Myths about Accessibility

Written by Joseph Baker

In Part 2 of our Accessibility series we debunk the myths that surround accessibility and prevent businesses from focusing on accessibility in their web content.

1. Accessibility only affects a small minority of the population

Accessibility compliance is often one of the last things considered when designing or building a new website. Many businesses don’t consider potential disabilities as part of customer personas, however, 56.7 million Americans — nearly 1 in 5 people — has some type of disability which can affect their ability to use an online website, application, or document.  

 

infographic about accessibility

 

Given that 1 in 5 Americans have some type of disability, it’s inevitable that a percentage of your users will need to be accommodated in order to do business with you. For this reason, it is important to consider impairments that impact accessibility when designing websites & applications.

2. Accessibility is a one-time consideration

Accessibility should be embedded in every aspect of your build process from design, development, training, and quality assurance. Instead of assuming a one-size-fits-all user experience model. Since your website is a tool that requires routine maintenance and updates, it’s important to consider accessibility as one of the components that should be regularly considered, especially when adding a new feature to the site.

Certain life changes can also affect a person’s desktop or mobile user experience. Aging, permanent or temporary disability, or pushing a stroller are some examples of situations that impact your users. Considering the impact of accessibility on user experience at the beginning of a project can save time on re-work or further testing, saving you time and money in the long run.

  • Developers – Ensure you are following WCAG authoring guidelines and that advanced components are built with the WCAG Authoring Practices.
  • Content Writers – Use words and descriptions in your content that ensure clear direction. Think about users who can’t see the page and can’t gain context from surrounding content.
  • Project Managers – Allow time for accessibility in your timeline and project schedule. Ensure that your checklist of a “done” product has accessibility in all phases.
  • Quality Assurance – Add accessibility tools to your testing to find automated issues, and know the steps on all devices to test for manual testing.

3. Creating an Accessible website is difficult & expensive

A very common misconception is that adding any kind of accessibility is expensive both in resources and in time. Training, hiring subject matter experts, and quality assurance does require an investment, however, it is far more affordable than the alternative of being sued for non-compliance or going through a turbulent public relations nightmare. In fact, lawsuits for violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were at an all-time high in 2018.

The problem isn’t limited to government websites or government services. 26 wineries are among the more than 1,000 businesses hit with ADA-related lawsuits this year. The city of Bradenton Beach, Florida, had to recently shut down its website because of non-compliance. Personal care products company, Burt’s Bees, is also facing similar claims. No matter what industry you are in, accessibility is a cornerstone of a functional digital experience.

4. Designing for Accessibility means designing an unattractive website

While there are a lot of ugly, accessible websites out there, there are a lot of ugly inaccessible websites, too! Making design considerations for an accessible website does not have to mean sacrificing the aesthetic appeal. Years ago there were technology limitations that made it difficult for designers to create something user friendly AND beautiful. It was generally considered that text-only was the best way to be accessible, but much has changed since then. An ugly, inaccessible website nowadays is usually the result of a lazy design, and not because of any restraints for making it user-friendly.

Actually, there are heaps of websites out there that are both beautiful and place a heavy emphasis on accessibility. Here are just a few:

If you are in the process of creating a website, application, or online resource, accessibility shouldn’t be an after-thought. By building accessibility into the function of your website from the beginning, you’ll be able to provide a consistent experience to your users and customers and avoid any potential conflict with accessibility and compliance laws.

Unsure where to begin? Let’s talk about ways to improve your accessibility.


About the Author

Joseph Baker, partner and Operations Director is the tech-savviest member of the team. Our resident geek loves telling stories through code; taking designs and content and turning them into digital reality. Joe is a consummate learner who is always expanding his knowledge through an extensive book collection. On the weekends, Joe can be found diligently attending his BBQ smoker, and if you’re lucky, he may even let you try some of his delicious creations.