Use the arrow keys to navigate between menu items.

Simple rules worked when we were young

3 minutes read

All the way through 5th grade, in gym class, the teacher would make us all split into two groups. Boys one one side, girls on the other. For each of the groups, we had to form a line going from the smallest to tallest person. We couldn't start the class until we were all quiet and in the right place in our respective lines.

There were no preferences and no discussions like "I want to stand next to my best friend" or "I can't stand next to her." It took just a few minutes for us to form the lines and then the class could begin.

The teacher could have picked any of number of ways for us to form that line:

  • alphabetical by first or last name
  • the day of the month we were born
  • the month of the year we were born
  • the address where each of us lived

So why did he pick height as the defining guideline? Simple. It was the easiest metric for everyone to agree on.

Was height the perfect way to create the order in the line? Probably not. I was the smallest and I always felt a bit left out. What will everyone else think of me if I'm the smallest?

But was it a fast and efficient way for little chaotic kids to form a line at the beginning of class? Yes!

Here's the thing.

When you want to create order fast, you need a scoring system that everyone understands, accepts and agrees with.

I think the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are for the web what height was for us when we were young.

Are they perfect? No.

But are the guidelines the most efficient way for everyone to agree what makes a website accessible?

I would say yes. The WCAG provides a clear and standardised way to look at accessibility. Its set of principles and criteria are available for all to read and easy to understand for anyone who wants to. They give us a common language and a shared set of expectations.

Of course, just like height-based lines in gym class, WCAG isn’t without its flaws. It can’t address every nuance or unique situation. But it’s a strong foundation.

And as long as you only look at it as a great starting point, you should be ok. Real-world usage will often reveal gaps and areas for improvement that the guidelines don’t fully address. They're a great way to start, but we still need to work through ongoing user testing, feedback and continuous improvement that goes beyond the guidelines.

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.

You can unsubscribe in one click and I will never share your email address.