If you have a website, you need to ensure it is accessible. It is the right thing to do and required under guidelines like WCAG. Keeping your website accessible seems like a no-brainer, but there are many myths surrounding digital accessibility that may make people reluctant to implement it on their website.
Let’s explore the top five digital accessibility myths and debunk them to prove why digital accessibility matters — and will continue to matter.
Myth # 1: Accessibility applies to a small population
A common mistaken belief regarding digital accessibility is that few website visitors need accessibility features. This couldn’t be further from the truth! One in five people in the US have a disability, which means that, of your website visitors, it is highly likely that many people using your accessibility features may have a disability.
Even people without disabilities benefit from accessibility features. For example, features like dark mode are popular amongst the general population for being more accessible to the eyes when navigating the Internet. Although dark mode has accessibility problems, similar features have equally widespread results that aren’t limited to people with disabilities.
The visitors to your website are almost guaranteed to benefit from your accessibility features, whether they have a disability or not. Given the above statistics, you will likely have website visitors with a disability. Accessibility is not just for a few people. Outside of people with disabilities, accessibility features can help:
- Aging population
- People whose first language is not English
- People who are not tech-savvy
Myth # 2: It takes too much time
Many people fear the time (or cost) involved in incorporating accessibility to their website. But that shouldn’t be a primary concern when it comes to accessibility. Most of the significant costs involved in integrating accessibility come when accessibility is left to the end. In fact, ignoring accessibility could cost you more than including it in the first place!
Building accessibility into the design of your website from the beginning can help avoid costly mistakes down the road. Errors that could be solved by a few clicks of a mouse, in the beginning, become huge headaches when you only notice them when the website is ready to go live. If accessibility is a priority from the beginning, you can catch these errors before they become a nightmare to untangle.
This doesn’t add any more time to the overall website building. Accessibility is merely part of the steps you take in building your website, not something that trips you up at the end.
Myth # 3: Adding accessibility is a one-time-only event
Accessibility is a matter of continuous improvement. Just because you’ve included accessibility in the building of your website does not mean you can stop there. You must consciously and regularly ensure that your website continues to be accessible through things like accessibility audits.
Many people want a magic solution to accessibility, but one does not exist. Hard work and the drive to provide equitable access can achieve accessibility. The results of being accessible, however, are well worth it. Not only will your site be accessible, but you will also comply with WCAG, and your business will be held in higher regard for your efforts.
Myth # 4: Accessibility can be handled through automation
Automation can only get you so far. Many new things are achievable through automation, from browser extensions that check your site for accessibility failures to overlays that help correct errors. However, automation cannot replace what is critical in the accessibility process: the human element.
Simply put, no automation can replace what a human can do when detecting accessibility issues and solving them. Similarly, there is no substitute for the judgment calls a human can make over automation regarding the finer points of WCAG. Things like logos being exempt from color requirements often get flagged with automation — a human can catch these things, saving time.
Automation may be attractive because of its speed and ease, but don’t let it replace humans in your accessibility work. You will be left with more errors and expenses as you have to hire humans to go back over the work anyway.
Myth # 5: Accessibility is optional
Accessibility is never optional. WCAG is a requirement for websites, so complying is mandatory. Not doing so opens you up to lawsuits and legal trouble, so you must keep accessibility a priority every day. Still, many websites try to find ways around accessibility requirements.
Don’t do this! It’s not worth it. It’s far easier, less expensive, and more practical to comply with accessibility requirements. Not only will you help prevent lawsuits, but you’ll also maintain a better relationship with your customers — remember, you have customers with disabilities who appreciate your accessibility features.
There are many myths surrounding digital accessibility; these are just the top five. Ignore the myths and maintain accessibility for your website. By debunking these myths and promoting a better understanding of digital accessibility, we can work towards creating a more inclusive online environment for all users. Website owners, designers, and developers must prioritize digital accessibility in their projects and strive for continuous improvement. It is better for you and your customers if you comply with WCAG — and it’s the right thing to do.