pretty accessible

July 15 | 2012

it seems to be an unsolvable mystery: How come, that sites whose focus is on being accessible have such a poor outer appearance? As great as it sounds making pages and other material available for people with disabilities, does that mean that it has to look ugly? Do people think that those with issues of any kind would not care or diserve to enjoy beauty? The answer is much more complex than just the lack of design skill of many web developers, but it’s rather the attitude that defines accessibility in the first place. So there are those non-disabled people, who kinda feel they need to make a difference in this world. “Helping” others comes handy, especially  those, who in their perspective are considered as weaker. While a number of them is doing it to boost their own ego and get some shoulder patting for being such a responsible person, many do actually have good intentions, but unaware that they do more harm than good.

Defining accessibility as something special that would only give access to content to a specific group of people is the first big mistake most people make. It is not supposed to be limited to a certain group of people only, as this is exactly the opposite of making everyone a part of one society. So for example, giving people with disabilities an exclusive platform sounds nice at first, but in reality, it excludes them from everything else. Therefore, the goal of accessibility should be to make an universal platform, enjoyable for everybody, with or without disabilities. Unfortunately so, many do not follow this rule. To make matters even worse, many developers stick to what they think is right, are blind and deaf to feedback and criticism, even first hand. Many would not even notice, but this already crossed the line of discrimination.

Another issue is that developers think they must follow all of the guidelines available. Doing so, it actually does limit the possibilities of creative freedom and projects end up looking not the way they could have, if all the rules would not have been applied. One thing people must realize, that a so called 100% accessibility actually doesn’t exist. There are always things that cover one aspect and dismiss another. Just like in every society, you can’t please everybody, not even within a minority group itself. Taking visually impaired as an example, every person has a different eye issues to deal with and even if some share the same, the brains of each individual would process information differently. How can this problem be solved? The real challenge is to balance out the necessary form the optional. Depending on the relevance of each content part, different choices can be made.

Lastly, many who run projects and charities seem to care even less about the outer appearance of them. Money is often used as an excuse, but since many projects receive funds, it’s rather a question of priority. It is clear that it cannot cost a fortune, but with the right designer and a solid financial plan, a project can be designed professionally. I have created a case study to demonstrate this.

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