Breaking Down Common Accessibility Myths: What You Need to Know

By Jeff Adams, Accessibility Operations Director, UsableNet on Aug 2, 2023
Topics: Web Accessibility


As we continue to consider building accessibility knowledge throughout the organization so that there are more advocates and champions, re-educating those who have come across wrong or misleading information must be top of mind.  
For those who are new to digital accessibility, they may not know enough to know they're getting misinformation, especially if it seems to come from an expert. In extreme cases, it could be someone holding on to something wrong because it's the narrative that works for them. In each case, we are responsible for correcting if we know the details are incorrect and then having the facts to back it up. 
Here are six examples of misinformation I often hear and the real facts behind it. As you look to battle these, consider this as your version of the classic show MythBusters.  

Digital Accessibility Myth #1: Automated Scans are Enough 
Of the 50 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Success Criteria in 2.1 AA, automation can detect only portions of 16 criteria. Everything else requires a manual review, which requires someone with expertise to do a code review and/or testing by manual means.  
Digital Accessibility Myth #2: We Only Need to Consider People Who Are Blind and Using Screen Readers 
While this is undoubtedly a relevant group, it's far from the only one. Further, suppose you were to quantify disabilities by the number of people living with them. In that case, visual disabilities are the smallest group. According to Centers for Disease Control data, 4.7% of U.S. adults have a visual impairment. For the other disabilities, Auditory is 5.7%, Cognitive is 10.9%, and Motor is 11.1%. These numbers only represent reported, permanent disabilities. Still, it clearly shows that we must consider all types of disability in website and app development.  
Digital Accessibility Myth #3: People With Disabilities Aren't a Part of Our Audience 
Yes, it's true. I've heard this more than once, especially from owners of sites that place a high value on visual designs. Claiming that no one with disabilities uses, or would want to use a site, is extreme—and something that can't be validated. Considering that between 20 and 25% of people live with a disability, it's difficult to claim that segments of a site's audience don't have a disability. The claim is often used to avoid designing for both accessibility and visual appeal. 
Digital Accessibility Myth #4: Accessibility is a Developer's Responsibility 
The responsibility is almost equal across the development, design, and content teams. According to UsableNet analysis, if you break down the 50 success criteria within the WCAG 2.1 AA, 37% are the primary development responsibility, 34% are the design teams, and 29% are the content teams. All contributors must keep accessibility in mind and make it part of their project completion criteria. 
Digital Accessibility Myth #5: Accessibility Makes the Code More Complex to Understand and Maintain 
When accessibility is applied, the code often becomes simpler because it follows the correct World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) HTML standards, which align with the WCAG Robust principle. When developers manage the code to the standards, they make it easier for everyone to work with and understand. 
Digital Accessibility Myth #6: Accessibility Takes More Time 
Accessibility may take longer initially, but as the team becomes familiar with best practices, the time returns to normal. Teams won't see this time decrease if proper steps aren't taken to learn accessibility so that it becomes as second nature as the other tools, processes, and practices they use daily. Further, once the organization's mindset shifts to make accessibility a requirement, it won't be considered an "additional" thing to do as it becomes part of the standard way of working. 
Debunking Digital Accessibility Myths is Critical. Check your details and sources. 
Just as this series of posts has helped you craft messages to help you make accessibility part of your organization's process and mindset, this one gives you details to help push back on misconceptions. As you continue in your advocacy around digital accessibility, you'll run into more of these things you'll need to correct people. The best advice is to use trustworthy sources and double-check the details from multiple reputable sources if unsure.  

For more, check out the new free on-demand webinar featuring the author, Jeff Adams, How to Create a Culture of Digital Accessibility. Watch now

Jeff Adams, Accessibility Operations Director, UsableNet

Jeff Adams, Accessibility Operations Director, UsableNet

Jeff is UsableNet’s director of accessibility operations and advices companies around the world on best practices in website accessibility, and integrating accessibility into their processes. He’s been with UsableNet for more than a decade and is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. In addition, Jeff’s a creative entrepreneur and co-wrote the book, “Content for Everyone: A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to Produce Accessible and Usable Web Content.”

Need to improve digital usability, accessibility or performance? We can help.
Partner with us. Get in touch.