Preword: The "anger" in this article is just for fun and poking a bit of fun at the "months and days" where we are meant to be aware of things we should always be conscious of, I don't want you thinking I am actually angry at people or you! 🤣
Honestly who actually cares? I mean you say you care but do you, do you really?
When was the last time you sat down before building a widget and thought "how would a person who only uses a keyboard use this?"?
Have you even taken the time to learn how to use a screen reader? I mean it takes about 20 minutes to learn enough to surf the web and see issues with your designs. Surely you have 30 minutes to learn how to use a screen reader and try your application / site if you care so much?
OK, let's make it easier - when was the last time you supported IE 11? Now I have your attention don't I? (and if you are wondering why I would suggest something so preposterous as making sure your products work on IE - nearly 11% of screen reader users are still using IE11)
A quick side-rant to accompany the main rant!
This might have started out looking like a rant about moral obligations etc. etc. but that is boring and, as I pointed out, you don't really care.
We all want to care, we really do, we are nice human beings after all.
But in reality we have 100 things that are more important to us, a boss shouting in our ear, client deadlines, trying to learn 17 new libraries just to keep pace with the industry...it is exhausting, hell most of us are just trying to get by!
So what will an awareness day do? The same as every other awareness day and month, let people participate in moral posturing to feel good about themselves and then...forget about it until the next event.
I mean, look at #sheCoded - have you seen any posts about women in tech in the last 3 / 4 weeks....not really. If we really cared (myself included in this one it seems) we would see posts about it every week. But my battle is accessibility, so hopefully you can excuse me if I don't post about women in tech as often as I should!
What you really need instead of "another day where you are meant to proclaim how inclusive and wonderful a human being you are by retweeting something" is an incentive to care that benefits you.
We are selfish creatures after all.
Most of the stuff here is web related but the principles carry across to apps too!
So here are some reasons to care that may affect you:
Trying to climb those Google rankings with a product you have poured your blood, sweat and tears into?
Semantic HTML makes it easier for people who use assistive technology such as a screen reader, sure, but it also makes it easier for search engines to categorise, parse and understand your content.
This alone should pay for any time you spend learning and implementing accessibility if you are trying to sell a product or service.
Your benefit: Better Google rankings = more money!
Same again - semantics.
<div> soup you start using the right HTML elements for the job.
Also a lot of semantic elements have loads of functionality built in!
<form> means you get submit with Enter for example - that just saved you some JS and time!
Or what about an accordion? Use
<details> and about 96% of browsers don't even need any JS for them to work!
Hell you might even decide that your brochure site doesn't need any libraries...can you imagine the speed implications or not having to load and parse 100kb+ of JS on your web vitals? (for clarity I am not saying ditch frameworks for SAAS products, but for a simple brochure site...perhaps you could just go bare metal JS, CSS and HTML for a lightning fast experience).
Your benefit: Less time coding, potentially lighter page weight and less CPU load for faster websites.
Yet again on the things that benefit you (or your clients so it indirectly benefits you), 97% of websites / web apps have accessibility errors. And those are just the ones we can find in an automated fashion. Automated testing finds 50% of errors at best!
1 BILLION people have some form of disability, so be in the 3% club of sites that are reasonably accessible and grab a share of a massive audience your competition is ignoring!
Your benefit: Access to a huge market worth over $1 TRILLION a year that most of your competition are not looking after.
I mentioned it earlier but have you checked your site is usable with a keyboard only yet?
A lot of power users prefer to use a keyboard to get around as we find it quicker. Or if you are like me, you hate (with a passion) touchpads, so if you don't have a mouse handy you would rather use 50 keystrokes than the touchpad to get to something! (and it helps people with accuracy issues or blindness who may not be able to use a mouse!)
Or what about using your application on a train? Are the touch targets big enough so that when you are buffeting around you can press them still and not hit a different button by mistake? (Large touch targets also help people with accuracy issues such as people with Cerebral Palsy or Parkinson's Disease)
If you are using your phone in bright sunlight can you see all the text and read it still? (High colour contrast also helps people with poor contrast perception, most people will experience this problem as they age even if they don't have a disability)
Your users will thank you for considering these things, so they will stick around longer, so your company (or the company you work at) will grow, so your job / income is secure!
Your benefit: Happy customers and so better chances at the company you own / work for succeeding long term!
Once you start considering Cognitive (Mental) Disabilities, it really makes you simplify and improve your User Experience.
Do you put "Error 41533: technical mumbo jumbo for Joe Bloggs public to ignore here" as your error messages?
Do you think 99% of people who use your application feel reassured with that or put off by it? Use plain English (or whatever language is relevant in your Country!)!
Or let's make it more simple.
1 in 5 adults (in the UK) have a reading age that is lower expected of a 12 year old!
So your superfluous overexuberance to showcase your extensive vocabulary to appear superior is essentially excluding a significant portion of the population. (Stop trying to sound smart or you will make your app unusable for some people).
You also start realising that icons everywhere is a terrible idea as most people have no idea what they mean.
You will probably (hopefully) start including text, making your app more usable for people who aren't tech savvy! (This also helps people who struggle with association, where they cannot process icons and associate them with real world objects / abstract ideas.)
Your benefit: You will learn how to communicate better, a vital skill!
Want to work on a Government project? Most countries are insistent that any Government sites are accessible.
Want to work at the big 5? Accessibility is slowly creeping it's way up the importance list.
If you want to make yourself more valuable, spend some time learning the basics. You don't even need to be an expert, just semantic HTML, some basic ARIA roles and attributes and an overview of WCAG. You could learn all of that in less than a week.
Stick it on your CV and watch the number of interviews increase.
Better yet if you have aspirations of launching your own company one day, lead with accessibility, nobody else will be doing that and the conversion rates are ridiculous (I used to sit at a 89% conversion rate on quoted work, before focusing on accessibility it was about 30% - I will be posting about how I used accessibility as a tool and sharing my secrets over the next few weeks as I no longer need client work!)
Your benefit: Better career prospects, more opportunities!
I don't like using "the stick" to encourage people to embrace accessibility, "the carrot" is far more effective.
With that being said website accessibility lawsuits continue to rise, in America at least.
Oh and slowly Apps are becoming the targets of lawsuits too so don't think you are safe if you build native Apps. There were 296 Lawsuits for Apps last year!
So protect your company, the company you work for or your clients and make stuff accessible.
Your benefit: A good night's sleep knowing that the suits aren't going to drag you through the courts!
I know I didn't solve any of your problems.
I just want you to consider accessibility for more than one day of the year.
I want you to see some of the benefits for you thinking about inclusion brings. That way you can justify taking the time to learn just a little bit about accessibility.
You don't have to be an expert, just try a screen reader, learn semantic HTML, spend an hour every once in a while researching WAI-ARIA, test your website with a keyboard only.
Or if you feel really brave, trying and get your head around WCAG!
I know that accessibility information is spread out and hard to follow (if you thought this was a rant go read that article 🤣), don't let that put you off learning a valuable skill!
And don't worry I am working on trying to make accessibility easier to digest and understand!
If my mini-rant has inspired you to think about accessibility and put it on your company / personal roadmap then give me a follow.
Starting on the 1st June I will be posting twice a week on accessibility in a digestible and easy to understand format in the hope that I can remove some of the barriers that stop you from making accessible products and services.
Your benefit: I also write some silly posts so you might be entertained every once in a while as well as potentially learning about accessibility along the way. You also get to enjoy some of my rants every once in a while!
Oh and if you enjoyed this article, give it a ❤🦄 and don't forget:
Leave a comment for the algorithm! (even if it is just to say you hated the article 😋!)