Accessibility Technology

Web Accessibility Myths for the Mobile Generation

This is my sixth session from the first day at the CSUN conference.  This session covers “…the many things accessibility advocates believe are outdated.  Updating his popular Accessibility Myths blogs, Jonathan Hassell uncovers the worst offenders and replaces them with well-researched facts.”  This description comes from the conference event guide.  Now, I’ve never met Jonathan Hassell, but I’ve read some of his blog posts in the past.  I sure hope his session meets the high bar his session description sets.  I want the names of the skeletons in the closet!!


  • Jonathan Hassell, Hassell Inclusion, ltd. (@jonhassell)


Some bona fides…

  • 13+ years experience in accessibility and inclusion
  • Wrote UK standards BS8878 & chair of its drafting committee
  • Former head of usability and accessibility, BBC Future Media
  • A number of awards
  • A bit of book-flogging 😉

I like to challenge the orthodox views; some may surprise you.  However, it’s all based on data and research.


Myth 1:  What disabled and elderly people need is accessibility

  • They actually want a site to be usable, just like everyone else does
  • You have to be able to deliver a good experience
  • “Accessibility is just the engine…you still need the rest of the car to work to get you there”


Myth 2:  All you need is WCAG 2.0

  • It’s a little old (2009), and sites you use on a daily basis have probably changed since then.
  • WCAG is useful for web sites, developers, designers, requirements managers.
  • Other WAI documents are useful…but the reality is that very few folks code web sites from scratch; most sites are mash-ups.
  • It’s more about how you choose to integrate the variety of technologies that are out there.
  • Things are less about technical accessibility and more about the process of creating and procuring technology.


Myth 3:  The Best business case for accessibility is the law

  • If an organization’s web product is not accessible to a disabled person, that person might have grounds fro making a claim against the organization under different countries’ laws & regulations (ADA, CVAA, Equality Act, AODA, DDA, etc.)
  • However, outside the USA there’s very little case law
  • The last thing you probably want to do is do the bare minimum as “insurance” against being sued.
  • You’re much better off using accessibility as an ethical business case.


Myth 4:  Accessibility is cheap / expensive (depending on who you ask)

  • It really depends on how what it is you’re trying to make accessible
  • WCAG is not very helpful at determining cost of remediation, i.e. -text=cheap, time-based media=expensive


Myth 5:  We won’t get enough return on investment

  • Definition of disability is really important.  Numbers are probably rather low, because not everyone self-identifies.
  • One way to think about it is to “Design for your future self”
  • Different checkpoints have wildly different potential reach benefits
  • We should compare our “pressure group” to SEO industry…we need to start counting, like everyone else does


Myth 6:  If you build it (to be accessible), they will come

  • Not so!  How do you market to disabled audiences?
  • You have to tell people about what you’ve done, and there aren’t many specific channels for doing this.


Myth 7:  Accessibility and Inclusive design are anti-creative

  • Innovative challenges offer creative solutions
  • Mainstream inclusion vs beyond inclusion
  • OXO good grips as a success example
  • Audio game mainstreaming as a success example
  • Apple CarPlay as a success example


Myth 8:  Accessibility and Inclusive Design Help Everyone

  • It does have its problems…you can’t please every audience
  • Sometimes you just can’t win
  • This is why personalization is necessary; use themes where possible or use a tool that enables is


Myth 9:  Disable people use assistive technologies

  • Only about 6-8% of people use assistive technologies
  • Microsoft/Forrester did a research study in 2003 that showed that 57% of USA computer users were likely or very likely to benefit from Accessible Technology
  • Many platforms don’t include accessibility controls anymore, while there’s simultaneously fragmentation among AT solutions


Myth 10:  Accessibility is just about blind people

  • Nope.  They’re only 2%


Myth 11:  Text is More accessible than other media

  • People prefer pictures


Myth 12:  The most important thing is alt text

  • How about using better images?


Myth 13:  Most important people in accessibility are developers

  • No, it’s everybody


Myth 14:  Desktop version of your site is accessible, you don’t need to worry about the mobile version

  • Better to think about this exactly opposite


Myth 15:  Web sites need to be accessible from the start

  • Get an MVP first and iterate


Myth 16:  the standard is just for huge companies

  • Nope.  It’s for everyone.  A great product benefits everyone.
  • It’s an effective set of guidelines for creating effective web sites.

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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