Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

He Ain’t Blind, but He’s Got no Vision

I was meeting with a sports club for wheelchair users recently about their website. When we discussed website accessibility, one of their members, a wheelchair user himself, said that it didn’t matter. Let’s call him Bob (not his real name). Bob said that their "target market" was not blind people. This shows a lack of Vision, as well as a lack of understanding of the issues.

Ok, so they are unlikely to want blind participants to play the sport (although one of the members has vision issues). But this does not mean that the site should not be accessible. Because, of course, accessibility of websites is not solely about vision impairments. For instance if the website is made to be keyboard accessible, then, quadriplegics who don’t use a mouse can navigate it. Little things like setting a:focus as well as a:hover will help someone navigating links with keyboard only by making it obvious which link they are looking at.

Wheelchair users expect to be able to get in buildings. They like ramps, wide doors and hallways, etc. Seems natural, doesn’t it? What if Bob’s younger daughter goes to ballet lessons every week? But the ballet lessons are held on the second floor of a building without lifts? By Bob’s own reasoning, since the target market is ballerinas in training, and they surely don’t use wheelchairs, having the classes on the second floor is not a problem. But that also means Bob is unable to take his daughter to ballet.

So it isn’t only about the primary market. The site would benefit from accessibility for family and friends of players coming to the site. Maybe his elderly father’s eyesight is not what it used to be, and easily increasing font size would benefit him. If the site handles font size increase nicely, it will make for a better experience for these secondary target markets.

If someone who understand accessibility issues "at large" doesn’t understand the problems linked with lack of website accessibility, is it any wonder that the public in general, who has no direct experience with lack of access, is simply unable to grasp the issues?

I don’t blame Bob, nor do I blame the general public, or developers, nor site owners. They don’t know better.

It is out job, our responsibility, to raise awareness of the issues.

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