The Risks of Developing Accessibility Goals That Are Unattainable

Published August 1, 2022

As an accessibility professional who cares about accessibility and digital inclusion, it can be tempting to aim for absolute perfection when setting goals. But, as with anything, absolute perfection can’t really be achieved or maintained. The state of accessibility standards—especially those on digital accessibility—are always changing. And as noble a pursuit as it may be, pursuing unattainable goals can actually be detrimental to improving accessibility.

Unattainable goals can hinder efforts

Gaining an understanding of digital accessibility and its importance is still a work in process for most people, and it already has a reputation for being complicated and difficult. Setting unattainable goals runs the risk of reinforcing these ideas and overwhelming the people who are helping work toward those goals.

If the idea that accessibility improvements are too difficult to make persists, it could lead to pushback against advice and proposals, resulting in more resources being invested in educating and advocating for improvements instead of making them.

Large goals, especially those that combine many tasks or changes, could also lead to delays or cause confusion due to their complexity. They can also increase the risk of mistakes, which could further complicate things.

What to do instead

Accessibility isn’t about perfection, but about creating more inclusive experiences that work better for everyone. Instead of aiming for something unattainable, focus on the core goals of accessibility and develop a realistic plan from there.

Start by setting small goals

The way the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are organized serves as a great point of reference. Level A outlines the minimum level of conformance, while Level AA and Level AAA each add criteria for higher levels of conformance. Rather than aiming for Level AAA conformance from the beginning, aim for Level A and reassess what other improvements can be made from there.

Prioritize goals based on user needs

Especially at the beginning, there can be so many things to improve upon that it can be a challenge to decide what to focus on. Getting input from users can help clarify where to start, and referring back to them for feedback can ensure that your plan remains focused on their actual needs going into the future.

Don’t forget about user experience

User experience guidelines and accessibility guidelines may be two different sets of standards, but there is some overlap, and paying attention to the overall user experience will provide a better foundation for creating content that is also accessible. Some think that accessibility is only about making sure there are accessible alternatives or options available, but the goal is to provide more inclusive, accessible experiences, so usability also matters.

Be prepared to iterate

As with any ongoing project, improving and maintaining accessibility means reevaluating the work that has already been done and, most likely, making more modifications, updates, and improvements over time. Ongoing user testing, feedback, and audits can help reveal areas that may need revisiting.

Establish widespread awareness

Getting everyone invested is a great way to ensure that accessibility goals remain attainable and on track. Investing time in education early on will help foster a culture of awareness, empathy, and inclusion in the workplace, and having more people invested in accessibility efforts will provide more diverse perspectives on how to set and achieve attainable goals.

Despite its reputation, improving accessibility doesn’t have to be an unattainable, lofty goal. Approaching it as an ongoing mission to make things better than they were before can make the process sustainable and help in setting meaningful, realistic goals. There will always be small, gradual improvements that can be made and each one makes a difference.

AccessibilityPlus 2022 is proud of our role in promoting digital accessibility and equal access for all while recognizing there is much work to be done. As we welcome a new year in 2022, we have opened registration for AccessibilityPlus 2022, which will feature events dedicated to promoting actionable solutions in implementing digital accessibility initiatives. Registration is limited. For more information about the conference, speakers, and topics, please visit our AccessibilityPlus Event Calendar.

Registrations for our August event Add to Cart: Creating an Accessible e-Commerce Experience are now available at no cost for viewers for a limited time.