Overcoming Objections to Accessibility

Posted May 22nd, 2007 by Mike Cherim

Experience over the years has taught me that salesmanship often comes down to nothing more than overcoming objections. The prospective customer states they can’t afford it; the salesman speaks the virtues of easy financing. The prospective customer claims they have no room for it; the salesman dons work clothes and expresses a willingness to make room. Once the prospective customer has had all of his or her objections swatted down like sluggish fall flies, he or she will often sign on the dotted line. This is fact. Now let’s look at how this applies to web accessibility.

You Want More?!

The well-designed accessible web site commands more money — it has a higher intrinsic value. As the developer who made it, you should be paid a greater sum for your work. After all, the attention to detail required to ensure everything works perfectly consumes time. And time is money. Thus this fact is reflected in your quote, but the prospective client questions this. The client objects. It seems this just-quoted accessible web site must be sold. The process begins and you start by providing facts and details to reinforce your claims… you apply reasoning. You want your accessible site to be a must-have item so you explain why it makes sense. The prospective client nods with complete understanding and appreciation. You may think you’ve gotten somewhere, but the war’s not over yet. Now come the pointed objections.

Objections to Accessibility

Below are a few possible objections and some experimental methods of overcoming them. But what we’re really hoping for is that you can provide a bunch of them and tell us how you had to overcome them. After all, you’re in the trenches like us so we know you have stories to tell.

The Money Objection

The developers at FlashyTables.com can do it for a lot less. — Concerned

This one is probably the most common. The prospective client really appreciates your presentation, but really doesn’t believe it all. They’re not convinced, not sold. Remember, the idea of an accessible web site isn’t they something they should have an appreciation for, it’s something they should absolutely demand.

So what you do? What can you do but go over the facts again, but this time being sure to strongly key in on return on investment angle. If you can speak currency, do it now. In the short- to mid-term it has to make sense. Long-term returns are a given — and you should state this as well — but it’s a more instant kind of gratification the prospective client wants.

The Denial Objection

We don’t have disabled customers or visitors. — Arrogant

After your short period of speechlessness passes, you can ask them how they know that. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could know that. And the prospective client can play hard-to-get on this one. Let’s say they sell heavy construction equipment. Just because that user-type doesn’t fit some profile doesn’t mean the web visitor will be adequately represented by that notion. The visitor might, in fact, be an older office manager or secretary trying like heck to enlarge the site’s text so he or she can read some equipment specs (and maybe place an order). Is it okay that they can’t do that because they’re stuck with Internet Explorer 6 and the site isn’t adequately accommodating?

Moreover, you may add that that’s not the only reason to have an accessible site. There are other benefits. Additionally, whether they have disabled visitors or not is not really the point. They are a business, they have an obligation to do the right thing, and the right thing is to not discriminate. Ask them if they would be willing to post a message on their site that states that disabled visitors are not welcome. The answer will be “no way.” Posted message or not, you must teach them that failing to have an accessible site will effectively convey the message’s sentiment anyway. Don’t aim for a guilt trip, just an understanding.

Go on to explain, if needed, that 7-10% of the world’s population lives with a disability. In the UK, as one example, it’s far more than 10%. 10 million out of a population of a little under 61 million. Also note that these numbers will grow as “Silver Surfers” (as coined by Mel) are continually making up a higher percentage of the user base.

Off handedly, you may also want to mention legal ramifications (see footnote). Even if not absolutely necessary now, compliance will likely be in the prospective client’s best interest at some point. Mention this as an incentive, though, rather than as a threat.

The Aesthetic Objection

I don’t want an accessible site, I want one that looks great. — Ignorant

Well, this one should be easy to overcome. Ignorance is simply not knowing something. You obviously didn’t mention that accessible sites can look fantastic — and even provide functionality if wanted. Show them our Showcase if they want to see some great sites. While you’re at it, turn them on to the start-up, Accessibility in Focus. The savvy crew over there will probably have a few nice sites to show as well.

Objections You’ve Swatted Down

So, what sorts of encounters have you had? What objections have you had to overcome? We know that at some point a client has wanted you to work for less — a lot less — or has basically wanted you to forgo your standards and just do it, now, cheap. If you’re not selling your soul to the devil, how do you get past this? Maybe we can teach each other how to sell web accessibility — to make the client demand it as they really should.


Speaking of the Law
It’s not law everywhere, and where it is it may be lacking, but things may improve in most countries sooner rather than later. This may be worth sharing. To learn more, here are some examples of web accessibility laws: United States’ Section 508, United Kingdom’s Disabilities Act, and the Australian Disability Discrimination Act of 1992.

5 Responses to: “Overcoming Objections to Accessibility”

  1. Hans Dreesen responds:
    Posted: May 22nd, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Nice article! Your call to action makes me think of Chris Heilmann’s initiative The Business Case For Web Standards. That’s a wiki aimed to gather information on how to counter common arguments against web standards. Maybe there should be a Business Case For Web Accessibility wiki? Although, of course, the two fields are strongly connected and much of the first wiki’s arguments would be valid for the latter.

  2. SitePoint Blogs » News Wire: We’re Back! responds:
    Posted: May 22nd, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    […] Overcoming Objections to Accessibility An excellent run-down of the common arguments against accessibility (and paying extra for accessible web design), and some ideas of how to overcome those objections. (tags: accessibility business) […]

  3. M.M.M. responds:
    Posted: May 25th, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Indeed a great article. I’m using this and some other articles from this site to convince my graphic (I’m a developer, xhtml,css,javascript,c# and so on, but with terrible taste for graphics and no skill at all with photoshop) to abandon his approach to web design, and that is, visual approach, with all the problems it brings for accessibility. Having him know that the client can be convinced that a flash menu is a bad thing is really, really a good start…

  4. Sailesh Panchang responds:
    Posted: May 30th, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Often organizations have spent a lot of time and effort on the design of their site and they do not want it overhauled completely. So we try to advocate and implement accessibility in a manner that preserves the visual appearance of the Web page to the extent possible. One then has to respond to a comment like: “What’s the difference? I see no change in the Web page”!

    Decision makers do not see outward / tangible change in the Web page and wonder what they are paying for. So they do not budget enough for the work of making web content accessible or for continuous monitoring. Educating the managements and demonstrating a real user’s experience with an inaccessible page versus an accessible page certainly helps.

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    Deque Worldspace- enterprise server based solution
    Deque Ramp: Ascend / Grade / Personal Edition
    Website: www.deque.com/products
    Note: Deque Ramp PE is available at no cost to students of Web accessibility and not for profit orgs etc.

    Details at
    http://www.deque.com/products/ramp/rampPE.php

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