Is Accessibility Overwhelming?
Have you tried to print out all the WCAG documentation? You probably got worried after several hundreds of pages when your printer didn't stop producing more guidelines and techniques.
Have you experienced planning to make something accessible and then finding out that the required tasks overwhelm you? This can indeed be very intimidating, and it could make you doubt that you could follow the guidelines. so you in turn postpone your plans and you may even cancel them.
But does it have to be this way? Is there a way to make a product, service or web site accessible and not be overwhelmed by the tasks?
Indeed there is, and it’s quite simple. So let us analyze a seemingly “intimidating” obstacle faced by many people in making their product, service, or web site accessible. By the end of this post, I assure you that you’d have a clearer idea about this issue.
Where This Idea Began
Accessibility has gained much recognition over the past few years. Now, everyone pays more attention to the fact that the needs of persons with disabilities should be met as those of non-disabled people.
International groups and governments in turn developed guidelines and policies for making products and services accessible. Generally, these standards contain very detailed points and explanations about the necessary accessibility techniques. This is done to make them applicable to as much products and services as possible.
So for instance, when you look at the web accessibility guidelines, you would find too much information under each guideline. And this normally overwhelms and intimidates even the technical people. Or look at Section 508, where you can print out the web standards on only one pages, however, it doesn't tell you much. Then, you start looking at explanations and documentations, and all of a sudden you have hundreds of pages again.
The Truth About Accessibility Being Overwhelming
So now we know that it isn’t accessibility per se that is overwhelming, but the guidelines and standards built around it. How then can we handle the thought of dealing with these guidelines?
You only need to remember one thing:
Not All Guidelines Apply
Yes, it’s that simple. Going back to our previous example, you may have heard of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. Many people say that it is too lengthy and it involves too many tasks.
But if you try to look at your site and compare it with the requirements in WCAG, you would definitely find points in WCAG that you don’t have to apply. This is simply because you may not have the specific content mentioned in the requirement.
Let’s take some concrete examples. WCAG requires that online forms should, among other things, have descriptive labels. If you don’t have forms in your site, you can automatically skip through this set of guidelines. These are already a lot of requirements which you don’t need to work on. If you don't have videos on your site, you don't need to worry about any of the guidelines which deal with videos.
One thing to remember though is that it doesn’t hurt to be aware of these requirements. You may not have to work on them, but you should at least understand why they need to be done. This helps you a lot in an event where you or someone you know would work on things related to that requirement.
Remember Who You are Helping
When you make something accessible, you are mainly helping persons with disabilities who have special needs. And these standards, although they may be complex, are designed to aid you in ensuring that you truly give these people the right amount of help.
Before looking at these standards, you should first understand how persons with disabilities use technology. A good start is to know how people with different disabilities use the computer.
Once you understand how people with disabilities use technology, these guidelines and standards would make more sense than they previously did. You can take my word for it.
Accessibility documents and standards may seem overwhelming at first. But if you carefully read and understand them, you’d certainly realize that not all guidelines apply to your product, service, or web site. Some may be difficult to understand first, but overall, once you look into why these are in place, they mostly make good sense.
Let us know if you have any overwhelming experiences with accessibility, or if you have any questions.