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Bad decisions Part 2: Conforming to expectations

2 minutes read

Yesterday, I talked about making the assumption that you don't have disabled users and how that leads to undesirable outcomes. Today, let's talk about conforming to other people's expectations.

The expectation I've most heard is that if you want an accessible website, you have to start with a grand, official audit. The recommendation is a comprehensive evaluation of your website to identify barriers and assess its conformance with accessibility guidelines and standards.

The result of the audit will likely be a large PDF outlining every issue identified on your site, along with explanations and suggestions for remediation. The problem with audits is that, because they take a long time to complete, they defer the actual work of fixing issues and helping your users. Audits will do a great job at identifying issues, but they won't fix anything by themselves.

Yes, audits are a great way to uncover what may be preventing your users to access and interact with your website and they are crucial down the line. But there's the low-hanging fruit before diving into the full-blown assessment.

Start with the obvious stuff. Check your images. Are they tagged properly? It only takes a few seconds and makes a world of difference. Next up, font sizes and contrast. Make sure your text is readable, even for those of us with aging eyes or less-than-perfect vision.

Keyboard navigation. Can users tab through your site without getting lost in a maze of dead ends? If not, it's time to streamline that navigation.

Are your forms controls properly labeled? Can you fill in a form with just the keyboard?

How do you know all these things if you don't do an audit? Running a simple scan of your pages. It takes minutes and gives you plenty of low hanging fruit to pluck.

Sure, they might seem like small potatoes compared to a comprehensive audit, but they're not a waste of time. These issues would have been uncovered in an audit anyway. You just saved yourself some work later on.

Am I saying you shouldn't do an accessibility audit? No.

Should you ignore what the experts say about accessibility and accessibility audits? No.

But don't let them scare you into paralysis by analysis. Take action where you can, when you can. Don't let the accessibility audit be the blocker in shipping an accessible website.

Tomorrow we'll talk about another blocker - The desire for the world to work as you want rather than how it does.

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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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