Fiddling While Rome Burns: Don’t Give Up Advocating Accessibility

Pushing for more accessible user experiences can be an uphill battle depending on the business holders with whom you’re dealing. While some may flat out not care, more often they are reluctant to take the additional time, effort and cost to bake accessibility into an overall project.

Whether armed with lots of money and time or not, you have your voice — never be afraid to speak up when there are opportunities to make an experience more accessible. It can be on the micro level (“that font against that background is going to be really difficult for people with sight limitations to make out”). It can be on the macro level (“all those videos on the site? we really need to add captioning”).

You may lose. You may get a pat on the head and told to go play somewhere else. Keep trying!

Some approaches may work better than others. Stressing the moral and social obligations of creating accessible experiences is a valid, noble route — but businesses won’t always respond to that, even if their intentions are good. Spending money is spending money…and sometimes accessibility can be costly, such as the prospect of retrofitting a completed web site.

There are some great references like Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization to help.

I’ve been super jazzed about accessibility for the past couple years, but I know how easy it can be to feel you’re fighting a losing battle. There were times in my past job that I lost the energy when up against an overwhelming ambivalence towards accessibility (or even web standards in general). But then were were times like when I was able to enact color contrast improvements to an internal booking interface, to make it easier for someone with severe color blindness to better do her job.

Sometimes you have to pick your battles and alter your strategies, but don’t give up and let the fires of inaccessibility spread. Even small changes start to add up.

2 thoughts on “Fiddling While Rome Burns: Don’t Give Up Advocating Accessibility

  1. Rob DeRosia

    I enjoyed reading your entry and I look forward to reading the rest of your entries. I recently found your blog and it has been a great help!

  2. steve

    I don’t mean to be insensitive, but we are talking about business here. Web sites should be cost effective to build, the decision to spend the extra time and money on accessibility is a business decision. I’m still getting my head around it, but the language used by advocates implies zero business sense. The “right” thing to do is always a compromise and dependent on the situation. Web development is already bogged down with bleeding edge technology and expectations, as well as abstract graphics of data.

    If the common denominator is a dyslexic person who can’t read a CAPTCHA, or a web page for that matter, how much of other peoples money are you going to spend developing to that?

    There should be some indicator that a user sets in their browser so you can customize their experience, i.e. stream an audio version of the page, or a plain text version of the conveyable information, or something more CUA compliant with predictable widgets. Embedding every possible need into one page is just a nightmare, not without screen readers making a quantum leap in their ability and translate what is happening on the screen.

    While it is arguably “noble”, the current approach to throw regular user readability and cost effectiveness out the window isn’t right.

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