Only after a few conversations of the sort did I realize that – to put it frankly – many if not most programmers have either never heard of accessibility or have only a vague idea of what lies beneath the name. This includes very good programmers. Even very good and very experienced programmers who I definitely admire just don’t grasp the concept. Well, you can’t have it all, I guess.
That was the first time I thought it might be worth spending a little time now and then to write a blog on this mysterious thing called accessibility. Sure, you could just go on and read the W3C’s Accessibility Guidelines, but all the recommendations out there aren’t very accessible (sic!) to those who don’t already know quite a bit about accessibility.
Actually, all the accessibility standards and legislation (there are quite a few, but that’s a topic for a different time) give the impression that just making sure the fonts in your app are of a specific size will ensure your products usability for the disabled users you’ve never seen and suspect they don’t even really exist. Setting accessibility targets like “reach 80% compliance with the X accessibility standard” and then eagerly crossing off items on a checklist (a common site in the corporate world) doesn’t help much either, I’m afraid. Believe it or not, accessibility is more than setting up a few extra preferences for your UI.
So what is accessibility? Unsurprisingly, it’s not all that easy to find a comprehensive definition. Legislators usually define the concept of “assistive technologies” and assume that accessibility is something to be achieved by using them. For the proper, formal and unexciting definitions see the glossary appendix to WCAG 2.0 or the definition paragraph of Section 508.
Personally, I prefer to think of accessibility as an inclusive mindset which should naturally emanate to product design. And I don’t just mean software design. I mean software, hardware, services, everyday items, public spaces – you name it.
Surprised? Well, that’s what this blog is going to be about: an insider’s perspective on accessibility and disability, you’ve never seen before.