Sanna Kramsi - I would if I could a guide to web accessibility

Myths about accessibility

There are many myths about accessibility. Surprisingly, many myths are quite easy to dispel. To truly focus on accessibility, it is important to dispel these myths and misconceptions.

Myth: Accessibility only helps a small group of people

It is currently said that around 15-25% of people need accessibility. This percentage varies depending on the criteria used to assess the need for accessibility. So it's not a small number of people in every case.

It is also good to bear in mind that anyone can become disabled at any time. While accessibility affects a minority of people today, no one can say what the situation will be like in, say, 50 years.

But it shouldn't matter if accessibility continues to apply to a minority. This minority is an important group of people and we shouldn't ignore them.

I would also like to stress that many of the accessibility requirements benefit us all. Regardless of our knowledge and skills. A few examples of accessibility requirements that are features of good usability:

  • easy-to-find help functionalities,
  • easy-to-use site structures, and
  • clear content.

Myth: Visitors to this site don’t have disabilities

Most of the disabilities are not visible. So in practice, you can never know if a person has a disability or not. Do you want your site to be inaccessible to some people? I doubt it.

I've also heard it said that no one with a disability uses the services of a site. What about someone buying a gift? Isn't that possible? And how do you know that no person with a disability would want to use the services?

Often this myth may equate accessibility with a particular group of people. Such as people who are blind or are wheelchair users. But accessibility affects a much wider range of people. Don't let this myth distort your perception of accessibility or disability.

Myth: Accessibility is expensive

Accessibility might not come for free. Especially if different actors need accessibility training.

Taking accessibility into account as early as possible is more cost-effective. It is more expensive to add accessibility features afterwards.

Accessibility improves the user experience. Accessibility will, for example, reduce unnecessary contact with customer service. Accessibility will reduce costs if you look at it from this perspective.

Myth: Accessible websites are boring and ugly

Clarity, usability and good colour contrasts do not make a website boring or ugly.

Accessibility requirements focus on usability and inclusiveness. Not on limiting the work of designers.

It's possible to create accessible and eye-catching designs. Accessibility might even allow for a new level of creativity. You don't need weak contrasts and a lot of animations to be stylish and impressive.

Myth: Accessibility is optional

The law does require some operators to make accessible implementations. In Finland, the Act on the Provision of Digital Services defines requirements for the public sector. More services, such as e-commerce, will be covered by the law in 2025.

Many users will prefer to choose an accessible service. Regardless of whether they need accessibility. Accessibility brings so many benefits to the user that the choice is often quite easy. And people might make this choice without realising it.

Myth: Screen readers can interpret websites without special attention / The website must be filled with ARIA labels to enable screen readers to interpret websites

I will tackle both myths at the same time, they are extremes of the same phenomenon.

Screen readers are not miracle workers, so they cannot interpret incorrectly marked content.

On the other hand, screen readers are quite good at interpreting HTML markup, and many of the semantic elements (i.e. elements with meaning) that came with HTML5 replace the need for ARIA markup.

So semantic HTML is really important. ARIA functionality can be built on top of it, if necessary, to help screen readers interpret the functionality correctly. Read more about ARIA in the technical accessibility section.

Myth: I will improve accessibility by adding an accessibility bonus

Unfortunately, accessibility add-ons, or overlays, tend to exacerbate accessibility challenges. They are often poorly implemented. No single tool guarantees accessibility.

Spend your money and energy on making your service accessible rather than on these falsely advertised quick fixes.

Myth: I use an automated tool to monitor accessibility, which means my service is fully accessible

Unfortunately, this is a myth. Automated tools do not come close to finding all accessibility issues.

I do recommend using an automated tool because that will free some time to monitor things that the automated tools cannot find. But simply using an automated tool and fixing the reported issues in the tool does not make your service accessible.