DOTW: Accessibility! Where is it in your client's priorities? (Participation = 3 Hero Points)

When given the option, I’m sure everyone would choose to make their website as accessible as humanly possible; however, at a certain point you may need to balance that with timelines or other functionality/features depending on what your(or your client’s) websites purpose and target market is. That brings us to this weeks DOTW topic!

For those who haven’t looked into Accessibility much, or at all, here’s some links to get you introduced to the topic:

https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/making-wordpress-accessible/
https://codex.wordpress.org/Accessibility
https://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/handbook/

Definition from WordPress.org:

Accessibility in web design means creating web pages that everyone can use, regardless of hardware, software, or any sensory or physical impairment.

1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?
2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website?
3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?

Also, don’t forget just last year a gentleman took a grocery store to court over the inaccessibility of their site, and won! We covered that story on our blog: https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/website-accessibility-ada/

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-At least one comment = 3 Hero Points(must participate within 7 days of thread post date)
-DOTW = Discussion of the Week
-Last DOTW: “TRY GUTENBERG”, ARE YOU TESTING, AND WILL IT BREAK?

  • Zen

    1) They are not interested. They are not aware of the legal implications (disability cases USA) and until they are told they then just want to know it's done. They don't like how it stacks up developer time. Eg - descriptions on images so readers can read them.

    2) Yes - namely font size and style. Min is on screen font size 12 preferred.

    3) Slows progress but that is really standardising progress now. So not really slowing it rather improving standards and quality. I think it helps innovation and it certainly improves business sales and qudos.

    Added comment: I do think the ability to sue is very unfair. I think there should be a standard disclaimer on the front side like cookie pop-ups. Simply as the hindrance is small businesses who develop their own sites do not normally have specialized knowledge especially legal knowledge, or time to be so detailed. They mostly do not have money to spend on developers either and so balence and rationality should be discerned I think.

      • Tony G

        Please forgive a bit of contention on this, Matthew .

        I commented in the original blog on this topic that there actually is an initial warning - they don't just accept a single claim and judge in favor of the plaintiff. For small companies there is a considered determination as to cost versus unjustifiable expense, etc. They're reasonable about it - in principle anyway and so far I believe in practice.

        Even when there is a determination that a site needs to be more accessible, I believe a company has something like two years to become compliant, and it can be extended if there is clear evidence that there has been an attempt made. They're not out to hassle anyone, just to encourage everyone to be fair.

        As someone who is against frivolous lawsuits as anyone, from what I've seen this area seems well balanced. I'm sure there are anecdotes to the contrary but I'm sure there are other anecdotes to support my claim, and I won't engage in bickering.

        And as someone remotely familiar with the hassle that disabled people have to endure daily, I also kinda don't mind an occasional legal kick in the butt to large companies that are grossly biased against servicing this fairly large global audience. Remember, they have time to comply. If they don't take the opportunity to make some improvements, IMHO they deserve the hit in the wallet.

        HTH

        • Matthew

          Hi Tony G,

          No problems - it is what the discussions are for anyways :smile:

          Bare in mind my knowledge in this matter is quite limited.

          My comments above were in relation to 'compensation' being sought after - for eg. someone tripping in a supermarket, blaming the supermarket (as they have a duty of care) and sued the big chain. In todays litigious society, it would happen more than ever before.

          So in an example of someone suing for adding assessibility to a small business website - let's say a mum and dad shop - would they seeking 'compensation' or requesting them to add these features to their site making it more assessible?

          • Tony G

            Matthew I understand the concern and share the disdain for people who abuse the system for monetary gain.

            In this case, I did look up the legal requirements and remedies for website accessibility. I welcome you to view a comment that I posted to the WPMUDEV blog on this topic, where I reference and cite from the ADA legislation.

            For the specific case of a mum and dad shop (Mom & Pop here in the USofA) or any other business where compliance could become a financial burden, there is a waiver that says "nah, you don't need to do this".

