Accessibility is Accessible

Posted on Aug 30, 2007

Myth #1:
It costs more to design web pages to full WCAG specifications.

Standards evangelists such as Jeffrey Zeldman have long told us that we can design with standards. In fact, Mr. Zeldman wrote the book on it. All to often however, I still hear web developers warn clients and others that designing fully-accessible well designed pages costs more money. The truth is, that statement is patently false. It is possible to incorporate accessibility guidelines into your design process without costing your organization more.

Consider the problem of publicly accessible buildings. There was a time when these buildings were built solely for people who could walk on their own two feet and climb stairs without issue. It isn’t hard to remember that when demands were made to force said buildings to be accessible to anyone regardless of mobility challenges they have. The main complaint from governments and construction companies was cost — of all things to complain about! Sure enough however, accessibility guidelines were developed and incorporated into the design process of all future public buildings since then. Once the principles of the new design was considered in all future plans, there was no extraneous cost; it was was simply a part of building a new building.

The same is true for designing accessible websites. Design upfront for accessibility and you’ll find that incorporating accessibility into your site is a natural part of the process. There are no excessive costs. Such complaints are usually the sign of a lazy or incompetent developer who cannot be bothered to learn fully the requirements of their trade. Could you imagine contracting a construction company to build your retail store that would charge you extra to make wheel-chair ramps or automatic doors?

Myth #2:
Fully accessible designs require sacrifices to visual appeal.

Time and again this myth has been busted. Tables are generally a nightmare to begin with. They are difficult to style and very few web designers know how to make them accessible. Veerle Pieters has a demonstration posted to show that it is certainly possible to make an accessible and visually appealing table. The same is true for almost every single web page.

A short browse through the growing number of CSS gallery sites is testament to what is possible.

Read A list Apart, 465 Berea Street, or mezzoblue. Each of these sites are home to web accessibility and design evangelists. Their sites are all visually appealing and fully accessible.

It is possible for accessibility to be incorporated into your design process. You just have to do it. It is a myth that it will cost more.