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Digital inclusion,
Opinion piece

Fine companies for digital exclusion

If we are truly serious about digital inclusion, the government should consider imposing fines on companies that disregard the European Accessibility Act. Sounds drastic? In the long run, it will benefit those companies much more.  An increase in users to start with, more than 15%.


As of 28 June 2025, sites, apps and devices must be easily usable and accessible for everyone. These regulations are set out in the European Accessibility Act. Most companies in our country are not ready for this today, nor are they losing sleep over it. Why would they, after all? The Belgian government missed the deadline to transpose the European directive into national law in August 2022. If we are truly serious about digital inclusion, the government should consider imposing fines on companies that disregard the directive. Sounds drastic? In the long run, it will benefit those companies much more.  An increase in users to start with, more than 15%.

1 in 6 Belgians experience difficulties performing everyday digital actions

ChatGPT, AI (Artificial Intelligence), data vaults, metaverse... the digitalisation of our society is thundering along at the speed of light. Companies are eager to jump on the digitisation bandwagon to increase efficiency and reduce expenses. Users will get on board with the changes. Or will they? Not everyone can navigate the digital world: today, one in six Belgians cannot perform everyday digital actions or cannot do so without difficulty: scheduling an appointment with the hairdresser online, applying for a premium, making a payment or purchasing a public transport ticket. They get stuck because they don't understand or trust it, because of a visual or motor impairment, or for a host of other reasons.

Many chatbots, and certainly ChatGPT, are clever pieces of technology but face a major problem today: they are not approachable and accessible enough.

We need to make sure this number reduces rather than increases. Technology is evolving so fast that the digital world risks becoming a maze for even more people in the future. Many chatbots, and certainly ChatGPT, are clever pieces of technology but face a major problem today: they are not approachable and accessible enough. This group that cannot keep up digitally is therefore not dying out. On the contrary, the digital divide is growing. That is not inclusion, but exclusion, discrimination.

Governmental enforcement to combat exclusion

The need to balance people and technology, and ensure that digital solutions work for everyone to prevent exclusion is urgent. Existing initiatives to promote digital inclusion - such as DigitALL are doing wonderful work, but unfortunately operate with a lack of commitment.

Mandatory action is necessary. This will remain unattainable without governmental enforcement.  We need a government determined to combat exclusion. Although we have a secretary of state for digitisation, the Belgian government is hesitant to transpose the new European directive on accessibility into national law, and it has yet to decide which fines to impose on companies. What are politicians waiting for?

This is a matter of public interest: excluding or negating one-sixth of citizens is unacceptable. It is also a matter of business interest: excluding a sixth of your potential customers is not good business policy. If we truly want to reduce digital exclusion and the digital divide, we need to roll up our sleeves today.

Integrate digital inclusion and accessibility from the outset

June 28, 2025 is fast approaching. Those planning for new sites, apps and devices today can better include digital inclusion from the outset. It is more costly to rebuild a digital home to accommodate inclusive requirements than to tailor it to everyone right away. The accessibility requirements imposed by the Accessibility Act are already a good start to creating applications with greater digital inclusivity. Have the applications tested, including for complex word usage and whether it is simple and unambiguous to use. Also consider help and contact options for those who do get stuck along the way.

An economic mindset switch is needed: instead of saving by dropping one in six potential customers, we can generate additional sales and profits by ensuring that one in six people also become customers.

If we want to get all companies on board, financial penalties are needed. The threat of a fine will earn the companies more in the long run. An economic mindset switch is needed: instead of saving by dropping one in six potential customers, we can generate additional sales and profits by ensuring that one in six people also become customers. Who doesn't like to see their sales increase by one sixth? Winning or losing one in six clients. That is the choice.

Let's talk.

Do you have any thoughts on topics related to digital trust and building an inclusive business that you’d like to share? Or do you wish to discuss digital strategy and digital transformation in general? Send me a message at [email protected] and let's talk.

 

By Roeland Tegenbos

I'm CEO and founder of Craftzing. As a digital strategist I love to work with clients on a strong vision for their future and on a strategy that empowers them to take the lead. I'm a big fan of foresighting: thoughtfully anticipating what the next best move might be.

Contact Roeland