Unless you or someone you know has a disability (temporary or permanent), you may not think about accessibility at all. If your organization doesn’t understand it or has preconceived notions about it, read on to get the facts, as we dispel 11 myths about accessibility.
1. Accessibility only applies to a small population.
If you think your audience doesn’t include people with disabilities, think again. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that to be about 20% of the country. Globally, the World Bank estimates that 1 billion people have a disability.
Instead of thinking of accessibility as taking steps to accommodate people with a disability, think of it as enabling everyone to read your publications and use your website.
2. Accessibility only benefits blind people.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that:
- 6.4 million people have a visual disability.
- 10.5 million people have an auditory disability.
- 20.9 million people have an ambulatory disability.
- 14.8 million people have a cognitive disability.
That’s a lot of people who don’t have a visual disability!
3. We don’t serve anyone with a disability.
Your organization may not target an audience who has a disability, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to you. So many disabilities are not obvious, so how would you even know? Think about it:
- color blindness,
- low vision,
- macular degeneration,
- hearing loss,
- seizure disorder,
You might only find out if an individual contacts you and complains that they can’t read your publications or can’t get around your website.
4. Accessibility is difficult to implement.
When it comes to accessible documents, it’s mostly a matter of proper layout practices and formatting content properly. If you have existing files that need to be corrected, then it is far easier (and less costly) to work from source files; for example, an InDesign file rather than a PDF.
Websites, on the other hand, are more complex. But, still, best practices in web development go a long way toward achieving accessibility.
With either documents or websites, testing should be done throughout and at the end of the process so you can address accessibility issues as you go and then check for them at the end.
5. Accessibility costs a lot.
Addressing accessibility doesn’t cost much more when it’s not an afterthought. When you think about accessibility during the branding process, before designing and laying out a publication, and designing and building a website, then it becomes part of the process, not something that has to be fixed later on (called remediation). Remediating an inaccessible publication or website is usually costly.
But accessibility claims and lawsuits cost much more than that.
6. Accessibility is ugly.
A lot of websites are ugly, but they aren’t ugly because they’re accessible. They were just poorly designed. Accessibility has absolutely nothing to do with how visually attractive a document or website is. When accessibility is implemented, it results in a better experience for all readers/users.
Individuals who don’t have a disability won’t necessarily notice that a document or website is accessible. But they will appreciate its benefits (see myth #8.)
That reminds of when I rented an apartment many years ago. It was handicap accessible. While I didn’t require that, they gave me that unit because it was all they had available. Well, I loved it. I got extra-wide doorways, a bigger walk-in closet and a huge bathroom!
7. Automated checkers are sufficient.
No single automated accessibility checker does it all or catches all issues. Plus, there are a lot of elements that must be manually checked for compliance. There are also a lot of gray areas, which require someone who understands accessibility guidelines to address them. In addition to that, automated checkers can return false passing results.
8. Accessibility has no benefits other than legal ones.
There are so many benefits. You may be surprised to find out these benefits not only apply to the people you serve, but they affect your organization too.
- It’s good business. You might end up with increased business, memberships, sales or donations because more people can use your site. A U.K. study showed that 71% of disabled users leave a website that is not accessible.
- It can enhance your reputation as a compassionate and savvy business.
- Anyone searching online will find more relevant content in search results due to proper formatting of page content.
- Readers can more easily scan a page to find the information they’re looking for.
- People have an easier time reading due to good typography and color choices.
- Readers of your electronic documents and website visitors will be able to distinguish between body text and hyperlinks and understand what a hyperlink is about before clicking on it.
- Website visitors won’t have to wait as long for pages to load due to cleaner and leaner code, so they are likely to stay on your site rather than get tired of waiting and go to a competitor’s site.
- Website visitors will be able to read transcripts along with videos, whether they must do so due to a disability or because they’re in a loud coffee shop straining to hear the video.
9. Only the government needs to be concerned with accessibility.
If your organization doesn’t yet have to legally comply with accessibility laws, and you plan to wait until someone complains to do anything about accessibility, think again. That could cause more trouble.
The number of website accessibility lawsuits nearly tripled in 2018. Don’t let your publications and websites be a lawsuit waiting to happen.
10. Our site works with a screen reader, so it’s compliant.
Screen readers only help people with visual issues. There are many other disabilities, some of which may require the use of:
- an alternative keyboard;
- a sip-and-puff system, activated by inhaling or exhaling;
- a joystick, used to control the cursor on screen and manipulated by hand, feet, chin, etc.;
- a trackball;
- a wand or stick, used to press keys on the keyboard and worn on the head, held in the mouth or strapped to the chin;
- a hands-free electronic pointing device;
- a touch screen.
11. Our document/website is already accessible, so we don’t need to do anything else.
Accessibility is an ongoing process. It’s not “set it and forget it.” Even when you use an accessible template for your documents and publications, if you don’t properly make edits to the file in the future, you could alter the accessibility. Likewise, even if your website uses an accessible theme, the design and page content may change (by you or multiple people) and so they must be checked.
If you’re a designer or developer looking to build accessible websites:
Find out about my upcoming website accessibility course.