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A more accessible online world will benefit everyone.

An empty wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs

PSA: If you are a web professional, work in a digital agency or build mobile apps, please read this article now: Taking the social model of disability online

Done? Great.

"The social model of disability reframes discussion of disability as a problem of the world, rather than of the individual. The stairs at the train station are the problem, rather than using a wheelchair."

El Gibbs has reminded me of question time during Gian Wild's keynote at Drupal Downunder in 2012. Gian asserts that accessibility guidelines are a legal requirement for everyone, not just Government. There was an audible gasp from the audience.

It's true that our physical environment needs to include ramps, lifts, accessible toilets, reserved parking spaces, etc in order to accommodate those with mobility needs. Multi-lingual societies require multi-lingual signage. There are hearing loops - but for some reason, this "social model" of accessibility doesn't seem to have extended online.

Making the digital world accessible, and counteracting the systemic discriminatory impact of failing to do so is something we must take seriously. We must build this in during planning and design, we must make it easy for content editors to maintain WCAG compliance AFTER a site or app is delivered.

Building accessibility features in from the beginning also means it costs less to implement, and delivers a double win of making the whole team more mindful of these issues to begin with. It should be part of the acceptance criteria, it should be part of the definition of done.

I'd like to see us tackle these issues directly in Drupal core. If you're interested in keeping track of accessibility issues in Drupal, you might like to follow drupala11y on twitter, and check out issues on drupal.org that have been tagged with "accessibility"

Accessibility traps might not affect you now, but they will. This is probably affecting people you know right now. People who silently struggle with small font sizes, poor contrast, cognitive load, keyboard traps, video without captions. 

My own eyesight and hearing is not what it was.  My once able parents now require mobility aids. My cousin requires an electric wheelchair. A friend uses a braille reader, and yet I still forget.  It's not front and centre for me, but it should be. Let's all take a moment to think about how we can focus on making our online and digital world more accessible for everyone. It really does benefit us all.