Why Accessibility Matters

hand holding a smartphone with brightly colored lights blocking the view of the screen

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to listen to a presentation on accessibility given by Robert Jolly at the Fort Collins WordPress Meetup. He also gave an abbreviated version of the presentation at WordCamp Denver 2016. Prior to Robert’s presentation, I can honestly say that I had not given much thought as to whether or not the sites and themes that I built would be considered accessible.

We might not realize it, but as developers, we build inaccessible websites all the time.
Vitaly Friedman

As I listened to what Robert had to share, I realized that website accessibility is neither something that happens by accident nor something that can be added at the end of a project. It must be an intentional effort and it must be included in a project from the very beginning.

So, why hadn’t I thought about my projects in terms of accessibility? The short answer is best summed up in a quote from the article The Veil of Ignorance.

We most likely don’t think about this because our life doesn’t necessitate it.

What I didn’t realize initially is that web accessibility is about more than just making sure someone with a permanent disability can access a site. Almost everyone, at some point in time, will have an issue that could prevent them from accessing a website.

A few examples include:

  • Viewing a website on a screen that is in direct sunlight.
  • Trying to navigate a website without a mouse (holding a baby, broken arm, etc).
  • Watching a video on a website when you can’t have sound (ex: in a room while someone is sleeping).

As I began to understand the importance of web accessibility, I knew that I needed to learn more about it. A good resource that I found was Heydon Pickering’s book Inclusive Design Patterns.

The book is geared towards developers and mostly approaches things from the point of view of the code itself. However, that doesn’t mean that you need a deep understanding of HTML, CSS, and Javascript to benefit from the book. Heydon presents the information in the form of example patterns that can help get one thinking about how the information will be accessed and how to make it accessible by anyone.

As I begin to study how to improve my own work, I hope to share the journey with our readers.

One thought on “Why Accessibility Matters

  1. Hi Tim! Great post. For those who want to learn more about accessibility, I really recommend David Kennedy’s weekly newsletter A11y Weekly: http://a11yweekly.com/

    He’s a great WordPress community person and accessibility advocate that’s trying to help people learn more and build more accessibly!

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