Why Accessibility Matters

Isaac Zepeda
Jul 5, 2017 · 4 min read

When my Product Owner told me that we need to make our app accessible, my first reaction was to be against it. It’s so much work and I have heard co-workers saying that making your app friendly to a voice reader and other accessibility rules was a painful job.

I didn’t want a painful job so I started to wash my hands and deflect that responsibility to other team members.

Then I asked myself, “Why should we be accessible?”

My first thought was because it’s been imposed by the law, but something inside me (and with help of my teammates) told me that that isn’t enough reason, we shouldn’t doing it because the law tells you so, but rather because it is the right and moral thing to do.

I decided to understand it and started reading about it and without notice I started to see it everywhere!

This was the first video I watched (after a lot of pressure from the product owner and coworkers) and it was a eye opener.

On June 2017 I went to DinosaurJS conferences in Denver and there was all this great vibe about inclusion, diversity, all-gender restrooms (that was a completely new experience), women rights, accessibility, etc.

And… all of the sudden… it hit me.

Accessibility is about everybody. Accessibility is empathy.

“It’s not called disability, it’s called accessibility, and accessibility helps all of us” — Scott Davis

Accessibility is about everybody, not just about the people with a disability.

Think about it as a way to create something that everybody could use.

Something clicked inside my head that make me realize why this is important, why everybody should be working on it, why we should care.

It’s about survival. We buy everything online, we book hotels, flights, cars, we look for food and order food, we navigate using Google Maps and Lift, we pay the bills online.

Everything is getting online now. I realized American youth wants everything online through their phone, in Mexico we are not that far away from it either.

Everything is online, but not all apps and websites are accessible to everybody, so there’s a group of people that is getting behind that are getting exclude because we developers hinder them to use our apps.

How cumbersome is to go to the bank because you cannot use the bank app because it’s not accessible. How annoying would be to have to use a phonebook to find hotels and to call them in order to book.

As a developer when you hear about accessibility the first time is an annoyance, because it means a lot of changes in your code. This doesn’t mean that accessibility is hard, it means that we designed our app wrong in the first place.

When you start thinking about accessibility, and design your apps to be accessible I think you create better user experience for everybody.

When you make your app accessible you give the choice to the consumer to navigate it with the keyboard because she is just lazy, and at the same time you give the choice to a consumer that cannot use a mouse to navigate your app, also it helps the reader apps (visually impaired people use them a lot) to understand the app and read it to the consumer in a better way than an app that isn’t accesible.

Everybody wins! We just need a little more effort from the tech industry.

Accessibility is also about semantics.

Reader apps have a hard time reading non-accessible apps, all the structure doesn’t make sense to them, so they need to assume things that leads to a bad user experience, now imagine you are a person that cannot see at all, the reading app would be speaking a lot of nonsense.

When you bring accessibility to your app you are creating semantics so this readers can understand what you app is all about, and then it can explain it to the person listening.

With this semantics your app makes sense to other apps reading it and that can be translated to other interfaces, not just audio.

I remember when the web 2.0 was born and everybody was saying that the next step was the semantic web, well I think this part of it.

After this epiphany I found an inspiration to code accessibility into my work. It’s exciting.

I’m sure I’m leaving out a lot of reasons why accessibility matters and why we should care, but I think you get my point.

There’s still a lot to do, a lot to code, a lot of challenges, but it’s a great time to start doing the right thing for everybody.

Points San Francisco

Random points to reflect upon in the office