Jared Spool's Accessibility Challenge


I’ve been thinking a lot on accessibility lately (in my case, with regard to forums). It does feel like an impossible task at times, especially because many of the challenges are ones that I’m not even aware of. Jared recommends beginning with one simple question: What’s one step I can take to add more accessibility to the work I’m already doing?
How do you approach accessibility in your projects?


Start with the people who don’t understand why we make things accessible.

In a past experience, a non-designer/new starter asked me if it was ok to ’ just design for 95% of people’. It was an innocent question and no offence was intended on their part - they just didn’t know or understand. I told them no, that is not ok and I explained why. A few other people overheard me explaining this and they wanted to learn more too - especially when they saw how easy it was to implement in their work (presentations and documents). They actually enjoyed checking the colour contrast on their documents! There are some incredible resources like Vision Australia that have accessibility testing tools available on their website : https://www.visionaustralia.org/


Accessibility is hard, but crucial. I think in terms of my work it really does come down to:

  • Really knowing the users, who they are, the environment they work in, anything that could have negative or positive effects
  • Following guidelines such as WCAG, so that you can tick things off, visually, verbally, physically, we want the whole experience
  • Edge cases, as with designs, accessibility could be considered edge cases, but the latter are so important in creating the whole experience, making sure that everything works
  • How the users get to whatever you are designing, do they buy it, is it an app, do they download it, how do they hear about it, how is spread?

As with many other things, it is up to us to champion accessibility to those we work with, making sure they are aware that this is key to having not just a solution, but a great one. :slight_smile:


Hi guys,
I absolutely agree with Natalie that once more the best way is to know users. Listen to users and watch their behaviour
What is important to remember is that one issue with disabled users is that the disabilities are so different that it´s hard to take care about everything.
I performed lot´s of user tests with blind people, people with different levels of eyesight, people which can´t hear or others with cognitive problems.

In general I do think that it helps to take a look at WCAG, to use colour contrast analyzers and to take care about basic principles.
If we design our systems for limiting users it is already a good step in the direction to develop a usable system.

I do also agree that we should at least have a basic knowledge about accessibility to provide it in our systems or webpages.
Depending on how deep we need to dive in accessibility it makes also sense to work together with accessibility experts.
Here in Austria we have a company build up by disabled (blind) people who just focus on this topic. It´s never bad to stay in discussion with such kind of companies as well


I found this article this morning:

The comments people are leaving are brutal and discussions I’ve had with those around me about this article have also been unexpectedly harsh - what do you guys think?


Were the harsh responses against the blind woman?
I think she has just cause, especially if they say they are updating and making their site accessible for everyone, even those with disabilities. I think that she has done just about everything she could before she went to the courts. It brings attention to the fact that this is a problem, and not just for a small amount of people either. If they don’t care about this customer base then fine (although they will loose out), but when they say they are doing something and they clearly aren’t (or haven’t fast tracked it) that is not right.

If court is the only way to make these changes happen, and for the company to step up to their claims, then good on her for going the extra mile instead of giving up.

  • Sorry, just my opinion. I guess I can see both sides of the argument, but I dislike it when people are criticised for going the extra mile when nothing else is working. Accessibility for web with screen readers etc is just common etiquette and best practice these days with the web.


Yes - they were picking on the blind woman!

Don’t be sorry I agree with you - I don’t think it’s a big ask for a multi billion dollar company to make their website accessible. Government agencies are required to be WCAG 2.0 compliant and so should large private companies that sell essential products and services to the community - ie groceries. So should everyone for that matter but in all seriousness- Coles has no excuse for this.

I’m glad she’s making an example out of them. There is a legal precedent, in 2000 the Australian Olympic Committee was successfully sued for having an inaccessible website: http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/socog-case-study

This comment jumped out at me:

" You can’t expect every single web store to cater for the able, blind, deaf, non english speaker, etc.
By catering to all the minorities you introduce so much complexity that it becomes unusable any way. Like MM (another user)… i fear for our future."

People don’t understand that accessibility and universal design principles are just that- universal. Anyone can use it without even noticing the minor tweaks required to make something accessible for all. This is something I’m very passionate about and the ignorant attitudes that came across in the comments left on that article (146 and counting) made me so mad today!

People suck sometimes.

Rant over.


I’m a bit of an accessibility fanboy. I think when I start to specialise it is an area that really interests me, as it is something that we can make a BIG difference in.

I was fortunate enough to have a workshop with Derek Featherstone, and picked up an awful lot from him. I also had some really useful email guidance from Chris Mills that pointed me in the direction of further reading, and tools.

There are a lot of good books I can recommend:

… are a few that I found great reads.

The first book is a good overview and simple fixes.
The Rosenfeld book has some great tips to ensure accessibility needs can be brought into persona creation.
The last book is the most technical, but has some great examples.

I’d love to read more on WAI-ARIA, but haven’t quite found the resource I’m looking for (apart from the obvious stuff - I’m more interested in practical examples).

I have had some big wins at my place of work, which I’m really happy with… for example - my arguments led us to jump on RWD only a few months after Ethan Marcotte’s post (it just made sense), I pushed em’s and we lost the pixels - I changed all forms (thanks to Luke W’s book!).

So much that I’ve found with accessibility is that if you fix a problem for one person, you actually find that it has good impact on others.

An old (and now broken) example that I made for a presentation:


I made the buttons accessible via the tab key, and spoke about how javascript trickery could target the icons on the map…but… if you take a step back, the users don’t need to move the map around, they just need to find out the location of a certain place, in a certain country. I implemented a dropdown box that pulls in that information - this is good for those with visual impairments, those with limited motor control, etc. You could then argue what is best for those of us without these disabilities… a map where you click, drag, zoom, etc. - or a dropdown box where you type in the country name?


Also, I wrote this a couple of weeks back that may be of interest: http://deanbirkett.name/articles/my-accessibility-toolkit/

Finally, FAE is in public beta… and it’s awesome - http://fae20.cita.illinois.edu/


Some terrific resources there, Dean. Thanks for sharing.

Related to the Coles case, something very similar happened with Target in the US about 6 years ago. Target settled for $6 million. Different country but heck of a precedent.


BMI Baby (low budget airline) were sued by the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) in the UK, they disbanded in 2012.