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Accessibility in Modern Enterprise Web Apps

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Lilli Salo
Lilli Salo
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On Aug 23, 2021 2:58:42 PM
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The COVID-19 pandemic drastically sped up the world's digital transformation. Now, in many cases digital is the only channel through which customers can communicate with brands and companies. In addition, remote work is becoming a new norm and companies are waking up to the impact that web app accessibility, or the lack of it, can have on their end users.

By focusing on inclusive design, developers can make sure that their web apps don’t present barriers to employees or end users with disabilities. After all, an estimated one billion people worldwide have some from of disability. Accessibility features create an enabling environment which benefits not only disabled people, but many other population groups as well.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent access to websites, or web apps, for people with disabilities. MDN Web Docs defines accessibility as “the practice of making your websites usable by as many people as possible.” It is about developing content to be accessible to any user, regardless of their individual physical or cognitive abilities, or the way they access the web. 

5 types of disabilities to consider:

  • Mobility and physical impairments - Poor or no motor function
  • Vision disability - Low-vision, blind, or color-blind
  • Hearing - Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Cognitive - Dyslexia, autism, ADHD, etc.
  • Speech - Unable to speak or having a speech impediment 

Hand pointing at a laptop screen

Why accessibility matters?

Information should be accessible to all, and the technology we use to access that information should enable, not hinder, the process. By making your web app accessible, you are ensuring that everyone benefits from a good user experience and has easy access to the information they want.

If this isn’t reason enough already, let’s have a look at a few more reasons.

Accessibility is inclusive

Disabilities impact individuals’ lives in several ways. In developed countries, between 50% to 70% of persons with disabilities, and of working age, are unemployed.

Overall, people with disabilities are two to three times more likely to face unemployment than others, which represents a missed opportunity for businesses. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion benefit from increased innovation and productivity, as well as a better work environment.

Accessible workplace apps allow employees with disabilities to contribute in a meaningful way. In fact, inclusive companies are four times more likely to have total shareholder returns that outperform those of their peer group.

Accessibility is a legal requirement

More and more countries are making web accessibility a legal requirement - especially in the public sector. In 2020, there were over 3,500 digital (including web, app, and video) accessibility lawsuits in the US - a 20% increase on the year before.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the de facto standard on which most countries base their accessibility policies. Two other notable standards are those of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), also known as the WAI-ARIA 1.1 Authoring Practices, and the US Rehabilitation Act, also called “the 508”. In Europe, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) was launched in 2019, and must be applied by all EU member states as of July 28, 2025.

Complying with the above standards and legal requirements does not mean that you have to forgo great UI design in favour of accessible features. Quite the contrary; accessibility guidelines will actually make your app more usable to everyone, whether disabled or not. 

A person using a braille keyboard

Accessible design is better for all

With an aging population and workforce, web accessibility is becoming key. The number of older people is projected to be 1.5 billion in 2050, so that one in six people in the world will be aged 65 years or older.

Aging adults commonly experience some form of disability or impairment, such as vision, hearing, or fine motor functions, which are abilities required in order to use today’s technology. 

Catering for this cohort of people is crucial, as they will make up the larger proportion of the workforce in the near future. Improving web accessibility is one significant way in which employers can support this group of employees.

In addition, most of us will experience a temporary disability at some point in our lives, such as a broken wrist or glue ear, or find ourselves working in a quiet environment where we can’t play sound and we’ve left our headphones at home. So improving accessibility doesn’t just benefit a section of users, but provides an enhanced UX for all.

Final thoughts

Companies that prioritize digital accessibility tap into new market potential, create a more inclusive and engaged work environment, and avoid the legal risk of not following web accessibility requirements. 

There is a strong business case for embracing inclusive design, and debunking myths that accessibility is complex, uncool, expensive, and only benefits the few. Inclusive design often results in overall improved usability and customer satisfaction - for all end users.

Interested to know more? Learn how Vaadin supports accessibility.

Lilli Salo
Lilli Salo
Lilli joined Vaadin in 2021 after delivering content for various international SaaS startups. She enjoys the creative challenge of transforming complicated topics into clear and concise written material that provide value to the reader.
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