At work the other day I was talking with a client about what their accesibility needs were. They were having a difficult time understanding the need or importance beyond the strictess sense of legal compliance. To them, it was a cost they had to pay that they’d rather spend on more features. I understand the sentiment but I think this outlook is based on a fundamental misconception: “that you are either able-bodied or you have accesibility needs”.

I think this perspective is common and until a few years ago it was an inherit bias that I held too. But recently, I was reminded of it and wanted to put it down into words in case it could help anyone in these sorts of conversations. Just because a screen reader isn’t the primary method in which you interact with a computer doesn’t mean you don’t have accessiblity needs.

My wife and I recently just had our second child, it is a fun but stressful time, as one would expect. When you have a crying baby in your arms, suddenly your normal capabilities are no longer yours. Your usage of both arms, your ability to hear, your capacity for attention — are all impacted. Is this an extreme case, sure. But the principle in varying and sometimes subtle ways applies. Your accesibility needs are not fixed, they can change dramatically over the course of a day. And that isn’t even to mention the sort of accidents that can happen.

Maybe you’re on the way to the airport (an already higher-than-normal stressful situation) and you happen to be running late for whever reason. Does the interface you are trying to type your confirmation number into make it easier or harder? This is already more difficult than necessary b/c these confirmation codes aren’t for human processing. You can tell that because it’s usually 7-10 alphanumeric digits that sometimes uses O’s, 0’s, 1’s, I’s, and l’s in a font that doesn’t distinguish the variations in these characters properly. Even typing them here it’s hard to process.

My point is, you can’t take the workflows you build into your applications at face value. They don’t exist in a clean room, meatspace is much more complicated than your E2E test environments. Are the things you’re building helping your users whever they are at every step of the way?

Photo by Dina Lydia on Unsplash