May 19, 2022
Accessibility is Hard and Important
Were you aware that today, May 19th, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day? How do you feel about that?
For a lot of web developers, including myself, the feeling can often be somewhere along the spectrum of shame and despondency. Why? Because Accessibility is hard and important.
If you feel this way, you're not alone. We have to acknowledge these feelings, face them head on.
We feel shame because it's important to us. We care, and that's a good starting point. I feel ashamed when I write inaccessible HTML because there might be someone out there who I'm frustrating, or letting down because they can't access the content the same way a non-disabled person might.
It's not comfortable, but I'm telling you here and now that it's important enough to not run away from. Embrace the discomfort, embrace the shame, take a step in a better direction. Even if it's two steps forward and one step back, it's important to keep at it.
Writing accessible HTML is hard for a bunch of reasons, I won't dive deep, but I will say that I think the biggest reasons are:
- As seasoned developers, we're too prideful to admit and/or unwilling to be told that the skills we've worked so hard to hone in this industry are no longer good enough.
- Curricula for new-comers to the industry is not adapting quick enough to address the accessibility missteps in our web development culture.
- There is not enough accountability enforced at the top levels of for-profit companies to allow accessibility a proper seat at the operational table.
Some of those are big things. Sure let's keep an eye on them, but accessibility is hard, let's now move on from that idea, it's something to overcome, not an excuse to hold you back. Figure out your next step. What HTML did you write this week? Go open it up and take a look, I'll wait...
Is it written semantically? Are you applying WAI-ARIA standards? Is the site navigable via the keyboard? It's a lot, I get it, those aren't even all of the questions to ask, but pick one, and get to work, it's hard and important.
I'll be right there with you, a self-proclaimed expert, a seasoned web developer, learning a bunch of new things, unlearning a bunch of bad habits. Let's do it, it's hard and important.
Take a step
Not sure where to go next? Check out these resources I picked out that distill down some of the focus areas. Pick one and just start reading.
- Accessibility Developer Guide - especially check out the examples section!
- Accessibility Cheatsheet
- WAI-ARIA Cheatsheet
- W3C Accessibility Checklist
- W3C WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices
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