Shh! Don't mention accessibility!

Accessibility is at the heart of every web site and app - or, at least, it should be. After all, if you’ve taken the trouble to build it, then you want as many folk as possible to use it - right? So why are there so few discussions on the subject?

I’d like to think it’s because accessibility just comes as second nature, so nobody needs to talk about it, but I’m not that deluded. When I was first getting into web design, I found it pretty hard to find beginner-level advice and tutorials. I did get a book, but it was mostly dry as dust and aimed more at large firms and corporate web sites - not the sort of stuff I was working on.

Instead, I rather think the lack of discussion is because many businesses - and designers/developers - take the approach that accessibility is something which can be added on afterwards, “if it’s needed” (which, of course, they seldom think it is).

I see so many discussions here asking “what is the best way to implement X for SEO?” and none asking “what is the best way to implement X for accessibility?”. Why is that?

I’m genuinely puzzled by the lack of discussion.


That’s simple. SEO gives more money than accessibility.
It’s all about money. The cruel truth. People always prefer to focus on things which can significally increase their profit and, to be honest, accessibility is not that sort of thing. That’s why only large firms and corporations pay enough attention to accessibility. They simply can afford it already, while small businesses and individuals have to spend their resources on other aspects of development and promotion.

You may well be right. In which case, you would think businesses would at least want to protect themselves from possible litigation. Many countries have laws requiring equal access to services.


Depends on your intended audience. You could, in fact, be losing more money by not having an accessible site. Whether it’s a responsive/mobile friendly site to having keyboard navigation, to having alt text in all your images, you could be pushing potential customers away.

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I think that is very true when it is something that is “added on”

Similar to Security, it seems far too many don’t incorporate it until they need to.

That is, little to no thought about accessibility until Law requires it, about security until the site gets hacked.

To me it is about how one defines “professional”

My definition is that professional means always doing the best one can, not only that one is getting paid for it.

TBH, I think both accessibility and security should be part of the development from the start and not “added on”

There are other things that many “add on” and are often considered “extra expense” eg.
validating pages, creating unit tests, etc.
But I find if you do them as part of the process it isn’t all that bad.

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I think far too many projects are led by “visual” designers who don’t consider accessibility when designing, especially those that come from a print background for whom web accessibility has never been in their mindset.

On a web project I’m currently rebuilding on for an event venue they have a restaurant, and yes menus are presented as images with no text fallback! That was partially the old designers at fault for allowing it to happen but also the client who is naturally unaware of the possible consequences.

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I agree. It’s always more expensive to go back and try to fix something.

[quote=“bluedreamer, post:6, topic:204912”]
On a web project I’m currently rebuilding on for an event venue they have a restaurant, and yes menus are presented as images with no text fallback!
[/quote]A fairly large transport company which I have used for years has always displayed its timetables as jpeg images. Its current concession to “accessibility” is to add this to the alt text:

This image is currently not accessible to screen readers. Please phone xxxx xxx xxxx for timetable details.

At least the current images are pretty large and clear; they used to be quite small, so too bad if your vision was less than perfect and you needed to zoom. But that is in no way a substitute for providing accessible information.

Yes, I think awareness, or rather the lack of, is a major problem.

If I don’t have a particular problem chances are I won’t know that others do and in fact I may very well be completely unable to even begin to consider that it exists let alone know how to rectify the problem…

Or that everyone doesn’t have the same high-speed internet connection, or that they don’t have as high of a data limit for their service.

Off Topic:

I will try posting again because my last post disappeared - don’t you love computers :smile:

Google is making an effort with their “Mobile Friendly Test” and also Google Webmaster Tools “Fetch as Google” tests desktop and three mobile versions. I find these tests very useful and also their reports highlight pages which fail their tests.

It is good to see that SitePoint is setting a good mobile example

Accessibility pages, ie ones that tell people the site “should” be accessible (as far as possible). Are they necessary?

Other way around: they are so big, they cannot afford not to. They have so many users in total that simply making small changes to help some tiny segment, like say the completely-blind, they are able to add millions of users.

If your total number of users is only in the thousands, you won’t notice missing a few hundred potential customers/users.

And of course, being large, they tend to be multi-national. So now even if they started in a country that doesn’t give a crap about access, the company is very likely to have expanded into a country where it’s mandated by law and non-compliance == ginormous fines and a nasty write-up in the Wall Street Journal or Forbes (bad news makes stock values go down, and what if the bad news comes right at the end of a quarter?).

