips below will help you improve the accessibility of your website for visitors who cannot type or operate a mouse very quickly, for example.
- Give visitors big buttons to browse the website or website menu.
- Allow users to browse your website with voice commands by installing text-to-speech software.
- Make sure the mouse (in Dutch) on your website works properly. Visitors with visual impairments can then use the same system, using keyboard shortcuts instead. Discover tips for good mouse navigation.
- If a user makes a mistake when filling in a form, trigger an error message. This will tell the user that the information has not been submitted yet and which field they have to complete.
- Give users plenty of time to complete time-bound forms used for courses and exams, for example.
Visitors with hearing problems
Approximately 800,000 people in the Netherlands have an auditory (in Dutch). Here is what you can do for them:
- Add subtitles to your videos so that visitors can read along.
- Use short sentences and easy words. People who communicate in sign language use a different grammar, so written Dutch may not be easy for them to understand.
- Provide transcriptions of audio files, like podcasts.
- Allow visitors to switch sound on and off.
Visually impaired, colour blind or blind visitors
Around 300,000 Dutch people have a visual impairment. Here is what you can do for them:
- Use contrasting colours, like black letters on an orange background, instead of white letters. The bigger the difference, the better.
- Allow visitors to adjust the font size. Digital information can be (in Dutch) up to 32 times. For this to be possible, your websites and apps have to be coded properly and support magnification devices. Make sure your website is responsive, so that it changes size depending on the device used and aim to make it compatible with as many devices as possible.
- Underline hyperlinks. This makes them easier for colour-blind people to recognise.
- Code your website so that it can be read out loud by special voice reader software. Make sure that all the information conveyed by colours, shapes, or images is also put into . (in Dutch) Create a written description of images and infographics, so that the information can be read out loud by software. Images should always have a clear file name and alt text. Voice reader software reads out information about images, like the file name, and general names like ‘image 123’ are of little use to blind people. Meaningful file names and alt texts like 'photo toothpaste extra white 75 ml' are much better.
- Symbols like check marks and emojis should also be accompanied by alternative texts. Remember that identical symbols can have different meanings. You might use two different check marks to convey different messages, for instance.
- Blind people often use a braille (in Dutch). This is a special keyboard that can be connected to a PC, laptop, or tablet and converts on-screen text to braille (and vice versa). You can make your website more accessible for blind people. For example, by avoiding hyperlinks like 'click here' and opting for a description like 'read more about toothpaste for sensitive teeth' instead. This will tell blind users what to expect.
Visitors who struggle with processing digital information
Some visitors find it difficult to understand online information. They may be relatively new to the internet, for instance. Tips on making information easier to understand:
- If there are hyperlinks in your texts, tell users exactly where they will end up after clicking on the link. A hyperlink like 'discover the 7 steps' is easier to understand than 'click here'.
- Use short sentences and easy words.
- Consider adding images to descriptions and product information. Visitors can then choose what works best for them.
- Allow visitors to turn off moving or flashing content or background noise.
If these tips are a bit too technical for you, reach out to a website builder for help.
Ask for feedback
Mul recommends telling visitors that you are working on making your website more accessible. Explain where you are now and what you are doing, and invite visitors to provide feedback on accessibility by including a link to an email address or a digital form.