Escaping the Box of Accessibility Myths

Thinking outside of the box can be difficult, and some of the journey to unconventional thinking depends on changing the way we understand design and the accessible end user experience.

To help change the way we think about accessible web solutions, we need to dispel the myths and the negativity that surround accessibility. We need to escape the box.

Accessibility Myths

  • Accessibility isn’t a priority
  • Accessibility is ugly
  • Delivering an accessible website is too difficult
  • Accessible websites are expensive
  • Accessibility benefits only a small minority

Accessibility Should Not be an Afterthought

Organizations who believe that Accessibility is easy enough and trivial enough that it can wait until the last minute of the development process will fail in their delivery. When accessibility is ignored until the last minute, it can be extremely difficult to fix. In fact, once a project is in its final phases, it is sometimes impossible to simply ‘tack on’ accessibility and the website may need to be completely redesigned. And starting over, for any organization, is very costly.

It is important that UX designers, developers, and testers have the technical knowledge required upfront to be able to deliver an accessible product. If training and best practices in accessibility are an afterthought, projects are doomed to fail. Accessibility training and best practices are a necessity across all practice areas on the project team. One practice area can’t do it all. Bringing Accessibility out of its silo and making it the responsibility of the entire delivery team significantly lessens the risk of it being neglected until a project’s final stages.

Accessibility Doesn’t Have to Be Ugly

Let me be blunt. An accessible website doesn’t need to be ugly. If it’s ugly, that’s a delivery failure. Most accessibility requirements and fixes are invisible, with some exceptions being (color contrast issues, font issues, and header tags being used for visual effect, to name a few.) If these issues are considered during the requirements and design phase of the project, they can easily be accommodated and there’s no reason at all for an unattractive site.

Delivering an Accessible Website Can Be Easy

When accessibility is ignored until the mid- or end-point of a project, changes and fixes can be time consuming, frustrating, and difficult for everyone involved. However, all the hassle and frustration can be avoided when accessibility is considered and included at the beginning of a project. When it’s done right, delivering an accessible site is easy. Communication between Accessibility specialists, testers, UX designers, and developers are key to a smooth easy process.

Accessible Websites Aren’t Always Expensive

Yes, there will always be a cost associated with making a website accessible. To reduce some of these costs, keep in mind that it is less expensive to build an accessible website from the beginning rather than fixing an inaccessible site down the road. Also, as legislation mandating accessibility becomes more common, building an accessible site is much less expensive than defending against a law suit and potentially heavy fines if your site is not accessible.

Accessibility Affects More People Than You Realize

From a marketing perspective, keep in mind that there is an estimated population of 1.3 billion people with disabilities (PWD). This could represent a potential market the size of China. Their friends and family add another 2.3 billion potential consumers who act on their emotional connection to PWD. Together, they control over $8 trillion in annual disposable income. Also, consumers who care about the disability market are increasingly directing their loyalty, and their consumer spend, to companies that demonstrate action, inclusive of people with disabilities – as employees and as customers. *At least 3.6 billion people? That’s not really a niche audience.

And, speaking frankly, if we have the tools and the skills to make it possible for everyone to access the same information, why wouldn’t we? Do what’s right and make your site accessible so that everyone can enjoy a good user experience.

And there you have it. Accessibility myths dispelled.

*Return on Disability Group, 2014, Insights, 11 May 2017, < http://www.rod-group.com/insights>

Billie Stephens

As T4G’s ICT Accessibility Advocate with the Quality Assurance team, Billie Stephens strives to ensure that universally accessible digital experiences are top of mind and champions for accessibility, inclusiveness, and equality. She spends her free time staying active and is a fitness and martial arts enthusiast, practicing Krav Maga and Muay Thai.