            To sum that up, this ADA legislation covers against the extremes of "small business getting sued for big money". It's not the typical, abusive, stupid stuff that we all abhor. Each case is considered and it seems to me that there is a broad and reasonable spectrum of remedies for businesses of all sizes, including a waiver. There is certainly abuse of this and all other legislation, but IMO, our goal as citizens (globally) should be to legislate against abuse, not to eliminate legislation that has been abused.

            Compare the versatile ADA remedies with the SEO now compelled by Google and supported by SmartCrawl, where there is no accommodation based on business model or size. All sites are equal in the eyes of SEO. The mum and dad shop does need to comply or they will lose search ranking and thus pay a financial price for non-compliance. That is the "one size does not fit all" paradigm that needs to be refined to be as well-balanced as the ADA.

            Perhaps WPMU DEV could pick up that gauntlet, asking some questions in SmartCrawl to revise scoring rules, and suggest to Google that they do the same. If nothing else that could be a huge Marketing initiative.

  • Micah Dailey

    Thanks for sharing this DOTW. I have a friend who is blind, and I've learned so much from him regarding web accessibility. I'm very thankful for his insight, and I feel now that this is an important conversation.

    I actually have felt that my sites have improved as I've started to think/work towards accessibility. It's forced me to weed out the unneeded stuff, and create with a wider audience in mind.

  • Eric Johnson

    Never thought accessibility until now. Mostly because, maybe, I didn't consider people with certain disabilities would be using my services as a personal trainer online. But thinking about it now, it opens up a new niche that I might be able to access.

    Either way, I think I'd at least need to make my sites accessible enough to let certain folks know if what I am offering is right for them.

    I definitely do not want to be sued over something that could be avoided.

    Thanks for this DOTW!

  • Joshua

    I am excited to hear how others wrestle with using limitations to shape their creative/design/development process.

    Personally, I prefer defining constraints early on. Designing for accessibility first seems like it would have a lot of advantages. Making content/products/websites available to the largest audience expands reach, sets a strong structure for speed and SEO, and sets healthy boundaries to work from... in those ways it would not slow innovation – it forces creativity and pushes us to develop better ways of doing things.

    That said, when writing I often over write and prune/self-edit when I am done.

    Some of this will boil down to creative process and how a developer views their work.

  • Larry Levenson

    Been developing websites for 20 years. In the past year, I have been asked maybe 3 times to "make sure this website works on cellphones, too." I agree with others who've responded, that this isn't a question for the general public. HOWEVER, I think the reason that it isn't asked frequently is that people just expect that it will work on different devices, since all the big websites do. By big, I mean newspaper websites, blogs, and large retail websites.

    As far as designing a website that's accessible, I think with the popular newer themes this is already done. Sometimes needs a little tweaking if I get too creative on the "desktop site."

    Basically, this is not something I give much thought to. I'm down to using BeThemes for almost everything, and it just plain works.

  • Baldafrican

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?

    Thus far none of them have asked. It does not feature very high on their priorities when I bring it up as they would prefer 'features' they saw on other websites instead.

    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website?

    I try to make an effort to follow at least some of the accessibility guidelines as I do believe it helps you to build a solid SEO platform so thus far I have not had any complaints. ***holding thumbs*** this continues.

    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?

    Since it does help to setup a good platform, I don't believe it slows progress but rather becomes part of it.

  • Jaxom

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?
    Most clients don't have a clue about disability access until I tell them about it.

    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website?
    No I haven't, which actually surprises me a bit for the clients who won't pay to have there site made compliant.

    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?
    Well as I am Disabled we sort of build it in as we go along with new sites so it doesn't really slow anything down as it's just part of the build process.
    It does take a bit of time and can be one of those incredibly boring jobs that takes hours and hours when making an existing site compliant. I just put on my favourite playlist (loud) and get on with it.

