10 Reasons Clients Don’t Care About Accessibility

Chris Heilmann makes a good analysis of most clients’ (and many fellow web developers’) current attitude to web accessibility in 10 Reasons Clients Don’t Care About Accessibility. The reasons are these:

  • It’s the Law But There’s None to Follow
  • There Is No Immediate Benefit
  • Accessibility Is Sold As a Technical Problem
  • Disability Is Not Something Clients Want to Think About
  • We’re Past Inventing, We’re Maintaining
  • It Is Not Part of the Testing Methodology
  • Accessibility Seems Like a Party Pooper
  • Nobody Complains
  • It Requires Involvement
  • There Is No Leader to Follow

Chris ends the article with a few ideas on how we can improve the situation. One of them is this:

Make sure you’ve got your facts straight before releasing another “accessibility” article or blog entry (rounded corners in CSS do not increase accessibility, really, they don’t!)

As the author of more than one article on rounded corners I hope that isn’t aimed at me. I have never claimed that rounded corners with CSS would somehow increase accessibility.

Anyway, great article!

Posted on September 13, 2005 in Accessibility, Quicklinks


  1. Accessible sites get indexed better by google. A website needs standards for the same reason you speak english.

    That usualy gets the customers warmed up.

    To prove this I seem to have cornered the market for “woolly mittens” this way. :)

  2. Another article that plants accessibility firmly in the this is for disabled visitors only corner… disappointing IMO.

    ?Maybe Point 11 - Stop selling accessibility exclusively as a disabled issue, work in usability, organic search results, mobile devices and perhaps most crucially - increased potential revenue through greater availability of content.

    Carrot is usually better than stick?

  3. September 13, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Steve: Yes, the article is more about accessibility in the “for disabled people” context than the wider “for everybody” context that I like to use.

    It is still a good article, but your point is a very good one that certainly wouldn’t hurt to include.

  4. It’s all a question of definitions that Derek Featherstone opined on last month. A good read based on Joe Clark’s interpretation of accessibility all the same.

  5. In common there is a larger issue with the term accessibility and the connection to disabled people. When talking to clients, they usually think accessibility equals lesser design, higher costs, and a lots of people in wheelchairs.

    But the main idea in the term accessibility can be found in a statement from Tim Berners-Lee:

    The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

    This clearly states that accessibility is something that is intended to support any web users.

    So I usually tend to show my customers that barriers exist for any of their customers, even those that are not disabled.

  6. No, Roger, that was not a hint in your direction, but somebody else who used the rounded corner bit as a headline once. :-)

    I am well aware of accessibility not being an issue of disability alone, but I wonder how many of the defenders of that argument have ever had to talk to big clients about these matters? The list in the article was put together from client feedback I had in the last three years, some blue chip clients, local councils, small companies and internal feedback. The whole debate about when a web site does block out visitors and therefore discriminate is a lot easier to make obvious when you show something like a screen reader or ask the client to surf his site via speech recognition. If you simply use another browser or show that a popup blocker makes it impossible to use their site all they do is shrug and ask why anyone would do so. You are talking to busy people, and they need something to grab. The mere existence of disabled users is unknown to a lot of people I had to talk to, and offers a conversation starter. Also, they did hear about regulations for disabled people - their building for starters had to undergo changes. Unless you can come up with real figures how an accessible site increases revenue or lowers cost most people just don’t care. Douglas Bouwman’s blogger redesign and his traffic saving calculation in his @media presentation are a good start though.

    I hate to make accessibility a disabled issue, but it is a good starting point and let’s not forget it is the newer variable in the equation. You can talk about usability till you are blue in the face, most clients care about what it costs and when it will be ready and that is it. The web is still considered an extended print media which is not worth bespoke copy writing or even a proper information architecture. Re-use of what already is there is the most asked for feature. In some cases this means 30 page word documents in legalese that this or that department “needs to see on the web site”. Trying to get a training budget to make sure the CMS users know how to write for the web and not mess up your wonderful compliant templates is next to impossible.