My answer to TechnoBear’s question is, it’s a two-factor deficit: web devs don’t know, and web devs don’t care. The latter don’t deserve any money for the broken stuff they build, because in order to be horribly inaccessible, you had to build expressly ignoring web standards. And if you’re incapable of following W3C web standards, you’re not a professional and probably incompetent. Or, possibly, you are not building products and services for the general public, but strange personal experiments with unsupported stuff. Which you don’t then release and tell everyone it’s ready for them to use. Google is a flagrant example of almost deliberately building fancy new garbage that completely ignores web standards, or uses them in such a messed-up way like

<span role="link" data-foo="longSetOfNumbers">Edit</span>

(yes this example is seen in the wild!) that you wonder what kind of drugs they’re offering the work force there…

The former group has to be met with care: first they don’t know, but then they have known unknowns-- they want to build accessibly but all they hear are a11y-professionals (using weird terms like a11y) saying seemingly horribly complicated and difficult stuff and there are all these rules and checklists, the worst part of which being a lot of them have to be interpreted.

If you f*ck up some Javascript, it just won’t run. You’ll get an error somewhere. But not passing a WCAG Guideline, it often seems like a vague hand-wavey problem, just like usability problems.

…Which is why, if basic disability/computer use awareness is at the core of any web-dev class, tutorial or article, and then with clear solutions (and I’ll use SitePoint’s Javascript Anthology book as an excellent example of this, the authors repeatedly mention accessibility and add code to the examples for these issues), it’ll become part of the basics of future web-devs. They’ll know what to think about. They’ll know what to look for. And lots of what they build will have accessibility baked-in, which is the cheapest way to be accessible.

Once web devs already have a basic knowledge, they’re ready to ask questions for the less-easy stuff, because it’ll be part of their work flow.

Where I work now, people cannot choose their users and stuff simply must work regardless of how the users access the product. So they come to parts of the company (like the part I’m in) and ask, is this accessible? If now, how do we make it so? And I think this is growing in at least more larger companies.

Also companies like Karl Grove’s (which automates a11y into building, deploying and testing software in an automated way) are making it easier for companies and developers to see that there are issues.


This one right here hits a lot of those “sites” where there’s just nothing on screen until a buttload of JS has loaded. Those devs often say “well users who turn off Javascript deserve crap” but this is really only heard from those devs who live a luxurious life of constant high-speed unlimited internet access. The rest of us live in the real world, using mobiles on trains and buying data plans.

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It might be down to my Twitter feed, but I seem to see accessibility references come up quite regularly. I get the sense that it is being talked about more, though perhaps the original tenet of @TechnoBear’s first post is valid here at SPF - it would be nice if it wasn’t the case, and perhaps needs some well considered ‘seed’ material posting on the topic. For myself though, I have a rather nagging sense I know nowhere near enough about it, even as a non-dev; it should be important enough to bear some level of knowledge for anyone with an interest in web related development.

Maybe SitePoint ought to have like, I dunno, an a11y writing contest something-something? To do with accessibility? Where the topic can either be known issues people face (like Paul O’B simply stating his wife (aka almost every non-developer on the planet) still doesn’t know what a hamburger menu is supposed to be, mean or do), or combinations of simple HTML problems + solution code (get Heydon in here to just do a more Sitepoint-oriented article about, say, the ever-popular-yet-often-super-annoying modal dialogs, or have Patrick H Lauke (redux) do a writeup on keyboards, access and keyboard events cross browser/OS…), or whatever.

Make the prize that if one is really well-written, it gets edited by a SP editor and becomes an article or something. Plus whatever else they tend to give out as swag.

This could be a way to get accessibility more part of some of the other basic stuff around the forums and/or around web devs.

And besides, you can’t compare anything to the amount of SEO questions. SEO is voodoo mixed with bad religion mixed with used terpentine that’s sat in the sun with an ethelyne-glycol fake-sweetness that marketing flies can’t stay away from and is slowly poisoning everything it touches.
You can’t fight junk like that, and you can’t compare Good Stuff to its popularity. I recently discovered Kardashians. SEO is like that. Don’t compare a11y-popularity to big rich butt-women.


Quoted for truth…

LOL. Poes, you need to donate your brain to science when you die. Your view on the world is just one of a kind, and the world would benefit from trying to figure out just how the heck your brain works! :microscope: :dizzy: :sparkles: :boom: :scream:


I’ve just encountered a site (which shall remain nameless) by following a link somebody posted. The content loaded and I started to read it, when kaboom! Suddenly, the content had been replaced by this message:

Who, in their right mind, thinks that’s a good user experience and good way to treat potential customers? Clearly their content can be accessed without JS, because I was accessing it quite nicely before I was so rudely interrupted. As I’ve said multiple times, I don’t care if I don’t get the “bells and whistles” version; all I ask is basic functionality. But apparently I have to access their nice, shiny new site their way, or not at all. OK - that will be not at all, then.

I keep finding websites that give stinking “error” messages like that when I’m on my phone. Yes, I know it’s not the newest browser around (Windows Phone 7), but without getting a new phone I can’t upgrade the browser, so it’s particularly insulting.

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The last place I worked would not allow us to upgrade our version of IE (they had a TON of custom internal site markup/code which was just destroyed by the newer versions, and they were too cheap to allow us to upgrade them), so I saw messages like this a LOT. It was always a sign that I probably didn’t want to shop there or trust their information.

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