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Too much baggage

2 minutes read

Accessibility. 13 letters. We thought it was such a lenghty word that we use the numeronym a11y to write it out.

It has all these definitions floating around, each one just slightly different than the next. I think the reason why we can't settle on just one is simply because, like the word itself, accessibility is a loaded concept. It's just like a bulky piece of luggage you lug around and when you finally set it down on the floor and start to unpack, it'll likely fill the room.

The overwhelming number of concepts, rules and tooling available today might give you the impression that accessibility has gotten perhaps too complex. We have guidelines, laws, compliance, ARIA patterns, procurement requirements, third party tools, population statistics and a bunch of people yelling at us we need to be accessible.

It's no wonder whenever you hear accessibility you roll your eyes and think it's not your job. Designers shout at developers when they go rogue and start slapping divs left and right forgetting about proper semantics. The developers fight back and blame the designs with all the bells and whistles, visually stunning, but practical for people with disabilities? Not so much. And by the way, aren't the testers responsible for how the screen reader works?

I'm not surprised when all this leaves you frustrated and thinking that you have to do it rather than want to do it. When even a simple scan of your website gives you so many issues, of course you'll feel intimidated and demoralised.

You'll never get it all done and it seems pointless to even try. Maybe this comes from how complex the web has been getting recently. Over the past 10 years, we've been adding new technologies, new workflows, new requirements and the surface area for responsibilities is larger than ever.

Stop for a second and think though. What we want is to make websites that everyone can use. This is our why and that hasn't changed much.

No matter how small or large your team is, no matter what framework you use and how big your stack, what comes out the other end is a product that people will use - if you let them.

The classic blame game doesn't work. Accessibility is a team effort.

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