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Cognizant Benelux Blog


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In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we want to share how we approach accessibility. It's not just about checklists and standards but a cultural shift for us. The need to address accessibility is increasing with each passing day. This influences how we work, build community, expand our knowledge and expertise, and increase advocacy.

Opportunity and responsibility

At its core, accessibility is the practice of creating products, services or environments in such a way that they are usable by people with different levels of ability. Accessibility depends on several components of development and interaction working together. At Cognizant, we firmly believe that providing equal access and availability of our products is a fundamental right and a crucial responsibility that comes with designing and developing them. 

The digital world presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses to reach a diverse and extensive audience. From financial services and medical aids, to booking holidays and restaurants, all of these services have become digital. However, many organisations unintentionally exclude users with disabilities, creating barriers to access and limiting the reach of their digital products.

According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people globally have some form of disability, and here in the EU, 135 million. Ensuring that digital products and services are accessible to all users has financial benefits; increased share in existing markets, expansion into new markets, enhanced brand reputation, and increased revenue. Not to mention avoiding possible litigation! As of 28 June 2025, companies must ensure that their newly marketed products and services covered by the European Accessibility Act are accessible. In other words, newly marketed digital products and services must meet WCAG 2.1 criteria; customers can file a complaint to national courts or authorities if they do not. We are responsible for using design for good and enabling the underserved; to enable everyone to use digital products and services to engage with the world around them. 

Companies like Microsoft and Apple are setting themselves apart as leaders, not only making their products and services as accessible as possible but ensuring that everyone knows about them, whether it is through sharing knowledge, like Microsoft's inclusive design toolkit or making an inspiring commercial, like Apple's The Greatest.

Inclusive design

You may have heard of the term 'inclusive design'. It's closely related to accessibility. Inclusive design is a superset of accessibility: in addition to ability, it considers access to software and hardware, internet connection for online resources, language and culture, economic situation, and others. We often use these terms interchangeably, and for the sake of simplicity, we will just use 'accessibility' in this article — in the broadest sense of the term.

Shifting left
Time is money…and reputation

Accessibility is often an afterthought, if it's being considered at all. More often than not, the need to do something about it only arises once a significant number of users are negatively impacted, and it starts affecting a company's bottom line or until legal challenges are faced.

Remediation – fixing the issues discovered – often requires more substantial changes to the product because the issues are usually fundamental design choices or code implementations, meaning more time and money. 

All of which can be avoided.

The risk doesn't necessarily end there. A bad user experience can harm a brand's reputation. Customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. In addition, word of mouth and communication via online channels is influential in communities of people with disabilities for products and services with poor accessibility.

The earlier the better

The principle of shifting left focuses on moving tasks as early in the product life cycle as possible. When visualising a development process schematically, we start with something like ‘establish’ on the left-hand side and end with something like ‘reflect’ on the right-hand side. Historically, accessibility has been considered the developer's domain. However, everyone on the team is responsible for designing, building, operating and iterating a digital experience. For example, one of the most common accessibility failures of home pages is low-contrast text. If a designer uses colours that meet contrast requirements and checks the design before handing it to the developer, then there is no extra cost. This simple example demonstrates that shifting left must be integral to the process.

By shifting left, we are addressing accessibility more efficiently and reducing the cost of rework or repair.

Consider accessibility at every stage of the design process

Tash Willcocks, February 3, 2021, Instagram @tashwillcocks

Building an accessible culture and community
Creating community

A few years ago, a handful of like-minded front-end developers, interaction designers and visual designers got together and started a special interest group (SIG) to spread awareness within the company and raise the bar. The group meets every two weeks to discuss things we are learning and share the resources we are finding. The SIG connects with local experts from different regions, inviting them to join and contribute to the SIG. This increased knowledge should result in more accessible implementations the first time, helping reduce evaluation and rework costs and limit risk.

Though the SIG is a centralised repository of knowledge, resources and local champions, making accessible design a baseline way of working demands more. Building awareness about accessibility and disability is an ongoing activity. They continue to explore ways to involve and inform beyond those involved in the group.

Encouraging feedback culture

We hold design critiques — sessions where designers can share their work and receive feedback from accessibility-minded peers. This format is an informal way to create more awareness and incorporate user needs at the early stages of the design process, to improve products.

From the inside out

We are also planning an experience lab — a physical space in our Amsterdam digital studio that empowers everyone to experience navigating a digital space with specific impairments. Various stations, focusing on impairments or assistive technologies (software and hardware used to aid folks with disabilities), present a short experience, or a scenario, for the user to complete with the tools provided. The primary goal of the lab is to create a memorable impact – empathy and understanding – influencing that individual’s thinking.

Building and maintaining skills

And we are investing in ongoing training and certifications that continuously improve the knowledge and resources of the entire team. From foundational courses for a broader audience to more technical certifications, we want everyone to understand their role in delivering accessible products. For example, the product designers recently completed the W3C Digital Accessibility Foundations course, while our developers are pursuing the Web Accessibility Specialist certification from the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). 

Our accessibility practice

Cognizant has a global accessibility task force with 150+ certified professionals across an international network of 35 offices with local agents/champions focusing on local legislation and regulations.

By offering a full range of services that support our clients at any point in the process; consulting, assessment, remediation and development, we ensure that our clients are providing their customers with a user experience that is accessible and usable.

Tools and accelerators

In addition to a full range of services, we are using various tools and developing accelerators that allow the team to assess and prioritise areas for improvement quickly. An example is the Accessibility Accelerator, which evaluates digital products' key flows, screens, or functionalities for accessibility compliance.

By focusing on these critical areas, our team of experts can quickly assess the accessibility maturity of a product and provide evidence to inform further actions. A detailed report highlights priority areas for improvement, enabling clients to efficiently address accessibility issues and build stakeholder confidence in expanding the scope of accessibility initiatives when needed.

Successfully shifting left requires collaboration between all disciplines, beyond design and development, to deliver usable digital products and services.

An ongoing commitment

Successfully creating accessible digital experiences only works well if you shift left, making it part of the whole process, from start to finish, and collaborating with other disciplines. Everyone involved is responsible for ensuring we create the most accessible products possible. Not only does shifting left result in a product better for everyone, but it is more efficient and cost-effective. 

Slowly but surely, we're building a culture where accessibility and inclusive design are embedded — part of who we are and what we do. It’s not just a list of items we check off a list to ensure compliance, but cultural change.

Accessibility is an ongoing commitment, and we are committed to sharing our progress with you- from different initiatives to specific topics that we are diving into. See you soon!

Annelle Stotz

Product & Visual Design Lead, Benelux

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Colin Aarts

Senior Front-End Experience Developer

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