Our websites need to be more accessible
Like most people, I can be resistant to change because it means I have to change my mental models. I have to think about things in a different way, and consider things I've never considered before.
Web accessibility has been one of those things.
Don't get me wrong. I've never been against making the web more accessible and available for everyone. But for years now, I've not invested enough to understand what changes it would require, and so I've not mastered the skills to make a website accessible or not.
There are people I've watched over the years who have taken up the flag and the charge to make things better for everyone online. I've appreciated their work.
It's not been my cause, but I've been as supportive as one can be, when they know nothing about the situation and don't have skin in the game.
The Marketing of Accessibility
If I'm honest, part of it has been how the topic has been talked about when I hear it being presented. Not all presentations do this. But I've been in more than a few, and they have all used a scare tactic to convince people to care more.
- “Do you know how many people got sued last year for not making sites accessible?”
- “Do you know how large the fines could be if your site was found to not be in compliance?”
I don't like motivating people that way, because I'm a “towards” person, not an “away” person. I encourage people towards envisioning and achieving things, not working to make sure something doesn't happen.
Lawsuits & shady business
Now, to be clear, that doesn't mean that lawsuits aren't real. They are. And they continue to grow. In 2020, there were far more than in years previous.
And the lawsuits continue as one software company focused on accessibility is suing another.
The last few months have gotten even more crazy, as one of the larger players (AccessiBe – who was the one being sued) looks like it has been involved in some shady marketing efforts. And it even reached the WordPress space with plugin reviews.
Suffice to say, when it comes to website accessibility, beware of companies who promise too much, use shady marketing tactics, and use scare tactics to win you over.
A Refreshing Approach to Website Accessibility
So what has shifted things for me? It was the refreshing approach by a little company with founders who I met years ago. They didn't promise too much. They didn't focus on the fact that I would be sued if I didn't focus on this.
They simply offered a solution that could help.
Amber and Chris Hinds created Equalize Digital.
Their free plugin for WordPress is available and lets you check one page at a time. It doesn't over-promise. It simply scans the page or post that you're working on, and then tells you what issues you might have.
What you'll notice is that you see errors, warnings, contrast issues and even a classification of the reading level. If it's under 9th grade reading level, you don't need to add a simplified summary (but let's be honest, shouldn't all complex topics have a simplified summary?).
With the Pro version of the plugin, you can bulk scan your whole site. And then when you look at your posts, you can see exactly how many issues you have to work on, which posts require the most attention, and how many have contrast issues.
In my review of this plugin, I noticed that it gave me an issues log, so I could just work on issues at a higher level of abstraction (like one theme issue might resolve tons of issues across a lot of posts).
It even lets me “ignore” an item and take it off my to-do list. This is great when you read the warning or error and realize it doesn't apply. It gives me a place to document why I'm ignoring it, and tracks it so that if I ever need to present this material, I have it.
Accessibility Checker Pro
Equalize Digital has created a product that comes alongside me and encourages me and my site to do better when it comes to website accessibility. It helps me embrace what I should have embraced a long time ago.
The Pro version costs $149 for a single site, as of today. But you can use this discount code from their site (EarlyAccess50) to get a 50% discount right now. They don't tell us how long they'll make that code available, because it will disappear when they release the roadmap features they're working on.
The other day I told you about the plugins that were active on my site. I'm likely going to have to go back and edit that list.
Some things you do because you have to.
Because someone forces you to.
Other times because you feel you ought to.
But sometimes you do something because it's just the right thing to do.
Web accessibility is one of those things. And until recently, it just felt too big for me. Too much to think about and stress about. But with Accessibility Checker Pro, at $75 or $149, they've made it easy for me to align my values and my effort.