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Basic Elements of Accessibility

Web Accessibility

Web Accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed so people with disabilities can use them.

Disability

Almost everyone experiences some type of disability either permanently, temporarily, or situationally.

When we build accessibly, we’re building for both our customers and our employees with disabilities, some of which we may not think of when we hear “disability”. 

The main categories of disabilities, limitations, or constraints that affect how people use our products help us decide what and how to test.

How we measure accessibility

Web development is complex. Paying attention to the accessibility of what we build can make it more complex if we don’t understand how everything works together. Web standards help us avoid the complexity when creating, and resolve problems that already exist.

Why we measure accessibility

Accessibility is a matter of federal law in the United States (and many other countries).

  • For sales to federal offices and organizations, it is defined by the United States Access Board’s Section 508 legislation. Read the Section 508 FAQ for more information if you’re interested.
  • For schools and universities, it is enforced by the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Read Disability Discrimination for more information if you’re interested.
  • For employers, it is enforced by the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Read Fighting Discrimination in Employment Under the ADA if you’re interested.

Most business-to-business (B2B) companies on the regularly receive sales inquiries from customers that want to know how accessible products are and how the company responds if an accessibility issue is raised. Many of those customers use a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) to compare one company’s accessibility to other companies. When we don’t measure up to our prospects’ needs – or to our competitors’ product – we lose sales.

Summary

When we make accessible software, we make our platform available to more people in more situations (not just disabilities) than when we don’t. That makes our platform more attractive to customers.

When we fail to make accessible software, we make our platform available to fewer people, fewer companies, and fewer segments of the US Federal government. That results in lost sales, and potentially legal consequences.

We’re not doing this alone, and we’re not reinventing the wheel. There are a number of organizations, most notably the W3C, who have invested significant time and effort in making accessibility implementation clearer, more effective, and easier to implement.