Too hard is the worst excuse

Untold hours are spent by web designers and developers to make sure their creations work in different browsers and platforms. They may curse and mutter and otherwise cast aspersions upon the creators of various browsers – in fact, I think it’s in the job description – but they do it.

They research and experiment to learn workarounds, which are then used on their future work. All this is to be sure as many people as possible have the best experience using the website.

On the other hand, accessibility is seen as some special extra feature that must be cost justified, and then isn’t addressed because it is “too hard” so it “costs too much”.

Accessibility is no harder and no more expensive than any other part of web development. Everything is hard and expensive if you don’t know how to do it, and it’s not hard when you know how. So learn how to do it, just like you learn to do anything else on the web. There is no shortage of useful information on the web; for instance, here’s a place to start: WaSP InterAct Curriculum: Accessibility.

If you can’t be bothered to learn what it takes to make websites accessible, then don’t bother to call yourself a professional.

Note: Accessibility means making sure your sites work for people who use screen readers, speech-to-text software, specialized hardware, and other adaptive technologies. It means taking into account color-blindness and eye fatigue. It means taking into account people working in noisy rooms and moving vehicles. All told, accessibility features accommodate the needs of up to 20% of your users, and perhaps even more.

(Cross-posted from Too hard is the worst excuse

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I think part of the problem is accessibility is not included in the design up-front but is just considered at the end. If included at the end, it just becomes a check-box or nuisance. If included up front can be easily incorporated in meeting needs.

Sarah Bourne

You are so right, GovLoop. Designers and developers both need to know more about and put more thought into accessibility, from the start.

Kim Patrick Kobza

Very important Sarah that this point of view has a voice. At times the development technologies are limiting., but the goal of accessibility has to always be in our consciousness. Thank you for reinforcing.

Scott Horvath

Great post! Accessibility isn’t hard at all. I remember back in July 2001 when I was a contractor for the Government (doing development) and the agency was freaking out because they were afraid they would have to shut the site down completely on July 21st (if I remember correctly) if the site wasn’t 100% accessible at that point. It was my first gov’t gig and I stepped into a mine field having no idea what Section 508 was or that sites even had to be “accessible.”

A lot has changed since then and I’ve learned a lot along the way. If you look at what you develop, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s not entirely too difficult to make accessible. Some developers think it’ll ruin their ability to do anything creative. That’s a bunch of bull. You can still do what you want to, and yet still be accessible. It’s not hard but you do need to make accessibility part of your development plan from the beginning. And chances are if you don’t know how to make a particular feature accessible, someone else does.