    On another note: Why comment here and not at digitial web? It is pretty tough to follow valid comments all over the place…

  7. September 13, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Chris: Phew! In my fever-induced delirium (I’m at home with a cold) I was worried that I might actually have said something like that ;-).

    A valid point about comments: if you have any comments on Chris’ article it’s better if you leave them at Digital Web instead of here.

  8. I also want to point out that I’m not sure most techniques or articles about techniques really state that they increase accessibility as much as they help to maintain accessibility. There are techniques that lessen accessibility for a huge variety of reasons, requiring extra markup mostly.

  9. Is accessibility a law? Is there a written code that says we need to be building websites with accessibility in mind? I think of it more as a guidance and general-rule, but not certainly a requirement. Just like how there might be tons of standards out there but we choose not to follow them.

    I think, in general, we don’t think about the disabled people too much. I mean, if we stop thinking about the need of accessibility in the geek society, and start thinking about what we can improve about our environment, around us, that can be more accessible and possibly help the the disabled people, we soon realize that there are clearly tons of work to do…

  10. September 13, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Gyujin: Yes, in some countries web accessibility is required by law.

  11. Yes it is a law, and if you read the article you see that there are links to the DDA (Digital Discrimination Act). Basically the law means that by keeping information inaccessible or offering a diminished experience you discriminate visitors because of things they cannot change (like starting to see or use a mouse). It is very easy to say “we should do” and “maybe we could”. I spent a year working with handicapped people instead of going to the army, and it gave me a lot. What it also gave me is the insight that by treating the handicapped as if they constantly need our help we do belittle them. A handicap is just what it says - you cannot do all, but you should get the chance to and still be treated with the same respect and attitude as everybody else.

  12. Sorry, I just clicked on the link and checked out the article. I read some of the short headline points made by Roger Johansson, and commented on this site.

    Thanks :) But, what are the consequences of not abiding this law? Do governments care enough to actually hunt down these sites? What is the scope of the effectiveness of these laws?

  13. Daniel S. Reichenbach comments about the Tim Berners-Lee quote: “This clearly states that accessibility is something that is intended to support any web users.”

    And completely wrong. Try taking Tim Berners-Lee’s statement in the context of when it was made, which coincidentally was at the launch of the WAI-IPO, which is the foundation of the Web Accessibility Initiative - :

    “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect,” said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web. “The IPO will ensure the Web can be accessed through different combinations of senses and physical capabilities just as other W3C activities ensure its operation across different hardware and software platforms, media, cultures and countries.”

    So the WAI Activity is focusing on “senses and physical capabilities”, whereas all the other W3C Activities (e.g. the HTML Activity, the Style Activity, the Document Object Model Activity) focus on hardware, software, media, cultures and countries.

    From the same press release:

    Judy Brewer, recently appointed Director of the IPO, affirmed that “the W3C realizes the critical importance of the Web for people with disabilities, and is committed to making the Web Accessibility Initiative a success.

    From these two alone its clear that the Web Accessibility Initiative is a W3C Activity that focuses on the changes and additions needed to bridge the gap that creates barriers for people with disabilities.

    First and foremost, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (version 1.0 and again in version 2.0) say the primary aim of the documents is reducing the barriers for people with disabilities. Both documents note that following the guidelines has a nice side effect of increasing usability and compatibility for other people and user-agents. This however is not the main focus of WAI and WCAG, its nothing more than a nice to have side-effect.

    What Daniel S. Reicenbach is wanting is Tim Berners-Lee’s concept of “universality”. Web accessibility bridges the gap for people with disabilities, and is only a small part of the universality solution.

    Please do not confuse the two. Its not fair to belabour web accessibility with the requirement of universality. Universality needs to be able to stand on its own two feet without needing web accessibility as the crutch to beat web developers into submission.

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