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Bad decisions

3 minutes read

Yesterday, I wrote about big decisions, without making any distinction between good or bad decisions. Today, I want to talk about three common causes for bad decisions when thinking about accessibility.

  1. Making assumptions
  2. Conforming to expectations
  3. The desire for the world to work as you want rather than how it does

This could turn into a larger email, so I'll break it down into three parts and we'll talk today about the first cause.

Making assumptions

An assumption is something we accept to be true, even if we're missing all the evidence. Any decision we make has assumptions baked in. We can get things wrong by making assumptions based on bad data, or based on wrong thinking. If wrong assumptions lead to bad decisions, then just by making better assumptions (or less assumptions even), we can avoid unwanted outcomes.

In accessibility, maybe the biggest assumption I've heard people make is when they say:

We don't have disabled users.

It's a common cop-out. If you don't have users with disabilities, you don't have to care about making your website accessible. You assume that most of your users don't have a disability and that only people with disabilities need an accessible website.

Why are these assumptions wrong?

If 1 in 5 people worldwide has a disability, chances are one of them wants to use your website. And with this number growing, your assumption is unlikely to hold water.

This leaves us with the other 4 in 5 people that don't have a disability. Surely we don't need to care about accessibility for them, right? Wrong!

Accessibility accommodations benefit people beyond those with an "official disability." Most everything you make accessible will have a legitimate use for most of the population.

Think of the most common things, like closed captions when you watch a video or voice commands when you ask your voice assistant to play music. Or think of when you visited a website where the images didn't load and without those images and no alternative text you had no idea what the content meant.

These were initially accessibility "features," with the aim to make content accessible to people with disabilities before they were widely adopted and we now consider most of them common sense.

While these are helpful to most, they are essential to some. Without these "features," some will not be able to use your website at all and most might miss out on what you offer.

No doubt, this puts you in a difficult situation and leads to a less than desirable outcome.

If you want to avoid difficult situations and undesirable outcomes, you need to stop making the assumption that you don't have disabled users. Instead, make your website accessible, help everyone, and you'll increases your chances for what you sell to reach a much wider audience.

Making fewer assumptions will lead to better outcomes.

Perhaps another assumption people make is when they think they need to start accessibility with an audit - because someone told them to. And that becomes the expectation.

We'll talk about Conforming to expectations tomorrow. See you then!

Did you enjoy this bite-sized message?

I send out short emails like this every day to help you gain a fresh perspective on accessibility and understand it without the jargon, so you can build more robust products that everyone can use, including people with disabilities.

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