    Jaxom

  • Tony G

    I've had a number of friends and family disabled in various ways so the concepts and concerns are very familiar to me and have a place in my heart. I've written apps with speech synthesis and voice recognition. In this development I've come to recognize how painful it is for people to try to make use of information and services that most of us take for granted, and also how painful it is for us developers to try to make common information and services accessible to them.

    This isn't just about reading text from web pages to the blind. We rely heavily on popups, clicks, double clicks, swipes, font colors and sizing, images to focus interest or convey significance. There is an implied contract between site owner and visitor that expects them to behave in specific ways. This can be a big problem for people with arthritis or other mechanical issues, people who are color blind, and people who need larger print just to see text.

    That said, I've never had a client ever mention accessibility to me. It's simply not on their radar. Those who are aware don't care and those who we inform have the initial instinct to not care for their immediate business purposes.

    I brought it up in a site planning session a couple years ago when I was consulting for a team that was building a site for a government agency. It was dismissed like "we don't think any disabled people would ever use this site". (That was actually a Very wrong assumption.) While I emphasized that a government agency is much more subject to legal concerns than civilian entities, it was still put off as something that might be done later, if the topic ever came up again. (Or translated "when hell freezes over".) So, that's our current reality.

    But I have to say, that's a mostly pragmatic business position despite our personal sensibilities on the topic. We all make decisions like this every day - we don't add features to our products if we don't feel there will be enough ROI to justify the effort. These days we'd be incompetent if we didn't include support for mobile and responsive UI in our end products. It's an added expense that everyone understands ... now. But not so, yet, for accessibility. For better or worse, we now have the ADA in the USA to help people "understand" (on penalty of law) that they should be more inclusive, funding inclusivity, even if we perceive absolutely no ROI. I could easily jump on both sides of that argument.

    For that reason, until recently, I have not included accessibility in my development at all. I could not justify the real expense to a client who is not inclined to fund that effort. That does make me think about getting a legal statement of indemnification in case a client gets sued over work that I've done. We should have that anyway, but as accessibility becomes more a part of the common consciousness I think the need for this becomes more "pragmatic" for our purposes. We've all heard the phrase "crap rolls downhill".

    I said "until recently". I was working on a tiny new site recently, a single-purpose site to sell a "vacation home", where I thought it would be helpful to default to slightly larger text which could be read by older people who might be more inclined to have vision issues. In this case, it was important to at least be able to link an understanding of the audience with the technology.

    Digression: If only Google would give us higher SEO scores and better placement for that increased find size. I mean, they obviously know that grandma would appreciate this site more than others, because she is 72, wears glasses, has a slight gambling problem, and she had an affair with a guy years ago who lived in a house just like this. (They know everything.)
    Ahem.

    Seriously - on this small site I was struggling a bit with SmartCrawl to get better SEO numbers. That meant adding accessibility in terms of longer, readable, image Alt tags, and text that's easier to read. What we're seeing now is real-world consequences for Not being accessible (even to people who read at the level of a 10 year old). Google will not favorably profile a site unless we demonstrate some level of accessibility. They say you can't legislate morality but this is an enforcible rule that links the morality of accessibility with the marketing ability of a business, and therefore it's profitability. The moral of that story ... (boldly self-quoting here) ....

    If you need to convince a client that accessibilty is important, just tell them their target audience simply won't find their site anymore in this new world unless it's accessible.

    Combined with the evidential threat of legal consequences, I'm guessing more businesses will find themselves compelled toward and accepting of site accessibility. This is not because they appreciate the humanitarian value but because it potentially hits them where it hurts. I suspect this is exactly the kind of thing that would anger strong conservative types to pursue their own legal remedies to get around it. Again, pragmatism, the cost of that effort also needs to be weighed with the benefits. And while I don't think accessibility is worth the cost to a lot of businesses, ignoring it and fighting it could cost a lot more. I think that's an argument that could put the decision in favor of including this as a natural part of all development as we go forward.

  • sushling

    Interesting topic, so here we go …

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?

    None of my clients have requested anything in this direction yet.

    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website?

