The One Where I Fight Everybody About Web Accessibility

There are at least 100 developers mad at me for my latest mantra:

“Web accessibility isn’t just a standard, its a moral imperative.”

With the recent ruling that web accessibility and its ability to be the offense in a lawsuit, I’ve found myself saying it even more often lately.

Now I’m not great at web accessibility. I’ve written some articles about it, that looking back 2 years later, are short-sighted. They’re from the perspective of a developer in the weeds, finding the extra HTML attributes to stick into your code to make it all just a little bit better.

Slowly, I’ve started to step back and take a wider view. Those implementations are important, but they’re a much small part of an overall strategy that all web developers should be employing.

I’ve become increasing hypocritical in my stance on web accessibility, holding both staunch paladin views towards businesses, while relating to the increased efforts that might be required of developers.

I’ve got 150-ish outstanding issues on this site yet to get it up to the most recent WCAG standards. That’s not great, but it started out even worse (not uncommon for those using WordPress themes and plugins). I’m getting better, slowly.

Every new piece of code I write is better than the last, and now, in many cases, that means for accessibility too.

For personal projects, unfunded websites, and non-businesses, that’s really all we can ask for. Keep making incremental improvements, add in accessibility over time, keep in mind that different types of users will on your site, and plan for it.

For business, my stance is a bit more stern.

Having an accessible site is a part of doing business. We’re not talking about the 0.001% with a very specific disability (though they deserve to be on the web just as much as anyone else). This is potentially 20+% of the population that fall into low-vision.

Is there cost involved? Yes! Does it take extra work? Yes! But its the cost of doing business!

Getting to perfect is hard, especially for enterprise-level sites, or small businesses for whom development costs are a significant expense. But make a plan, pick a timeline. Try to hit the A11y checklist:

In most cases, its really only a couple of percentage points on top of the standard cost. If you’re a development agency, here’s your chance to increase your package prices for a legitimate reason. Make all of your sites accessible as the default.

If you’re a developer who wants to get started with web accessibility, download a screen reader and try to use it. Even just one time. You’ll learn a ton about how websites are interpreted.

Then check out that A11y checklist from earlier. Even if you don’t plan on implementing right now, just read through it. The pieces will start to click into place of why each guideline exists. Then, as you continue your work, keep them in mind, at least a little bit, and help make the world a little more bearable for people.

Help make things better, just a bit.

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Kyle Sloka-Frey

Kyle Sloka-Frey

Becoming a better human, bit by bit. Internet Astronaut. Fierce Data Scientist. Father. Software Engineer. Privacy and Governance paladin.

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