Jens Krumm, Vorstand +Pluswerk
Jens Krumm

CEO of +Pluswerk and Digital Entrepreneur

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are the global standard for accessibility of web content. The current version 2.2 was published at the end of 2023. In the following article we explain why this is interesting and relevant not only for people with disabilities.

Clear road to the mountains on the horizon

The WCAG have been published since 1998 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which can be found online at The W3C was founded in 1994 and is still the leading international consortium for defining Web standards. The mission of the W3C is to promote the free Internet as a platform for information, communication, and commerce. 

The goal of WCAG is to make Web content accessible to all people, regardless of their individual abilities or limitations. The guidelines address a variety of users with different needs, including visual, hearing, and mobility impairments, as well as cognitive, speech, and/or learning disabilities. The guidelines also address the needs of the elderly, whose perceptual abilities are often limited as they age.

Relevant for companies such as universities

For commercial website providers or institutional providers such as higher education institutions, compliance with the WCAG guidelines is not only a social responsibility, but also a strategic competitive advantage. Accessible Web sites reach a broader audience than inaccessible sites, providing benefits on several levels.  

People with visual or cognitive impairments are often unable or limited in their ability to use traditional Web sites. For this group of people, usability and user experience, and therefore customer satisfaction with digital offerings, improve massively and in one fell swoop. In Germany, there are 7.8 million severely disabled people in this target group, about half of whom are employed. 

Good for image and recruitment

At the corporate level, accessible digital offerings have a positive impact on a company's image. Professional communication about WCAG compliance can be an excellent public relations tool to promote a positive external perception. Organizations and companies that strive for inclusion and accessibility are often perceived as more socially responsible (CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility) and therefore attractive employers.  

In some countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and France, the accessibility of websites and other digital offerings is already required by law. In Germany, the public sector already has to comply with accessibility guidelines. And the EU is planning to make it mandatory for all commercial website operators in the coming years - the number of accessible digital offerings will continue to rise sharply in the future.

Accessibility as an editorial SEO measure

If a digital offering cannot be found by potential users, it is useless. Search engines such as Google, Bing, etc. ensure this. Accessible content is also of great benefit for search engine optimization (SEO). Many technical aspects of accessibility, such as clear structuring and hierarchization of content and semantically correct code, directly increase the visibility of websites in search engines. 

For online editors, the implementation of accessibility poses a number of non-technical challenges, especially when it comes to making content and user interfaces accessible without negatively impacting the user experience or design. This begins with the labeling of buttons and checkboxes, which need to be labeled with meaningful content, not just "more information" or "click here. 

The presentation of complex information in tabular form can also be difficult for screen reader users to understand, especially when tables contain multiple levels of headings or nested structures. The same applies to the use of color to convey information (e.g., red fields for error messages) - without additional textual descriptions or symbols, this quickly becomes problematic for colorblind or visually impaired users. 

When using dynamic content, WCAG compliance requires accurate ARIA markup so that screen reader users are reliably informed of changes. Equally critical is the provision of high-contrast text and UI elements, as well as alternative text for multimedia content, to ensure accessibility for visually impaired users. 

In addition, the use of complex language and jargon can limit comprehension for users with cognitive impairments, while the lack of clear navigation aids makes orientation difficult. Websites where movement and animation cannot be controlled pose risks to users with vestibular impairments, highlighting the importance of accessible control options. 

Many departments benefit from accessibility

In addition to PR, marketing, and legal, human resources also benefits from digital accessibility. It expands the pool of applicants, as people with disabilities can now apply to the website provider. A commitment to accessibility strengthens the employer brand and is a strategic response to the skills shortage by making the company more attractive than others.  

Existing employees also benefit from accessible digital offerings, for example on the intranet or when using their own website. Their improved usability contributes to greater employee satisfaction and loyalty. Functioning and attractive accessible digital offerings are the best proof that an organization takes the increasingly important issues of inclusion and diversity seriously and puts them into practice.

Accessibility begins with the basics

Version 2.2 of the WCAG identifies three levels of accessibility for digital content.

  • Level A is the foundational level and includes basic accessibility features. This includes requirements such as readable text, clear hierarchical structuring of information, consistent placement of help elements, and automation of repetitive user input.

  • Level AA is the recommended level of compliance for most Web sites. It includes additional criteria, such as improved visual contrast, and strict requirements for forms, such as intelligent error handling, clear association of labels and controls with associated form input fields for screen readers, and the provision of alternatives to drag-and-drop functionality.

  • Level AAA represents the highest level of accessibility and is often more difficult to implement. This level includes advanced accessibility features such as more detailed audio descriptions for users who are deaf or hard of hearing, full visibility of focus elements, and advanced requirements for accessible authentication.

Meeting the WCAG guidelines to the greatest extent possible is a very good starting point for providing accessible digital services. The website at provides a detailed description of each level and how to achieve them technically.

How to make your digital offerings more accessible

In addition to the current challenges of the guidelines, accessible digital offerings that want to meet the WCAG criteria should also have the following features

  • Compatibility with screen readers: All content on a Web site must be able to be read accurately and clearly by screen readers and other assistive technologies used by visually impaired people to access digital content.
  • Keyboard navigation compatibility: A digital experience must be fully navigable and operable by keyboard input without the use of a mouse. This feature is primarily used by people with motor impairments.
  • Accessible UI and design: This includes sufficient color contrast between foreground and background, easy-to-read font sizes, line spacing that is not too small, clear highlighting, and other changes to the user interface.
  • No unsafe lighting effects and animations: For people with conditions such as epilepsy, flashing lights and animations must be easily and quickly stopped at any time so that this group of people can use a website without risking a seizure.
  • Understandable language for people with cognitive impairments: In general, all digital content should be written in the simplest, most understandable language possible. For people with more significant mental limitations, it may also be helpful to provide a summary of the content offered in plain language.
Hand auf Kreidetafel mit Text: Possible

Implementation Challenges

Accessibility is an important strategic goal. However, in the day-to-day business and in the face of many seemingly more urgent and important tasks, implementation can quickly fall by the wayside. Here are some of the typical obstacles we have seen in practice:

  • Budget constraints: Even if the implementation of accessibility techniques is a small part of many projects, a tight budget can become a problem. Outsourcing certain aspects of development or implementing WCAG standards in stages can reduce costs or spread them over a longer period of time.
  • Technical complexity: The complexity of implementation can quickly become a problem, especially for smaller development teams. Specialized training for web developers and designers can improve their understanding and ability to create WCAG-compliant sites.
  • Lack of awareness: When teams and groups are made up entirely of people without disabilities, there is often a lack of awareness and interest in the topic. This is where awareness campaigns and workshops can increase understanding of the importance of accessibility.

It is particularly important that the management of a digital content provider takes the issue of accessibility seriously. After all, accessibility is easier to solve on a technical level than on a human level. With more than 20 years of experience in successful web projects, +Pluswerk is often called upon as a sparring partner. Accessibility will become even more important in the future due to aspects such as the improvement of accessibility through artificial intelligence, the further development of voice control technologies and the ongoing updates of the WCAG guidelines.

As one of Germany's leading digital solution providers, we support companies, educational institutions and organizations with new WCAG 2.2 implementations or updates. With our expertise in accessible web design and technical implementation, +Pluswerk helps to successfully master the challenges of digital accessibility and makes a valuable contribution to digital inclusion and successful online communication.


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