Accessibility is Up to Everyone. Even You.

I was at the gym a few weeks ago and took notice of what was on several of the televisions – the Paralympic Games. While we still have a long way to go as a society, I couldn’t help thinking how cool it was that a major network was carrying it, a small example of inclusivity in our society.

(After a little more digging, I learned that NBC has been increasing its Paralympics coverage. It showed 66 hours in 2016, compared with just 5.5 hours of coverage that was given to the 2012 Paralympics).

In our work, accessibility has also been percolating up. A big part of what’s driving it is interest at the upper leadership level, mostly spurred on by policy changes and fear of lawsuits. But upper leadership support is crucial because it results in more funding for the work it takes to formally add a new practice into every project.

Personally, I think it goes beyond that. I believe there’s a growing expectation of inclusivity and a desire to be a part of the solution amongst everyday people too. In this article I’ll share some specific things anyone can do in their day-to-day lives to help carry this momentum forward.

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For anyone who uses social media

Like it or not, social media is integrated into most peoples’ lives (81% to be exact) — and this includes people with disabilities. It might not seem obvious to a sighted person at first why a blind person would want to be on Instagram, but the myriad reasons are no different than anyone else if you think about it.

Instagram, like Facebook, Twitter, etc., is primarily used for social interaction. How photos look is part of it, but it’s often just as much about sharing an event, opinion, feeling, etc. Check out this video showing you how one particular blind user uses Instagram — it’s pretty fascinating!

Video: "How Blind People Use Instagram" from TommyEdison.com

Take a minute to label your photos

One of the best things you can incorporate into both your organization’s social media practice and your personal practice is to start using Alt tags or captions on all photos. Facebook tries to do this for you automatically, but most of the major social media platforms allow you to edit the alt text on your mobile device.

Adding descriptions of your photos dramatically changes the experience for people with disabilities – it includes them in the conversation instead of shutting them out. If you’re concerned about how time consuming it is, consider posting less photos to make labeling more manageable.

The same is true of videos – if possible, provide a transcript or, at the very least, a descriptive caption. Some services, like YouTube, automatically create a transcript using speech to text technology.


For anyone who approves or requests budgets

Let’s face it, what it often comes down to is funding and prioritization. Our industry has come a long way on accessibility in the past few years.

Not long ago, accessibility was almost never given serious funding consideration. Whenever it was brought up, everyone would sort of blankly look at the developer in the room as if the topic was no different than discussing how to solve a JavaScript problem.

Nowadays, accessibility is usually considered throughout the entire project and – importantly – often has dedicated funding for the effort. At Crux Collaborative, we’ve been engaged in accessibility-focused projects continuously for several years in a row.

Set Aside some exploratory funding

When thinking about your budgetary decisions, consider the business opportunities of becoming fully accessible. You may have an untapped audience that currently is shut out of your content or functionality. Bringing them into the fold could allow you to gain a competitive advantage.

You can bring in outside consultants to audit your website or application so you know where you stand. As a bonus, this kind of audit also represents a tremendous learning opportunity for your entire team. Here at Crux Collaborative, we conduct these kinds of audits.


For developers who understand accessibility

As a front-end developer, I’ve been working on issues related to web accessibility for over a decade. The topic can be intimidating and dense for many people. Even more challenging is that it can seem very technical before you become familiar with the details.

The truth is that much of the important work and effort revolves around creating properly organized content. Once this is understood, non-technical members of any project team can be major contributors and owners of accessibility responsibilities.

Helping guide along your non-technical colleagues and those unfamiliar with guidelines like WCAG2.0 is crucial to creating a sea change in our industry. We have been working on this ourselves, and eventually the entire team’s mindset begins to shift.

Plain-speak version of the guidelines

I’ve found that the official guidelines are a vital technical reference, but can be too dense for a newbie. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm your colleagues and/or client team and cause them to withdraw.

Instead, I’d encourage you to walk them through the main check points in plain language and provide them with a newbie-friendly reference. One of my favorites is the checklist at WUHCAG.com.


Seek out understanding

A constant barrage of news is coming at us 24-hours a day, but is it really worth your time? Take a sliver of that time to look for articles about the lives of people with disabilities or about universal design. There are amazing stories out there to discover and broaden your understanding.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is May 17th. Clockwork is hosting an annual free event in partnership with WeCo, at which they demonstrate how real people with disabilities use screen readers and other assistive technology. It’s a tremendous opportunity to find out firsthand what its like and learn about their experiences.


If you’d like to learn about our accessibility practice and capabilities at Crux Collaborative, get in touch with us to start a conversation.

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