2 Web Accessibility Myths and The Truth

As more organizations are becoming aware of web accessibility there are 2 web accessibility myths that are increasingly thrown around. Both of these myths lead to less accessible websites.

Myth 1: You can install some JavaScript and automatically have an accessible website.

Oh, don’t we all wish it were that easy?

The fact of the matter is that an automated solution cannot detect (let alone fix) all accessibility issues. There are some Get-Accessible-Quick schemes out there. These are often called “overlays.” You wouldn’t trust AI to design your website, nor should you trust it to design the interaction for users with disabilities. 

In fact, they can actually make your website even harder to use. Below is the interaction on Twitter from a blind user and a company that recently installed an overlay:

“as a blind user of your site, I appreciate your willingness to think about inclusion and equal access for disabled people to your site. I wanted you to be aware, the accessibility overlay you are using actually make our experience worse.”

This is because most users with disabilities already utilize assistive technology. It works when you build your website correctly with accessibility in mind. Overlays become frustrating because they interfere with your users/ existing assistive technology, often making your website more difficult to use. 

And when we say frustrating… We mean frustrating. Here’s a review from a user who’s run into this sort of issue one too many times: “… Speaking just as a plain-old screen reader user with the accessibility practitioner toggle switched to off as much as possible, [Redacted Overlay Software] really does make me want to throw valuable breakable things at hard surfaces. And drink.” Yikes. 

Sure, using overlays is cheaper up-front than investing in an organizational web accessibility strategy. But in the long run, you’re often left worse off than where you started. True, valuable change takes ongoing effort to achieve accessibility for everyone. 

Related Articles from the accessibility community: 

Myth 2: It takes an accessibility expert to improve accessibility. 

To be clear – having accessibility experts on your team is certainly not a bad thing!

However, the result of this myth causes organizations to believe that web accessibility is beyond their capabilities or that they can just throw some money at it to “make web accessibility happen” for the organization.

This mindset will inevitably create some gaps and will lead to no solution or an expensive short-lived solution.

When thinking about web accessibility, think of it as a long-term and organization wide effort. Web content is always changing and is created by about everyone one in some way at an organization. You can’t just check it off.

For example if you make the email sign up form accessible on your website but then the emails a user receives are all not accessible – users still won’t be able to access the content. The marketing team who builds the emails doesn’t need to know everything about accessibility, but knowing a handful of accessibility principles that relate to creating the email will make all the difference.

This one example of an email form could have involved leadership, design, developers, content writers and marketing. Ideally each is aware of web accessibility and how it applies to their roles.

Another example is a blog post, the person posting that doesn’t need to know about ARIA for dropdowns (let the developer have that one) – they should know accessibility principles related to headings, alternative text, and links.

Any organization can start improving their accessibility. Moving towards accessibility is a mindset. You don’t need an entire accessibility team or to be a WCAG expert to start improving.

Instead, we recommend implementing organization-wide shifts. Even if they just start as one person doing a little or increasing accessibility awareness.

When everyone works together to keep accessibility practices in mind, you can…

  1. Implement long-lasting culture changes
  2. Avoid doing an entire accessibility revamp down the road
  3. Ensure that your content will be more accessible to all users
  4. Improve your website and your relationship with users with disabilities

Web accessibility experts are great, but you don’t need to be one to help improve the accessibility of your organization.

The Truth: You can start improving your web accessibility today.

Wouldn’t it be great to wave an accessibility magic wand – and BOOM! A perfectly accessible website appears.

There is no magic script and you don’t have to be an expert in accessibility. It’s not that easy… but it’s also not THAT hard.

The truth is you can start making meaningful improvements in web accessibility right now. Improvements that will make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

We’re here to tell you: You can be an accessible organization. Anyone can. 

Take an inventory of your websites to see where you stand. Then, add a few more accessibility principles and processes to your organization that will endure for the long haul. Build on this.

Simply focusing on detecting and fixing the most common errors found by WebAIM’s Million, can really start things moving forward. I have provided some tips on how to fix the 5 most common errors.

Over time, thinking about accessibility from an organizational standpoint can save you money and bring multiple benefits to your company. It will also significantly improve the lives of people with disabilities. If you are looking for some ideas on where to get started we created an example organizational accessibility strategy.

Don’t know where to get started? Get in touch with us today to review your organization’s accessibility strategy.

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