Mythbusters: Digital Accessibility

Submitted by Mike Shea on Sun, 02/09/2020


As most people already know, digital technology is always changing and improving. There are still quite a few myths and misconceptions people often have about digital accessibility and the people that benefit from it. Digital accessibility happens when information is easy to understand by everyone, including those who use adaptive technology to access digital materials. Having an accessible website helps to remove barriers in communication and interaction that a lot of people may face in the physical world. Not having an accessible website creates more barriers for people with disabilities. Digital accessibility creates equal access and equal opportunity for people with diverse abilities. Throughout this process there are many misconceptions about what needs to happen to ensure your website or electronic document is available to everyone.

1. People with Disabilities Do Not Use Computers

People may think that people with disabilities do not use computers and therefore only a small percentage of people need an accessible website or an accessible document. There are close to 57 million people in the United States with a disability according to the United States Census Bureau. Over one billion people worldwide reported having a disability. These numbers do not include the number of people in the aging population who may benefit from larger font sizes and other visual accessibility features within a web page or document. People who wear glasses may benefit from the ability to zoom in on certain parts. This increases the amount of people that are benefiting from your website being accessible. As the number of digital options continues to expand it is important that people with disabilities can enjoy and participate in the digital content and the functionality that goes along with it.

2. The Cost is Way Too High and is Too Much Effort

Organizations may go through the entire process of designing and developing a new website with all the bells and whistles, but they do not test it for accessibility until the end. Accessibility should be addressed in the very beginning of the analysis process. Waiting until the very end is when creating an accessible website can start to become a larger project. Often problems can start with one line of code and in most cases can be fixed in the early stages. That one line of code in the end now becomes a very large project. This can give the idea that an accessible website requires a lot of work. Being proactive is the important factor in controlling costs and everyone's time. Adding accessibility into your workflow similar to how you would for mobile access compared to a desktop access is proving to be an ever-important step that cannot be skipped over. The costs of a lawsuit down the road will be much more of a burden than a site that is accessible from the beginning.

3. Accessibility is Not Pretty

Some people may feel that with the large amount of work that already goes in the development process for a website, the digital accessibility component may tip them over the edge. But the truth is that an accessible website does not have to be ugly or over-simplified as many people may think. Changing a person’s mindset on digital accessibility as more of a design challenge rather than another added requirement can create a more diverse, good-looking website with the bonus of being accessible for even more people to utilize.

4. Automated Accessibility Tools Have All the Answers

Automated tools are a great start and can help pinpoint a few key areas, but they do miss quite a bit of information as well. Much of the information for accessibility must be manually tested. Automated testing will only catch 50% of the errors related to accessibility and meeting the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. In many cases automated testing can show you there is a problem, but your fix can prove to have new problems. For example, the tool can tell you are missing alternative text on an image within your web page, but it may not tell you what alternative text to write. Best practice when testing for accessibility is to utilize people with disabilities as your testers. People with disabilities will know first-hand the challenges many experience when using websites.

Digital accessibility is something we should stay on top of. It is important to continue to think about accessibility early and often while building in the digital world. Digital accessibility helps more people than you often think.

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The Rocky Mountain ADA Center's blog, Access Granted, tackles ADA issues through unique and diverse perspectives. Articles are written by staff of RMADAC and a variety of special guest authors. Some may be educational, others might be personal or thought-provoking. Either way, Access Granted will bring you the ADA of today!

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