Joe Clark: @media 2005: Day 1

Accessibility: Simple Facts About a Tricky Subject

Notes from a presentation given 2005.06.09 at the @media conference, London

See also: Day 2 & index

Here’s my slogan for today:

Everyone has a vague idea what a Web user looks like. Accessibility tells us there are many more kinds of users.

My presentation will talk about the disabilities people have that present barriers to their use of the Web and what we as developers and designers can do to remove those barriers.


Today we’re going to talk about:

The old audience

Which kind of accessibility?

What is accessibility?

Why be accessible?

Many of you will have read about the reasons to make Web sites accessible many times before. So I’m gonna start with a reason you probably will not have heard before.

Because you can
Most of the time, it’s technically simple and inexpensive to make Web sites reasonably accessible to most disabled people. And there are things we can still do even in the exceptional cases where it isn’t simple or inexpensive.
The Web is different from old media like books, which cannot carry accessibility along with them. Because the Web is an electronic medium, it can include accessibility features within itself. So let’s use them!
Because you have to
You’re really lucky here in Britain because your Disability Discrimination Act is all but unambiguous about applying to Web sites. It does apply to Web sites. Thus, many of you have a legal obligation to be accessible
Because it makes you money
Not all people with disabilities are poor or underemployed. One example is senior citizens, who often have considerable disposable income. People won’t buy your product or service if they can’t use your site
Because of good public service
The public sector has an obligation to serve the public. You aren’t doing that if the only people you’re serving are people without disabilities
Because you are mature
Accessibility is a component of the growing movement toward Web standards. It’s a more mature method of making genuine Web sites as opposed to Internet Explorer sites

What isn’t accessibility?

Here are a few things that are not what we’re talking about.

Some facts about people with disabilities

Disabled groups

Now let’s run through the major disability groups and what needs to be done in Web development to accommodate them.

Visual impairment (1.9% of the population)

Hearing impairment (1.7% of the population)

Mobility or dexterity impairment (5.7% of the population)

Cognitive impairment or learning disability (2.1% of the population)