Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stay Selfish, Stay Accessible

    A lot of you would have heard of Web Accessibility, Section 508, a11y, Aria and more of this jargon at your workplace and especially if you are on the UI/UX team in your organization. It might have sounded confusing, a burden and just unnecessary to implement. There would also be a huge number of organizations and developers who are completely unaware of this concept of web accessibility, and so in this article today, we will take a look at what web accessibility is, why it needs to be implemented and what it means for you.

Web Accessibility refers to the process of making the web accessible to people with different disabilities, thereby removing the barriers that prevent their interaction with or access to websites.

    Just bring up the topic of implementing web accessibility on your project and some of the immediate challenges/ questions that you will get apart from the "There are more pressing issues at hand! Focus on that!" looks are listed below!


  1. Will it impact business? (Hidden meaning - How many disabled people would actually be using our website?)
  2. How much would it cost? (Hidden meaning - Is it really worth the effort to implement web accessibility? We already have a huge backlog of features to be implemented!)
  3. And finally... Why should I as a developer or an organization do it at all?
    We will look at some statistics and data that will give us an answer to all of the above questions, but most importantly, I will try to answer, “Why should we implement web accessibility?

    You will find a whole range of different disabilities that inhibit people from accessing the web and these were considered by the WCAG when they laid out the standards for implementing web accessibility, and we should definitely make the web accessible for these differently abled users of our website. In the US alone - whose population is approximately 4.4% of the total world population,
  • 10.4% of the web users aged between 21-64 years
  • 25% aged between 65-74 years
  • 50% aged 75+ years
suffer from visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive disabilities.

    These statistics display the magnitude of users that can be targeted, but the numbers don't matter, until I provide some practical examples. So, let’s keep all of these stats and data aside for a minute, and think about you and me - supposedly the better-abled individuals, whose lives are driven by technology. We use the web, all throughout our day to socialize, navigate to different places and more importantly browse information.

Most of us wear far-sight corrective spectacles/ lenses throughout the day. Try reading the following line without your glasses on.

This small font size makes it extremely difficult to read the text.

You would have found it extremely difficult to read that text and some would not have been able to read it as well. This is because you just have a minor vision disability. Can you think of someone who just had a surgery in one eye and was complaining about not being able to browse your website with ease? Think about the frustration you would feel if you had to just read through a website that has such small text without your glasses on!


    Imagine a situation that you are in an accident and have fractured your mouse hand. How difficult would it become for you to use the mouse to navigate through a website. Leave alone navigate, you would not even be able to hold the mouse. Another situation would be, when you get partial deafness because of some bacterial infection. You would be able to view your favorite videos on Youtube but not be able to listen to what is going on. Imagine the amount of frustration you would go through.

    All these cases are of temporary, partial disabilities and these affect you and me – the currently abled users of the web. Think about the older you, when you have reached your late 60s and 70s, when you might suffer from multiple disabilities relating to your motor skills, hearing impairment and vision impairment among several others.

    Disabilities are not the only reason why web accessibility should be implemented. Think of a situation when you are eating your lunch at your desk and start navigating a website using the keyboard alone. This is a situational disability or impairment and you would be frustrated if you could not navigate through the website using just your keyboard.


    This is the main reason why you should implement and support web accessibility in your organization and on your projects. Supporting web accessibility now helps the injured you, the encumbered you and also the future older you. Investing in and implementing accessibility is not just for the disabled. It is for you and me; it’s for our future. Be selfish! Do it for yourself and noone else! Stay Selfish, Stay Accessible!

    This article is inspired by a talk given by Adrian Roselli (@aardrian) – a proponent of the theory of “Selfish Accessibility”.

If this post has helped you, leave a comment or show your love by liking the Spatial Unlimited Facebook page. You could even consider buying me a coffe! Till next time; happy coding!