As the very last topic of this calendar, I would like to discuss “the case for accessibility.” In an ideal world, we would not have to make the case for accessibility, because it is a human right and ethically the right thing to do—so there really should be no one to convince that this is worth it. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, and more often than not, we have to convince managers and clients of all sorts that accessibility should be considered from the start.
There is a famous quote from Heydon Pickering that says:
Accessibility is not about doing more work but about doing the right work.
Indeed, when considered early on, accessibility does not necessarily equate doing more work. In fact, it is having to rebuild things further down the road because they cannot be made accessible which is costly. So I’d say that is a good point to make: by being more considered from the start, we can already get a very long way.
Then, very simply put, increasing access to software and products means enlarging their audience and reach. It’s not rocket science: if more people have access to something, more people get to use it. As of writing, the W3C reports one person out of 7 with a disability (whether it is visible or not), which means about a billion users. Additionally, it’s good to remember that everyone benefits from more usable and accessible content, beyond disabled persons.
If this still doesn’t do the trick, I guess the last argument to make is the legal one. Many if not most countries have pretty strict equal access laws and regulations in place (whether they are enforced is up for debate)—the Europe has the Web and Mobile Accessibility Directive and the United States have Section 508 and the American with Disabilities Act amongst other policies. You can find a comprehensive list of accessibility laws and policies on the W3C website.
As a prime example, in 2019 a blind man named Guillermo Robles sued Domino’s Pizza—an American company—for not being able to order pizza online because the website was not usable with a screen-reader. What made this court case special is that Domino’s doubled-down trying to find a loophole why they did not have to comply with the ADA instead of investing what is estimated to be €40,000 worth of work to make their website accessible to screen-readers. The US Court ruled that Domino’s Pizza had, in fact, to comply with accessibility regulations in place and is not exempt from providing equal access to all.
Since then, the amount of accessibility lawsuits has been on the rise, especially in the US where the regulations in place apply to the private sector as well. A lawsuit on the ground of accessibility (or lack thereof) can be costly and time-consuming for companies.
Making the case for accessibility might require bringing all these points to some extent. From my personal experience at N26, we didn’t have much buy-in from our product managers to begin with but still went out of our way to make things as accessible and inclusive as we could. Gradually, we showed that making things right wasn’t necessarily slower or more difficult which helped with raising awareness and having more disciplines considering the topic as part of their role. Eventually, prior launching in the US, N26 wanted to make sure the company was not at risk of a lawsuit. So the case evolved with time: it started because we wanted to do the right thing, became more normal in the product organisation and then got backed up by the company itself from a legal standpoint.
Alright friends, that’s the end of our #A11yAdvent calendar! Thank you very much for having followed along during the entire month, and I hope you learnt a thing or two. If you have any questions or comments, please be sure to get in touch on Twitter—I’m happy to chat. In the meantime, I wish you a pleasant end of the year! 🌟