Understand What Accessibility Is to Understand Why it Matters


My name is Tiffany and I am committed to ​helping your enterprise develop strong digital products and even stronger digital teams.

One of the biggest challenges that I have seen in this space is that folks with little-to-no experience with or exposure to people with disabilities or assistive technologies are making the decisions about how a site gets implemented.

By learning more about disabilities, assistive technologies, and alternative browsing preferences, they can more clearly understand the accessibility challenge and what it feels like to be on the other end.

Learn More About Disabilities

Some of your website users may have a diverse range of abilities across the following categories:

  • Vision
  • Mobility
  • Auditory
  • Neurological
  • Cognitive
  • Medical
  • Psychological

How many people have a disability?

  • There are more than 61M adults in the US living with a disability.
  • Whether a person is living with a disability or not, it is important to remember: “all people, over the course of their lives, traffic between times of relative independence and dependence (Hendren).

Further reading: Common types of disabilities

Learn More About Assistive Technologies

Some of your website users may be using assistive technologies to access your site. Assistive technologies are devices that allow individuals with disabilities an alternative method to interact with the computer (beyond the standard mouse and keyboard). They serve as a bridge between the user and their device, which gives people access to the web who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to engage. Common assistive technologies include:
  • Screen readers
  • Navigation hardware
  • Switch inputs
  • Eye trackers
  • Speech recognition
  • Screen magnifiers
Further reading: Web Accessibility Perspectives videos

Learn More About Alternative Browsing Preferences

Some users simply customize their browser experiences to better suit their needs and preferences. For example, RSS readers and browser readability extensions take the structured content of a page and display it with clean typography and styles. These readers and extensions focus on making content as readable as possible, sometimes even hiding headers, footers, and ads.

Consider How Intersectionality Can Make Accessibility More Challenging

You can’t predict which combination of disabilities, assistive technologies, and browsing preferences your users may have. Because of this, you should focus on improving experience and usability— without and without assistive technology.

Consider combinations – Each of the categories listed above can independently create barriers to accessing your website. But you must also consider combinations across and within each of these categories. Minor disabilities can combine to create major challenges.

Don’t make assumptions – Another item to note is that you should not assume that a user is utilizing assistive technology, even if they have a disability. (1) Maybe their disability isn’t severe enough to benefit from assistive-technology support. (2) Maybe technologies that could help them, such as screen readers and custom input mechanisms, are too expensive. (3) Maybe they aren’t even aware that technologies that could help them access the web exist. (4) maybe they have a secondary impairment, and use technology specific to another need

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