Despite being a hot topic, web accessibility is still a mystery to many people. There are a lot of misconceptions about accessibility guidelines, and what it takes to make a website more accessible. Let’s explore three common accessibility myths and uncover why they aren’t true.
“Our audience doesn’t need accessibility features”
Have you ever rolled a stroller or luggage through a curb cut in the sidewalk to cross the street? Do you ever turn the subtitles on when watching TV or movies? These are examples of the “Curb Cut Effect”, appropriately named to represent accessible interventions that end up helping everyone. Many aspects of web accessibility, like increased color contrast, consistent hints for filling out forms, and keyboard access are all useful for abled users just as much as disabled users. Clear informational structure, headings, and alternative text for media also align with best practices for user experience and search engine optimization.
As far as the claim that your audience is not disabled—this is almost certainly wrong, no matter your content. Up to 26% of adults in the US have some type of disability , including vision, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities. As we age, we also develop higher risks of acquiring new disabilities that could affect the way we interact with the web. Ignoring accessibility can leave your customers in the cold and drive potential new customers away.
“Accessibility is too expensive and difficult to implement properly”
Putting a price tag on accessibility encourages the view that it’s a standalone feature, subject to being deprioritized and removed from the roadmap. But accessibility should be infused into every step of the planning, design, and development of a project from day one. If accessibility is included in the scope, and the team is educated in best practices and supported in their efforts, building an accessible project can be plain sailing.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true here—incremental efforts in the early stages of a project are a bargain compared to an avalanche of last-minute fixes and remediations to meet legal requirements.
“We can fix accessibility issues with one line of code by installing a widget/overlay”
Accessibility “widget” and “overlay” companies are increasingly popular and promise to resolve most (or all!) accessibility errors present on a website. If it sounds too good to be true, well, it is. There’s no easy shortcut to making an accessible website. The Overlay Fact Sheet goes into detail on the harms these overlays can cause and is endorsed by over 700 accessibility experts, consultants, disabled users, developers, designers, lawyers, and more.
Widgets and overlays are not built to help disabled users, they’re built to sell a solution to website providers who fear lawsuits and don’t know enough about accessibility to question the product. Widgets are, at best, redundant – presenting information already present in a different way, or providing tools that are already built into browsers, like magnification. At worst, they can mangle website code to pass automated accessibility tests, by stuffing irrelevant or redundant content into places where content is missing.
These tools promise more than they can deliver, and their presence on a website can be interpreted as a glaring neon sign that the underlying website is inaccessible. Lawyers are catching on (see here and here) so not only will an overlay not protect you from a lawsuit, but it might make your website a target.