The accessibility stalemate

Scrabble board spelling publish

A lot of excellent accessibility advice never gets distributed beyond the initial audience. The reason is that people love to call out any accessibility problems with the materials.

We are not as lenient when it comes to information materials of accessibility events. If they aren’t perfectly accessible, they’re seen as a disgrace. And that’s holding us back.

How about we stopped with this and instead concentrate on getting accessibility information to those who need it in a format engaging to them?

  • Accessibility is scary — the best selling point for accessibility hasn’t been “making it work for everybody will create better products” but “you will be sued if your product isn’t accessible”. We’ve played that card for years — it works. However, it doesn’t result in accessible products, it results in compliant products. But it cemented accessibility as something people don’t strive for, but something they worry about instead.
  • Accessibility is boring — by telling people they must do invisible things to be compliant we didn’t make accessibility a “wow, I want this”. We made it a chore, a task to do before you can release. Accessibility isn’t boring. Just look at how we use our mobile phones. Most of the features that make them cool (geolocation, voice recognition, read aloud…) were originally created for assistive technology. And yet we worry about not spicing up our accessibility presentations with multimedia as it isn’t accessible to all.
  • Accessibility is complex — currently I work on developer tooling, and I try hard to make accessibility testing and creation of accessible interfaces easy. It isn’t, though. The whole idea of the accessibility tree as an alternative representation of the document is confusing a lot of people. And while we have highly visual and intuitive tools for performance testing and CSS creation, the accessibility focused ones tend to be basic and bland. Right now, most of them are used by testers instead of developers/designers. That’s not enough.

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