Opening doors for all: Precognox and accessibility

Starting from April 2024, Precognox is demonstrating its strategic objective in a new field, aiming for excellence and value creation. Digital accessibility is an area about which we still have limited knowledge. However, one thing is certain: its absence renders usage impossible for certain users.

Welcome to our team, Zsolt Edelényi, who recently joined us with 10 years of professional experience and holding the highest available international certification.

I heard you began working on web accessibility from a personal drive.
Could you share how that happened?

My wife has been visually impaired since childhood and struggled with certain websites every day. When I started designing websites, it was clear that she would be able to use them too. Over time, it became apparent that accessible websites weren’t just for the visually impaired; they could benefit a much wider audience. In fact, there are user groups, such as the deaf community, who outnumber the blind. color vision deficiency individuals, like myself, also fall into this category.

A blind man reading braille while  listening  the screen-reader.

You mentioned that your wife struggled with the internet, so she was unable to use the website, while you faced difficulties due to color vision deficiency. It seems like two different cases: she got stuck, and you experienced “only” inconvenience. So, who needs an accessible website?

It’s precisely about that—I also got stuck, even though I don’t have a disability. When I wanted to go to the theater, the various ticket prices were labeled with color combinations I couldn’t distinguish, so I got stuck too.

Here’s another scenario: It’s more comfortable for me to adjust the font size slightly larger on my phone’s operating system. However, there are apps, like my banking application, where the letters overflow and touch each other as a result. In this case, I adjusted it back to normal font size and put on my reading glasses, but only because it was necessary. If I hadn’t been so motivated, I would have avoided such a bank altogether. And with this vision impairment, I’m not alone; every thirteenth man has color vision deficiency.

As a developer myself, I know that achieving scalability could have been done just as easily in an accessible manner, it just required specifying font and container sizes differently. So, practically, it wouldn’t have cost a penny more to make the app work well.

The motto of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), responsible for web standards, is: “Web accessibility: essential for some, useful for all.” This means that an accessible website provides a better user experience for everyone.

Getting stuck isn’t just frustrating; it can put someone at a disadvantage. Consider, for example, when an opportunity is only available online. If someone can’t use it, would you say this is – so to speak – discrimination?

It clearly is. The lack of accessibility conflicts with the constitution. That’s precisely why more specific legislation is being enacted to outline what needs to be met to make a digital product accessible to as many people as possible. Let me outline this process for you:

Already in 2000, the EU formulated equality for people with disabilities in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. This was followed by the first European Disability Strategy covering the period from 2010 to 2020, and then extending into the 2020-2030 decade.

The latest step in this process is the European Accessibility Act (EAA), which was ratified in Hungary in Act XVII of 2022. Thus, on June 28, 2025, the accessibility requirements covering almost all digital products and services will come into force. Only microenterprises (companies with fewer than 10 employees or less than €2 million in annual turnover) are exempt.

The fundamental concept of this process is a digitally accessible Europe, which brings not only moral but also economic benefits. Firstly, accessibility is already expected on other continents, and those who fail to provide it are at a disadvantage. Secondly, the lack of accessibility incurs additional costs. Consider, for instance, if a form can be filled out both digitally and on paper, the costs are higher. However, if it’s exclusively digital, it can only function if everyone is able to use it, meaning it’s accessible.

The benchmark for digital accessibility is the EN 301 549 standard (European standard of Accessibility requirements for Information and Communications Technology, ICT), which incorporates the principles of the well-known WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Compared to other countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many others, the EU is still lagging behind. In the USA, for example, more than 4000 lawsuits are filed for lack of web accessibility, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, as in most cases, mandatory pre-litigation settlements already yield results. Another example: Just a few days ago, it was announced in Ireland that failure to comply with the Accessibility Act could result in a fine of €60,000, or about 23 million Hungarian forints, or a year and a half in prison.

And I believe this is justified. Regarding the web, even its creator, Tim-Berners Lee, said: “The power of the web lies in its universality. Access for everyone, regardless of disability, is a fundamental aspect.”

Let me provide an example from my own profession. Today’s development doesn’t solely consist of coding; it also involves applying the appropriate components and configuring them correctly. When solving a task, we choose from multiple possible solutions. If the client didn’t request accessibility for the product we deliver to them, then we don’t take this into account; we focus on other aspects, such as cost-effectiveness. However, some components are priced the same for both accessible and non-accessible options, or they may only differ in their configurations. If accessibility isn’t a requirement, then as developers, we don’t prioritize it.

Illustration of accessibility:  A men sitting in an office and having many different size of monitors.

If I understand correctly, one could also say that accessibility is much more of an attitude than an “extra” that can be added to a digital product?

I would say that an accessible product can be realistically created at a reasonable price if it’s designed with accessibility in mind from the beginning. One of my favorite examples is the following: Imagine manufacturing a car without seatbelts, but the owner decides later that they want them installed. It won’t be cheap, that’s for sure. And there’s no guarantee it’s even feasible. Accessibility works the same way: retrofitting it later is much, much more expensive, and often, the results aren’t as good as if accessibility had been considered from the outset.

The importance of the EN 301 549 standard (Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services) lies in its demonstration that accessibility is not just one item among many, but rather an important human rights issue. It provides an objective measure that is achievable and enforceable.

Soon, clients will start requesting a compliance certificate from their suppliers. The implementation of this begins with formulating and implementing the demand for accessibility within the company. There are models available that can be adapted for this purpose. One example is the Accessibility Maturity Model, which is still in the form of a draft but shows great promise. Its essence lies in the organization assessing and documenting what accessibility entails for them and starting to work on it.

Accessibity maturity model 5 level: initial, repetable, defined, managed and optimizing

However, this is an internal component of the organization, similar to a security policy or operational regulations. Most people are unaware that major ICT companies have treated accessibility as a fundamental principle for decades, which is why everyone can use products from companies like Google, Microsoft, or Apple.

You’ve outlined the general situation we are in. How can Precognox help those who want to start preparing for accessible Europe right now?

First and foremost, we ourselves want to embark on the journey of implementing the accessibility model: we will continuously improve our systems and train our employees.

We can offer two new products for our clients: accessibility audits and testing. However, I need to talk a bit about both.

For the past 10 years, I have been conducting various audits and, related to this, creating accessibility plans. The WCAG-EM (Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology) is the methodology recommended by the standard-setting organization, which allows us to efficiently and effectively implement everything related to this: reviewing small or large websites, selecting samples, conducting automated and manual testing, and checking with assistive technologies.

If requested, based on the audit, we will create the remediation plan, which is a detailed guide on how to fix the issues. We take into account who the competent expert is and the error of the user impact”. We provide more support for accessibility: guides, videos, etc., to ensure clarity on every task.

After implementing the accessibility improvements, we conduct a re-evaluation, and if everything has been corrected properly, we issue the Accessibility Conformance Report.

Finally, what can you say about the specific prospects?

It is very good news for my wife and hundreds of thousands of people in Hungary that more and more companies will start offering accessible products and services.

I believe we are in a good position because out of the 600 CPWA professionals (Certified Professional in Web Accessibility) worldwide, three of us work in Hungary, and besides us, more and more people are starting to train themselves in this field.

And I am sure that other development companies will follow the example of Precognox soon because accessibility will be just as fundamental an expectation as security or performance.