Myths About Accessibility

Accessibility is hard.

  • By making pages that comply with standards you've already avoided a slew of unrelated problems. Web standards-compliance is a great start, and depending on the complexity of your pages, might be all you need.
  • This is the same as saying "it takes too much time to check grammar, spelling, and proof-read a document". Creating an accessible web page is creating a page that is operable, usable, and functional for everyone.

Accessibility is ugly.

  • Throwing up a text-only version isn't a fix. You do not need to remove tables, javascript, images or multimedia to be compliant.
  • CSS allows great flexibility in design and layout. A text-only site is not a good option for compliance. Text-only sites feel non-inclusive and don’t provide the fuller experience.
  • Some compromises may need to be made to allow for screen reader access or keyboard access.

Accessibility is expensive.

  • If it is a factor in design, development, and deployment, accessibility is going to add perhaps 2% to the overall cost of a site.
  • According to the W3C: “…Designing a new site to be accessible should not add significantly to development cost. Some aspects of accessibility, such as use of style sheets, can actually reduce the costs of maintaining or updating sites, and this benefit should increase over time as style sheets are more evenly implemented in browsers and available as an authoring strategy in authoring tools."

Accessibility is cheap.

  • Retrofitting an inaccessible site can be very expensive and time-consuming, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise! That is why you should consider an "Accessibility First" approach for web development and other IT projects.
  • From the W3C: “…the ease or difficulty of making sites accessible depends on a variety of factors, including the size of a site, the complexity of a site, and the authoring tool that was used to make a site."
  • When compared with the broader audience that a site is available to, and the greater usability for other users as well, accessible sites can be cost-effective.

There is a small audience for accessibility.

  • Think less about disabled and more about universal.
  • Accessibility accommodations benefit users beyond those with an “official disability.” Consider how many people watch closed captions on TV, even if they are not deaf or hard of hearing. At some point almost all of us will be in a situation where an image link is broken, colors are not distinguishable, text is too small, audio is not working, we cannot see the whole screen or we cannot move the mouse properly.
  • While it is helpful to most, it is essential to those trying to get something done.
  • Assistive technology does it for you, right? Not so much, although products like screen readers are obviously helpful, even on non-complaint pages.
  • Making webpages accessible benefits all users in many unexpected ways and is also a legal mandate, which makes it relevant.
  • Proving accessible information increases market share and audience reach.

Wait until a problem is reported.

  • The number of cases of accommodations for blind, low vision and deaf students has increased significantly at Texas A&M, particularly for online courses. Students may also wait until the semester is partly complete before requesting assistance. Developing an accessibility plan and/or processes may save instructors remediation effort in the future or when it must be done immediately.
  • Legally, waiting until a problem is reported can cause more trouble.

Accessibility is somebody else’s problem.

  • It is our problem. In addition to web designers, instructional designers, communicators, marketing, and even faculty all play a role in making materials compliant.
  • Making an effort makes a difference. In legal cases, institutions are given consideration if they are working to make materials accessible.
  • Most accessibility fixes are simple to understand and implement once the content creator is aware of the tools and techniques. For instance, techniques in creating accessible Word documents involve applying tools such as Heading styles, the table of contents generator and an appropriate selection of fonts. The most specialized practice, designating ALT text for images, can be quickly done by right-clicking the image and selecting the Format Picture option. The same is true for PowerPoint, ANGEL Learning Management System and many other common tools.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking some extra time at the beginning of the project is faster and easier than later locating the issue and fixing it.

Automated checkers guarantee accessibility compliance.

  • While automated checkers are great for checking about 30% of accessibility errors, at least 70% must be manually checked to make sure websites are compliant.
  • Automated checks can return false passing results. Using rules or excepts can help this, but you need to know all the compliance issues and how the site will be used.
  • Accessibility encompasses a lot of grey areas and often requires subjectivity that only a thoughtful person can provide.
  • Don’t aim for the minimum. Not all user needs can be accounted for in any guideline. A user may require further assistance because of a particular combination of needs. In addition, advances in Internet options will inevitably create additional accessibility issues.

Converting MS Word or PowerPoint documents into PDF makes them compliant.

  • Word can create PDF files when using “Adobe PDF” as its printer but the PDF files it creates are not totally Section 508 compliant.
  • Though Acrobat Standard provides some functionality for making existing PDFs accessible, Acrobat Pro must be used to perform most tasks — such as editing reading order or editing document structure tags — that are necessary to make PDF documents and forms accessible.

Did you know?

  • In the United States, about 55 million people have a disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • About 1 in 5 Americans have some kind of disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • The percentage of people affected by disabilities is growing as our population ages.
  • Two popular, free screen readers are VoiceOver (Mac OS and iOS) and NVDA (Win).
  • Good accessibility practices can improve the search ranking of your website.
  • Form fields without labels can cause problems for some assistive technology users.
  • Low color contrast makes content difficult to see, especially for users with low vision.
  • Documents linked on a website need to be accessible too (e.g., PDF and Word files).
  • Audio content, like podcasts, need transcripts for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Online videos should be captioned for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Using HTML tags correctly is very important for accessibility.
  • Descriptive link text helps make a website more accessible. Avoid using "Click here" or "Read more."
  • A "screen reader" is an application that reads content aloud to a user.
  • There is no "alt tag" in HTML. "Alt" is an attribute used with the img tag.
  • HTML uses the alt attribute to provide a text description of an image.
  • Alt text should describe an image, if the purpose of the image is to convey information.
  • If an image is a link, the alt text for the image should explain where the link goes.
  • If an image is only being used for decoration, the alt text should be null (i.e., alt="").
  • If a table has headers, using header tags (<th>) will make the table more accessible.
  • An accessible website is one that can be navigated and understood by everyone.