Written by Mandy Michael

My experience in Accessibility

The past year I have put a lot of focus on accessibility. One of the things I love about the web is its openness, so creating a web that is accessible to as many people as possible seemed pretty obvious.

As a newcomer to the accessibility community it has been an interesting journey. I have learnt a lot and met some really amazing people, but I also came across something that really bothered me. Something that I believe is detrimental to improving accessibility on the web.

It's the attitude. Not of the developers but of the accessibility experts themselves.

I have met many wonderful, talented and helpful accessibility experts. I consider myself lucky to have had the help and support of such great people. However, I have also dealt with those who approach accessibility from a pedestal of judgement. I understand the frustration, I get that some things are easy and that the community want the web to be better, but i’d love to see a bit more positivity. Highlight the opportunities, and frankly be less judgemental!

For the most part my experience has been quite confrontational. Instead of advice on how I can improve, to make my websites better I have been lectured on why i’m the worst developer in existence.

This is not ideal, so i’d like to make a suggestion. A better approach to educating developers about accessibility so we can all make the web a better place.

Do point out my mistakes, but please make it clear

Make the language accessible! I’ve read reports that want to say “The grey is too light” but don't explicitly say that anywhere. This makes it really difficult to understand what the issue actually is.

Don't fill the document with jargon and fancy words, just tell me what i've done wrong.

Do explain why something is wrong

Knowing the the grey is too light is great! Telling me why it’s an issue will help me figure out how to fix it and avoid it in future, otherwise I might just pick another grey that is still not suitable.

Linking me to the part of the WCAG standard would be useful. (If you are awesome and can explain it in a way that actually make sense that would be even better).

Do make suggestions on how to fix it

Knowing that the grey is too light and that it doesn’t meet the contrast ratio gets me most of the way there. No one expects you to give me the answer, but if you can point me in the direction of some good resources or helpful tools that will help me in the pursuit for a more accessible web that would be fantastic!

What this does is make the whole accessibility experience significantly more enjoyable. You have educated me and helped me understand what the problem areas are. Next time I build a website accessibility will just be part of the process because I know how easy it is to achieve.

If you want me to write more accessible code, help me. The web is an open, collaborative community, and that is what makes us so unique and such a great industry to work in.

As an expert you don’t have to be concerned about sharing your knowledge. The web is always changing, there will always be new things to fix and new ways to make the web more accessible. Don’t be afraid to share because we will always need you! Lets work together to nail the basics so we can focus on more challenging issues.

If we want the web to be accessible we need to be more forthcoming with the knowledge, otherwise we are just holding the web back, and that doesn’t help anyone.

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