Rapid advancements in the digital age has made it possible to change the lives of people around the world.
However more than 1 billion people around the world who have some form of disability are still being overlooked.
For people like disability advocates, disability rights groups, non-profits, designers, content creators, etc. who want to change this, the journey from inaccessible to accessible is non-linear.
The progress from non-inclusive to inclusive requires commitment, intent, compassion, and an urge to change things for the better.
Step One: Just Get Started
When designing or creating inclusive and accessible digital products, the most important step to take is the first one. The hardest part is to truly get started, not just because accessibility is challenging, and it can be, but because of the imposter syndrome that can creep in.
It is normal to be scared of giving the wrong answer, being found out as a fake, or not knowing what one is doing.
To counter this, one can learn all things related to accessibility, partner with people from the disability community, become a member in recognized groups, and start a conversation centered on accessibility and inclusivity.
Lastly, it is normal to make mistakes when starting your journey into accessibility, one can definitely learn from them.
Take things one step at a time. Start with one feature on your website, one file – create it from scratch with accessibility in mind. Then move onto the next.
Over time your product will become more robust, accessible, and inclusive.
Back in 2009, YouTube started with automated captions in English. There was some concern that the captions weren’t “good enough”. The team decided to launch it anyway, and the feedback was really interesting – yes it’s not perfect, but even imperfect is far better than nothing.
When working on an application, website, or a piece of digital content like an inaccessible PDF, there is likely a lot of legacy code that was designed and implemented without accessibility in mind. In this situation, “where to start?” is a question often asked. There’s no wrong answer other than not getting started.
The first step is often the hardest, but it’s the most important.
Step Two: The only constant is change
There is no such thing as a ‘fully accessible’ website, app, or a digital file. We often work with and on behalf of real people in the real world, each with their own unique set of needs and abilities.
A person’s abilities will change over time – as we age, our hearing and vision can begin to deteriorate. For some, a traumatic injury or illness may cause a change in ability over time.
For others, their abilities might change over the course of a day.
In accessibility, change is one of the greatest challenges we face.
Also, accessibility laws and regulations change over time, depending on the current political climate, and other factors.
It can feel like the finish line is constantly shifting. How one pitches accessibility in an organization can help or hurt the momentum.
If you lean too heavily into the legal argument, your team may feel burned by having goalposts shifting “mid-game” because of the evolving landscape of laws and regulations.
If you lean into the business opportunity, or the creative design/engineering challenge of solving for people with different needs, or doing it because it’s “the right thing to do”, the changing landscape doesn’t seem to hurt as much.
Our work is done for different reasons (reputation, risk, opportunity, etc.). So, as long as those reasons are tailored to your team and communicated consistently, it’s easier to keep alignment and momentum.
Organizations too, evolve over time. Team members may come and go. This may lead to discontinuity in efforts until the new team members buy into the cause.
Leadership changes, especially in the earlier stages in an organization’s accessibility journey, can pose a challenge to accessibility as a priority.
Each time a new leader comes in, one needs to roll up their sleeves and figure out what motivates them.
Finally, technology is constantly changing. There are always new codes, operating systems, digital files being added every day.
Five years ago, automated captions were often derided as “craptions”; today they’re being embedded everywhere.
Looking towards the next five years, Augmented Reality seems to be the next, new frontier, where wearables will replace mobile phones.
This is an entirely new paradigm that will require new accessibility features and adjustments.
One needs to be comfortable with change and evolve along with the changing disability needs.
Step Three: Progress over Perfection
Having an understanding of one’s goal is critical to being successful. If the goal is technical compliance, that is something that can be measured and validated.
However, if the goal is to make the ‘most accessible’ website, digital content, or app, that is something that can never be completed. New updates to websites are added all the time. New files are being created and uploaded on the web every day.
Remember that everyone’s needs are different. Spend time talking to disability groups, and people with disabilities to understand their experiences online, the challenges they face when they navigate the internet, and their recommendations for solutions.
Provide people with disabilities different customizations, continue to learn about their needs and then work to support them. Keep moving forward for someone new.
This is what Progress over Perfection means. We’re never going to achieve perfection, so don’t let that be the goal. Instead, make sure that you continue to do the work. Get started, recognize that change is inevitable, and keep on making a difference in the lives of billions.
It’s about the journey, about the process. It’s about continued progress, not perfection.
Need help with making progress in accessibility?
Digital accessibility can seem daunting, especially if it involves a complete overhaul of your website and web content. It is a crucial requirement that you cannot afford to ignore.
Our team of experienced digital accessibility professionals can help you create and maintain websites and digital content accessible to all.
Contact us at 1 (800) 769-9715 or email us at email@example.com to learn more about how to make your websites and digital content like PDFs, Word, Excel, PPT, e Pub accessible and compliant as per ADA, WCAG 2.0, and PDF U/A standards.