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How to survive SARS! Service Accessibility Rules: in the EU by June 2025... could they actually make you stronger?

At Fledgerr, we’re building AI tools for lawyers. Suddenly we heard that our product has to comply with a whole new set of Service Accessibility Rules. SARs? Crikey. What will this cost?

A chance lunchtime conversation taught us a new perspective on accessibility. This is it.

Accessibility design is the life's work of web developer Tomas Francisco. From Portugal, he lives in the Netherlands and works in The Hague Tech’s community because it has many like-minded people, building websites and tools for their SaaS businesses: Envision, for example, and its fantastic image-to-speech solutions.

Accessibility design is now important for tech businesses globally. In the US, the 1990 Disabilities Act was extended gradually to small businesses and in 2020 to electronic services. Special interest groups have used lawsuits to encourage companies such as Netflix to comply [1].

In 2023, the EU implemented similar requirements for accessibility for e-commerce [2]. Enforcement is for each country member to carry out, at the latest by June 2025.

The implication? Every business in The Hague Tech, and businesses large and small across the world must offer accessibility in their products and services.

So – sigh – is this just an extra cost?

Tomas gave me a whole new way of thinking about it. When people hear “accessibility”, he explained, many of us imagine a person with physical disabilities: eyesight, hearing or fine motor control, for example. That’s a lot of variation. Should a startup website really be designed to account for every possible disability?

When a startup in The Hague Tech builds its first website, it wants to move fast, to get the minimum viable product out there. The logic of startups is usually to serve only part of the market: the early adopters. Of course, accessibility might be built in from the start, but more likely, growing into a larger market will need some re-architecting for customers with slightly different requirements. A great moment to make sure the website or product complies with the requirements for accessibility.

This should not be a moment to complain! The accessibility part of the rebuild is an opportunity. Why? Tomas gave three reasons: market size, product quality and company culture.

  • Market Size: the older people become, the more likely they are to have Accessibility issues. Websites don’t function so well when zoomed in. Screen brightness causes exhaustion for users. You actually lose paying customers because they can no longer use your product. And the customer segment you are most likely to lose is the one with the most cash – older age groups have more assets and often more disposable income. It can easily be 30-40% of all your potential revenue at risk.Source:
  • Product Quality: accessibility has many aspects, not just screen visibility. Thinking hard about product simplification, thinking hard about the user journey leads us to a more elegant user experience. Getting the small details right for Accessibility has benefits for all users.
  • Company culture: it makes your company really strong. You do because you want to make the best possible product that really is accessible to everyone. The genuineness – the authenticity – of the commitment is vital. Because people are really committed, they notice opportunities to make things a bit better, they are prepared to suggest them, and their suggestions are more likely to be well received.

The paradox of Accessibility says that if it is done with a genuine purpose, it actually leads to other benefits along the way – including a better product finding more customers who are more ready to pay. It still has to be done sustainably – at a price that makes some profit – but it must be done first for the right reasons, in order to motivate the employees and customers in finding the solutions that work. They act for the right reasons, and along the way, the result should be a simpler, more elegant product, that accesses a larger market.

Tomas made a very good argument for accessibility, and for tech entrepreneurs to be aware of it. Accessibility is relevant not only for specialists like Hague Tech's Envision who help people with vision challenges. Many of us in tech businesses have an opportunity to get value from Service Accessibility Requirements. Well-designed Accessibility is a key point to help all our startups survive and thrive in the age of SARs.

[1] 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was extended to small businesses in 2010 and to electronic services in 2020. Thousands of special interest group lawsuits have driven compliance.

[2]E-commerce in the EU includes: “news services; selling []; advertising; professional services (lawyers, doctors, estate agents); entertainment services; basic intermediary services (internet access, transmission, and hosting of information); free services funded by advertising, sponsorship, etc….”

[3] More information on Tomas Francisco and his new subscription model for Accessibility design is here: TFrancisco - Get your web development done

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