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Avoid These 4 Web Accessibility Half-Truths

Dec 27, 2023

 

To create content that works for people with disabilities — and provides all users with an enhanced experience — you’ll need the right mindset.

That might sound obvious, but it’s where many accessibility initiatives fail: If you think of accessibility as “checking a box,” that box won’t get checked. You need to actively think about your users when creating content. 

With that in mind, we need to address a few of the most common misconceptions about the goals of web accessibility. These myths have a grain of truth, but they can lead you away from the best practices and prevent you from achieving your goals.

Here’s what you should know before sitting down with developers, designers, and other members of your team. 

 

1. Myth: “Web accessibility is about adding accessibility options.”

 

It’s true that options can improve the user experience — if you can give your users a simple way to adjust font sizes or switch to a high-contrast color scheme, go ahead and do that. People appreciate choices. 

But many users with disabilities have developed their own techniques for browsing the web. Some people use screen magnifiers, screen readers, or custom CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Others simply zoom in on text with their web browsers; others might not use any assistive tech. 

Your website needs to be accessible for as many users as possible. Providing new accessibility options isn’t always the best way to achieve this goal; a better method is to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for accessibility.

WCAG promotes the best practices of web design. That means clean semantics, useful navigation menus, appropriate use of color, and text alternatives for all non-text content — and if your website meets WCAG, the vast majority of people will be able to use it. 

Related: Offering a Dark Mode Doesn’t Satisfy WCAG Color Contrast Requirements

 

2. Myth: “By following WCAG, I can make my website accessible for everyone.” 

 

No website is perfectly accessible for every single user (and that includes this website). Disabilities affect people in profoundly different ways, and as WCAG’s authors note, some types of content cannot fulfill certain Level AAA success criteria.

That doesn’t mean that you can ignore WCAG: You should try to remediate as many accessibility barriers as you can. Most websites should conform with all Level A/AA success criteria (read more about the differences between WCAG levels). 

But if you think of accessibility as a binary — either “this content is accessible" or “this content isn’t accessible" — you’re setting an unachievable goal. That can impact the long-term success of your initiative. A better practice is to celebrate your achievements and make accessibility one of your business’s core values. 

When you’re not striving for perfection, it’s easier to focus on your actual users. Remember, accessibility is about people. It’s not a project that needs to be finished; it’s a long-term commitment to providing better user experiences.

Related: Web Accessibility Is About Progress, Not Perfection

 

3. Myth: “Web accessibility requires an enormous investment, which might not be affordable.” 

 

If you have an enormous eCommerce website with thousands of products and dozens of plugins, you may need to spend quite a bit of time and money on accessibility testing and remediation. 

However, many accessibility improvements cost little or nothing to implement. For example, writing alternative text (or alt text) for an image takes a few seconds, and adding captions to a video may only take a minute or two if you think about captions when scripting your content. 

And even for large, complex websites, there are ways to control the costs. AudioEye’s platform can test content against WCAG and remediate many issues as the page loads while providing guidance for issues that require human judgment. 

The best approach is to start early: Think about accessibility from the first stage of development. But even on established websites, it’s possible to take quick, cost-effective steps that improve access — and since accessibility is an investment, your work will pay off over time. 

Related: The Business Case for an Accessible Website

 

4. Myth: “Accessibility is about people who are blind or Deaf.” 

 

Vision and hearing disabilities are certainly important, and websites should work well for people with those conditions. Many WCAG success criteria focus specifically on these folks, and the Understanding WCAG documents often use Deaf and blind users as examples. 

But if you think of accessibility in this way, you’re ignoring users with a wide range of other conditions:

  • Mobility disabilities, which might change how people use a mouse, touchscreen, or keyboard. 
  • Neurological differences and disabilities, which might affect how the user understands, processes, and pays attention to content. 
  • Speech disabilities, which might prevent a user from using voice controls. 
  • Temporary and situational disabilities, which include people with broken touchscreens, people who browse the internet without sound, and other individuals who don’t have permanent disabilities.

 

Following WCAG improves experiences for all of these users. And since WCAG reinforces the best practices of web design, accessible websites work better for everyone — including people who have no disabilities and browse the internet with a keyboard and mouse. 

Thinking about accessibility helps you make a better product. It’s not just an ethical responsibility; it’s great for business, and when you understand the benefits, it’s much easier to make your case to key stakeholders.

To learn more, download our free eBook: Developing the Accessibility Mindset.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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