Part of a Whole

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

People Are Asking For Universal Web Accessibility, And They Don’t Know It!

As long as it is only web accessibility advocates that clamor for greater web accessibility, it is unlikely to happen. We will have more of a chance when other people start asking for sites to work on small devices, or sites that degrade gracefully on devices unable to handle technologies such as AJAX, or Javascript, etc.

I read a tweet from @freitasm this morning that made me wonder. He wrote:

Trying to use a site full of AJAX on a mobile device is fail. Why don’t companies make things that work on small devices too?

Immediatly, I went "Ah ha!". This was the first time I saw someone not working with web accessibility saying something supporting the idea that accessibility benefits everyone. We (accessibility advocates) all know this to be true. But sometimes I am not so sure that other people realise it.

And here’s Mauricio, a self-admitted geek, saying that he wants accessibility (to his mobile, not for a disability). I don’t think Mauricio realised that accessibility for people with disabilities would benefit his access to sites from his mobile. I pointed this out to him in a tweet back to him, but he’s not responded (yet?).

The interesting thing is that @brettroberts and @finnatic seconded what Mauricio was saying.

Websites, by and large, are not catering to the mobile device user. If they made sites that did not *depend* on AJAX, or JavaScript, many more mobiles would be able to use them. Incidentally, people visiting sites from corporate servers that are blocking JavaScript at the firewall would also be able to use the sites. Oh, and let’s not forget that many more people with disabilities would be able to use them.

I am not sure what is so complicated about the concept of progressive enhancement. You make a website that works without all the bells & whistles. Then you know it works for *everyone*. Then you add the layers of presentation you want to make it "cool", to add the WOW factor you want. Don’t even think graceful degradation, because often enough, it doesn’t work and it trips people.

Businesses complain that people don’t purchase from them enough, especially in times of hard economic conditions, like we’ve been going through recently. It would make sense to me to make sure they aren’t turning anyone away out-of-hand.

What will it take to make the message sink in? What will it take to make people realise that the needs for web accessibility is universal rather than limited to people with disabilities?