    Well, our support-pages are not yet optimized and a few clients have complaint about it already. This includes pages for helpdesk, FAQs, knowledge base, tutorials and our tickets-system. However, these clients concern is not accessibility but rather regarding the general structure and wide use of tech-terms :grin:

    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?

    Speed of innovation and progress may suffer a bit, because when concepting, developing and designing sites we need to consider more factors. On the other hand a generally improved user experience helps reaching more potential visitors and clients

  • Michael

    At the moment, as a startup, I only have a dozen clients, but we're growing :wink: On topic: of the 30+ WordPress themes I already made, 0 (zero) have addressed the accessibility issue. But now that my little company is somewhat stable regarding my income, it is time to address this issue. I want to be able to get a certain standard on how to include accessibility in all of my themes, as a standard.

    But at the moment it is a time issue on my side. But I promise I'll come back to this issue once I have published my first try-out regarding this topic.

  • Bernard

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?
    I have not, for now no clients asked such thing
    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website? I haven't
    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?
    I do not think so, on the contrary, thinking about alternative ways to present information might bring more innovation and other solutions

  • mpress

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?
    the only thing till now a customer has asked was to have the possibility to get size letters bigger. So I have found a plugin and installed it.
    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website?
    I have seen it happening to one website once. But owner decided it was good that way.
    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?
    I hope not.

  • Manuel

    The ''lowdown on Winn-Dixie and Mr. Gil’s court battle'' certainly shows that one should always realise that Legislation is to be obeyed at all times and when broken there are risks and serious consequences. I remember reading this post by Brenda Barron some time ago an certainly made me think that this is serious stuff, and shouldn't be ignored when designing an implementing websites for clients.
    In Reply, 1 - 3

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?

    I never have had a client asking me about accessibility so far.
    On the other hand, I have had a need to ask for accessibility on behalf of clients, (i.e. from ABC), regarding an ABC video on YouTube that I was transcribing/subtitling with deaf, sign language users in mind and visitors whose primary language wasn't English.
    Half way through it the video disappeared from YouTube and contacted the ABC etc. explaining this and could I have a URL link to it.
    The result (in short) led to ABC changing their entire system to the point that no more ABC videos were to be released to third parties, including YouTube, no URL's to copy, and now every produced video is for sale on the NET. True story.

    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website? Again no I haven't.
    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?

    ABC wins again.
    Here is a sample on how ABC is designing for inclusion, access innovation and progres; talking about how do they have true inclusion & awareness for everyday people with disabilities.
    Check the EN subtitles Sync; :heart_eyes
    Check number of languages available;:flag_is:
    Check ADA violations in the making.:sunglasses:
    https://twitter.com/QandA/status/1011214014427250688

    Big fish doesn't worry about ADA regulations; why should small fish be worried about it?!
    Cheers,

    Manuel

  • Matthew

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?

    No not really - most clients are more concerned about geting a site up as quickly as possible - desing being the most important.

    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website?

    No but I would imagine these would come through on other sites.

    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?

    I wouldn't imagine too much so alt tags / constrasting backgrounds and easy to read typography should form part of any project.

  • Julian

    1. Have you ever had a client ask about accessibility or require a certain level of it? If so, how did that go?

    Never.

    2. Have you ever had accessibility related complaints sent to you about your website or a clients website?

    Also never.

    3. Does developing/designing for inclusion and accessibility slow innovation and progress?

    I think if you design for inclusion and accessibility from the start it doesn't slow down anything too much. Besides it's the right thing to do. The internet is for everyone, including people with disabilities.

  • ROIverhogen

    1) No, I'm not into the web development that long so bare with me here, but I think most of the clients are more concerned with the functionalities and the design it comes with. When we take on a web job we also include responsiveness so I don't think they feel obligated to ask that specificly aswell.

    2) Not that I'm aware of.

    3) I think that when you take accessibility in consideration beforehand that this should not to big of an issue. It is when you have to work on existing websites or have to modify it afterwards where it gets tough and slow.

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