There is a lot helpful information out there surrounding digital accessibility. The accessibility community is collaborative and tends to be generous with its ideas and content, so everyday we have the good fortune of learning something new. That’s great news if you are interested in learning more about accessibility and especially if you want to build or modify a website with accessibility compliance in mind. Unfortunately, however, there are still a lot of myths and misconceptions about accessible websites and the people who use them.
Here are some of the most prevalent accessibility myths and their realities.
People with disabilities don’t use computers.
This is still a common thought, but it’s simply untrue. As web development and assistive technology continue to improve, even groups that were unable to access information historically can now enjoy and participate more fully in digital content and functionality. The trend toward preferring digital options continues for many people, and that includes people with disabilities.
We don’t sell to people with disabilities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that 25% of US adults (61 million people), and 40% age 65 or older, have a disability. Those are big numbers, and as the population continues to age you can be sure you do sell to people with disabilities.
Accessibility only benefits blind people.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide principles and guidelines to help make websites accessible to as many people as possible. Blind people are included in those meant to benefit from digital accessibility, as are people with other vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive, and other disabilities. It’s also true that properly improving accessibility for the way one group may use your website often naturally lends itself to increased usability for all.
Only government agencies need to worry about accessibility.
As the rise in digital accessibility lawsuits shows, it’s not the case that only government and public organizations need to worry about accessibility. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been interpreted in several plaintiff-favored rulings to apply to websites, including those of private businesses, in essence designating them places of public accommodation. If you’re unsure if your business is subject to the ADA and accessibility compliance, talk to us.
Only developers need to worry about accessibility.
Every member of an organization can influence, or should at least be aware of, digital accessibility. Project managers will be better-prepared and more accurate if they build accessibility testing into timelines. Designers will create more usable designs from the beginning if they’re aware of concepts like color contrast. Content creators will be more qualified to build compelling stories and experiences for everyone if they have an understanding of accessibility and have a plan for multimedia, infographics, and other non-text content. The list goes on, but hopefully this demonstrates how a business will be more efficient (and compliant) if accessibility is built into the culture — and yes, developers need knowledge in accessible code solutions, too!
Accessibility is a cost with no benefit.
This way of thinking probably originates from believing that retroactively fixing a website for accessibility is a compliance requirement, and a compliance requirement only. Meeting the human rights of people with disabilities by providing equal access to information also makes good business sense. Financially, you want your products and services available to everyone. Socially, you have the choice of positioning yourself as an organization that fails to meet accessibility expectations or as one that supports equal opportunity through digital accessibility. Technically, when websites are developed with accessibility in mind, the code and information tend to be cleaner.
An accessible website is boring or ugly.
Because content like videos, complex graphics, PDFs, and interactive elements necessarily require accessibility consideration, people sometimes believe that having an accessible web presence means doing away with fun, compelling content in favor of text-only designs. If you’ve been told this, please know it is not true, and often the complete opposite is true. Websites that are built to be accessible tend to function wonderfully and have sleek, vivid designs. Additionally, there is nothing stopping you from getting visual and getting creative — there just needs to be a plan to make sure as many people as possible can access your great content. If you aren’t sure how this is possible, talk to us.
Automated testing is enough to be compliant.
Even the best automated testing, like our powerful a11y® platform, can only catch roughly 25% of accessibility issues. These technologies do their best, but they will miss accessibility violations and will yield false positives. They’re a great start, but their best value comes when combined with human testing. That’s why we recommend a complete audit like our four-point hybrid testing methodology. At the end of the day, people are using your website and therefore real people do the best job at thoroughly testing and remediating for accessibility.
We already fixed our site for accessibility, so we’re finished.
Accessibility compliance is a journey and it requires maintenance. As new pages and products are developed, as site navigation and functionality change, and as development and upkeep responsibilities change hands, it’s important to test and remediate for accessibility.
Building self-sufficiency in accessibility practices and keeping a relationship with the accessibility experts is the best way to maintain compliance. To get an idea of the general condition of your site’s accessibility, start with a free and confidential website scan. When you’re ready, we can help with all your digital accessibility needs and goals.