Web Accessibility Myths
The Disability Discrimination Act says that web sites must be made accessible to disabled people. The DRC's recent report has suddenly thrown this into the spotlight of the online community and a lot of misinformation has been thrown around. This article attempts to put a stop to this and tell you the truth behind web accessibility.
1. Creating a text-only equivalent is sufficient
Creating a separate text-only equivalent can lead to a number of problems:
- A text-only version is not necessarily accessible
- Two versions of the same website represents a huge time and money investment for you
- Your primary site may still be inaccessible to many users
- An ?extra? website for blind and disabled users can be one more way to make them feel marginalised from mainstream society
Web accessibility isn't just about blind and disabled Internet users being able to use your site - it's about everyone being able to access it successfully. It really doesn't have to take very much time or money to make your website accessible.
2. It's complicated and expensive to make my website accessible
To develop an accessible website from scratch will cost virtually the same as to develop an inaccessible website. A very large, highly inaccessible website may take a bit more time and money to fix up, although the basic layout and design usually need not change.
Web accessibility is not complicated and anyone with basic web design skills can easily implement it.
3. Accessible and attractive web design can't go together
Many advocates of web accessibility tend to have rather dull, unattractive websites. This is unfortunate, as web accessibility need not affect the design of the website in any way whatsoever. To fully dispel this myth, have a look at the CSS Zen Garden - a beautiful website offering 100% accessibility.
4. Accessible websites stifle creativity
Web accessibility actually places very few restrictions on website design. In fact, as with regular websites, you're only really limited by your imagination when creating accessible websites. Have a look at the CSS Zen Garden to see for yourself that creativity doesn't have to be affected in any way.
5. My site visitors don't have a problem accessing my website
Not necessarily. See Benefits of an accessible website - part 1 to see just how many Internet users you may be excluding from your site. You can be sure that with 35 million websites to choose from it's unlikely that a site visitor prevented from accessing your website is going to waste his time contacting you to ask you to fix the problem.
6. Web accessibility places restrictions on the web page design
Not at all. As with regular websites, you're only limited by your imagination when creating accessible websites. Text size can be as large or as small you like (provided it's resizable), you can use any colour scheme you like (provided colour isn't the only way you differentiate information) and you can use as many images as you like (provided an alternative description is provided).
These provisos mostly happen behind the scenes and don't affect the presentation of the website.
7. Blind and disabled people don't use the Internet
On the contrary, blind and disabled people benefit from the Internet perhaps more than anyone else.
For example, visually impaired people have to phone up a supermarket when they want to go shopping to inform them of their arrival. When they get there, a store assistant will accompany them around the store. Through accessible websites blind people can now shop at home, and in their own time.
Web accessibility isn't brain science. It's not just about disabled users being able to access your website - it's about everyone being able to access your website, including people using handheld devices, WebTV and in-car browsers. Any web developer with basic HTML and CSS design knowledge, and a bit of time on their hands, can easily learn and implement web accessibility.