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Todd Libby
Todd Libby

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Why Accessibility?

When people come to me asking questions about accessibility and what to do, or how to start, it pleases me that people are taking the time to take that first step to making their projects accessible and inclusive. Not only that, but it makes the job of the developer easier.

Then I get questions from designers and developers asking why. Why accessibility? Besides the two reasons I gave above, websites and applications should work across all devices for everyone. That (to me) is accessibility.

I've heard a lot of reasons why people can't advocate or educate for accessibility or to do more to ensure sites and apps are accessible, and there are a lot of times I heard, "Because it wasn't in their budget." or "It will be taken care of at the end of the project."

I wrote an article recently that appeared on Smashing Magazine that details a lot of what I have experienced in the 22 years I have been doing this work. The biggest thing I like to stress to developers is, when you do the work from the very start, it makes it easier.

So when you hear those things from managers or stakeholders about why they can't get to accessibility, or why they cannot fit it into the budget. Like Nike says, "Just Do It."

I can even remember a stakeholder telling me, "We do not have disabled users." which is far from the truth because not only do you have disabled users, you also have situational disabilities that impair one's job to do the work as well on the other side of the glass. The people that work for the companies you make a product for also matter.

I would even go as far as mentioning the legalities of making a product accessible. I won't go into the legal aspects because I am not an attorney, but there are plenty of countries that have rules to making things accessible to people. (See the section on Sharing The Importance Of The Rules in the Smashing Magazine article I wrote).

There should be questions as to why, so that those who advocate for accessibility and those that are learning accessibility, so that we can (and will) educate those who ask these questions, the why's are important.

I don't know of any developers that want to make their job harder. If there are any out there, then do I have some news for you! Practicing accessibility and doing it from the start of all your projects, makes the job easier. Aren't we creating all these tools to make our jobs easier?

So why are some of these tools making it more difficult to do the job? Lack of knowledge? Education? Both?

How many bootcamps, tutorials, courses, or coding academies do you know taught you accessibility, if you went through something like that to learn your craft? I'd venture a guess of not too many. A very small amount of those resources as a matter of fact.

Accessibility should be a part of the process, especially when the project is "done". Just as a project or a website is never "done", so too is accessibility. With each new feature and each new component, you're changing the site/app and in return, affecting the accessibility of that piece.

Lack of accessibility can cause harm, and it can be in the form of inequality as to creating barriers to information and the inability to communicate between one another. Inclusion and accessibility are two peas in a pod, which is why I do what I do and advocate as much as I do to make sure those barriers are brought down. I hope you do too.

Why accessibility? Because accessibility is a right, NOT a privilege.


Header Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash

Discussion (7)

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bdelespierre profile image
Benjamin Delespierre

Awesome article. I couldn't agree more.

I often see stakeholders stripping away everything that doesn't translate to direct, immediate good ol' fashion business value (aka money). That is automated testing? No need; just write good code. Architectural design & UML? No need; just don't make it complicated. Accessibility? No need; disabled people aren't our target.

To them, I reply: you cannot strip away everything that does a great project and still say it's a great project.

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colabottles profile image
Todd Libby Author

Thank you! Stakeholders without the knowledge or the empathy are exactly the ones that are quick to strip away everything. In my experience, I've told teams if that's the case, just do it. You can;t build a house from the roof down to the foundation.

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bdelespierre profile image
Benjamin Delespierre

Absolutely. I ask my team to take initiative as much as they are willing to and ask for forgiveness, not for permission

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leadegroot profile image
Lea de Groot

I've always found the best and simplest argument for the beancounters is "because an accessible website is one that ranks better in the search engines. Google is the biggest 'disabled' user"
Boom tish, done :)

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colabottles profile image
Todd Libby Author

That does help when you bring the SEO element into it. I have some luck with that, but my go-to is "Well, if you don't want to get sued like Domino's..." and explain the case in a short summary, they usually are quick to be on board.

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alvaromontoro profile image
Alvaro Montoro

Great article πŸ™‚

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colabottles profile image
Todd Libby Author

Thanks @alvaromontoro Much appreciated!