Ten Reasons

Posted June 1st, 2006 by Mike Cherim

If you’re a web developer, at some point a client is going to request from you some whiz-bang feature that simply defies accessibility. If you care you’ll try to explain why it isn’t such a good idea. But clients can insist, as they have a right to do since they’re the ones paying for your time. At which point it will be decision time. If you really care you’ll likely end up footing the bill for the extra time it’ll take you to make said whiz-bang feature somehow accessible so the client can have his or her delightful new toy and you don’t have to compromise your standards and ethics delivering it. You’ll do it because you’re one of the “Whitehatistas,” one of the good guys, because producing something inaccessible just isn’t something you do.

We know this happens; we know you do this, and we love you for it, because we do it too if we have to. And we know why it has to sometimes be done. We know you explain, you sell, you relate, and instruct, and try to get it across. Yet, we hear the same complaint over and over again. The reason it sometimes has to be: “The client just doesn’t get it.”

It’s a shame, if somehow you could get the client to be share your passion then the client would gladly fund the extra time or opt not to use the abhorrent feature. At least in theory, right? Well, it’s not theory, it’s fact. Not the sharing of passion, that comes from within, but getting the client to pay for it, that is doable. It’s called sales. We are all salespeople. We sell ourselves by way of showing our stuff and giving references to get the job, and then we have to sell the way we do it. We have to remember always that it isn’t the client’s fault and they’re under no obligation to “get it” or understand. It’s up to us — up to you.

You are really keen on web accessibility; eager and enthusiastic, knowledgeable, it should be easy to make it contagious, yet it’s not. Why not? It could be the reasons. The client asks why it’s important and why they should care. The responses can vary, many are great, but often they don’t make the sale. “Nah, just make it regular,” they may say. (Ahem, sir/ma’am, accessible is regular.) The reasons the developer gives aren’t reasons the client is interested in. Or worse, they’re unclear or vague, or you present them in a weak, unconvincing way.

We could probably use a published list of reasons why a website should be made with a focus on accessibility (as well as all those other good –ilities). A few of us here at Accessites put our thinking caps on, hoping to come up with a “Top-Ten” list of sorts. To help empower accessible web developers. So you can concentrate on that sudden look in your eye, the easy smile, and the firm handshake. To make the full sale, armed with a list. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Number 10: If the tables were turned, what would the client like? Try the get the client to feel empathy. To consider others. Touch on the human side.
  • Number 9: You can be awarded and recognized for having a website with heart. Positive free press is always welcome. Meeting the needs of site visitors of all stripes makes you look good. A “good” company. If your client has an accessible site, remind your client he or she can promote this fact.
  • Number 8: For US developers: It’s the law in some places like the UK and will likely be the law in the US too. It’d be prudent to stay ahead of such legislation.
  • Number 7: A lot of visitors who might otherwise find your site difficult to use, will have ready access. Need some approximate numbers? Some level of dyslexia, up to 15%; some motor impairment, up to 8%; some level of significant vision impairment, 7%. These numbers are too big to ignore.
  • Number 6: A site which uses the construction techniques common to accessible sites — CSS for example — are easier to maintain and being able to update a website and doing so will generate more activity.
  • Number 5: A site which uses the construction techniques common to accessible sites — no tables for example — are less demanding on resources. Being resource-minded is a good investment.
  • Number 4: A inherent feature of an accessible website, by mandate, is its interoperability. With the advent of web-enabled devices coming on to the market, it’s a smart move.
  • Number 3: Accessible, by definition, is not limited to humans and their browsing devices. It also pertains to your other non-sighted visitor: The search-engine spider. Accessible sites, by their very nature, are much more finely tuned in the area of SEO.
  • Number 2: Internet users are getting older and their needs for allowances and flexibility are becoming more prevalent. Meet the requirements of your core audience and its changing needs.
  • Number 1: This reason is the end-all, be-all, the grand-daddy of them all, but will unfortunately the one reason that’ll carry the least weight with the client. But it is, quite simply, the right thing to do. The web is not about exclusion and we need to prevent that from happening.

Again, this is a list representative of our combined thinking. Something perhaps you can turn to next time you have to don the sales suit. As much as we’d like the client to “get it,” sometimes we have proactively present an irresistible buffet of rationality so the client will say, “Yes, make it so!” and you, as an accessible web developer, can do-so without compromise.

These are our top-ten commercial reasons. We’d love to get yours as well, tell us what we missed. Please contact us, to do so. Send us your top-reason why a site should be accessible.


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