Ryan's Journey

You Cannot be Caught Off Guard

The other day, I saw the following tweet written by Elle.

Friends, advocates, people of reason, help me enlighten this confused developer: bit.ly/FPlFEy #a11y #WAI #ARIA #Canada @dboudreau

— Elle Waters (@Nethermind) March 18, 2012

After seeing a handful of people comment on the tweet, I finally had to weigh in. I did so by saying:

@nethermind I heard that argument dozens of times

— Ryan Benson (@rguy84) March 18, 2012


@sarahebourne @Nethermind @dboudreau @karlgroves I’m not sure why you’re giving so much thought. Basic argument, easy to flip.

— Ryan Benson (@rguy84) March 19, 2012

To be honest, I am not sure why people are going into this so much. In the first line of the post, Nathan says I thought today I would just play devil’s advocate and argue against web accessibility for the visually impaired. Him stating that he’s playing devil’s advocate means he may know he should do web accessibility, but wants to take a shortcut. I haven’t spoken to Nathan, so I don’t know his actual motivation for the post. As an accessibility professional/specialist, or whatever your title is, you cannot let this type of argument catch you off guard.

I actually welcome posts like this, because I know what arguments the other side is going to throw at me – basically showing me their poker hand. Thanks!

The Argument

Nathan’s argument is boiled down to: only ~4% of my customers will be blind, that is not enough market share to do accessibility. While I am no businessman, I could see why you may be able to throw away 4% of your user base.

The Counter/Rebuttal

As an [whatever title you choose from above], you are supposed to use WCAG, Section 508, or whatever standards you follow to your organization. I will take an easy example to show people how it works. This is what §1194.22(n) says:

When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.

The basic way to read this is: “All form elements need to have a label tag.” People get the fact that adding a <label> tag allows the text associated with the form element to get announced. However, not all people know that the <label> helps people with mobility impairments too. How? People with mobility impairments sometimes have difficulty clicking on small targets – like a radio button or check box. By giving the radio button or check box a <label>, the user can click on the associated word(s) or phrase. This is usually somewhat larger than the 10 pixel by 10 pixel (or so) radio button or check box. The CDC approximates 4% of 8-year-olds have cerebral palsy, which is just one type of disability that effects a person’s mobility. If we take that stat, and add it to the blind population, we are now at 8%. (I am not a statistician, so I don’t know the actual figuring of the two groups.) If you add in similar disabilities, I bet we hit the 10-15% range.

Suddenly that little 4% grew to 10% which is like turning away one customer out of ten. Business owners really have to stand back and weigh their results. I picked the easy one here, but other criteria points can be tied to other disability groups like I did with §1194.22(n).

Nathan also mentioned that designing with accessibility in mind, you cannot use: Flash, Java Applets, SVG, and JavaScript. Depending on what you’re doing in Flash, it can be accessible. You can call the Java Access Bridge into Java Applets to allow accessibility, so as long as you don’t break it, you can use it. For JavaScript, it depends on what library you are using. I don’t have experience with SVG, so I cannot comment about it right now.

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11 Comments so far

  1. Soup Mugs with Handles March 14th, 2013 @ 06:25  

    I think accessibility should be taken into consideration. I think it is the right thing to do.

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