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There's no end game with accessibility

2 minutes read

When it comes to making products accessible to people with disabilities, there's a common misconception that it's something you can check off a list and be done with. The reality is that accessibility is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort.

I used to be the same. I thought of accessibility as a box to check. After all, that's what the WCAG is for. I'd push my team to run an audit and then apply fixes and make accessibility improvements to make the audit go green. We'd then move on assuming the problem was solved.

I was wrong. Accessibility isn't an end, a goal to achieve. Rather, it's an ever-evolving practice to sustain.

Browsers change all the time. Technology changes all the time. People, we are constantly changing as well. We age, we get sick, we get injured. We're anything but static.

Your accessible website today can become inaccessible tomorrow through no fault of your own.

Our understanding of inclusive design itself continues to grow and improve. Standards and best practices evolve as we learn more about meeting the needs of people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

WCAG 1.0 was published in 1999. It had only 14 guidelines. Less than 10 years later, in 2008, WCAG 2.0 came on the scene and introduced the four guiding principles know as POUR. 10 years later, WCAG 2.1 builds on the 2.0 version. Just late last year, in 2023, WCAG 2.2 was published. And WCAG 3.0 is a working draft. It'll be years before that gets published though.

That's 25 years of evolving standards as we learned more about what the web needs to be usable by everyone.

Your accessible website implemented based on today's standards will need revisiting when WCAG 3.0 becomes the new standard. To do this, you'll need to constantly pay attention to user research, testing, planning, design and development best practices.

You need to treat accessibility not as a one-and-done checklist item, but as an ongoing practice you'll develop and integrate into all your processes. The thing is, accessibility isn't a problem to solve, but a commitment to uphold.

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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