The biggest barrier to Web accessibility

The biggest barrier to implementing Web accessibility seems to be where to start.

People have good intentions and are eager to get behind the idea. However, it’s hard to ignore that there’s a disconnect between intentions and actions. While there are lots of general guidelines for Web accessibility, the challenge is that there are many pieces that are both subjective and technical.

So, how do we get people who create and promote things on the web (literally, everyone) to include Web accessibility into their work?

It needs to be easy for everyone to understand that they play a role in making content accessible. Web accessibility was originally created for developers who built web pages in the 90s. Not that long ago, this was something that was considered semi mysterious and very intimidating. People’s eyes often glazed over when someone mentioned code if they weren’t a developer.

Today, you don’t need to know how to code to build a presence online. For Web accessibility, that now means that people who don’t know how to code need to know that Web accessibility is now part of their job.

The definition of who is implementing Web accessibility has changed. 🙈

The barriers to removing barriers

Below are some of the main barriers people run into when deciding when and how to make their web content accessible.

It’s expensive?

There’s a recurring myth that implementing Web accessibility is expensive.

If you’re a non-profit or a government org and already feeling pinched, the idea that of finding an extra $10k to make the updates you need will be hard to stomach.

While there are many paid services around, there are also lots of free tools and guidelines.

6 free ways to include Web accessibility in your marketing

Here are examples of changes any marketer on your team can make that will help ensure your content is more accessible:

  • Include alt text on all social media graphics
  • Use captions on all video content
  • Include headings on blog posts
  • Use simple language whenever possible
  • Spell out acronyms first before including them in other parts of a page or in print
  • Avoid writing things, such as bios and social media posts, in ALL CAPS

Building better Web accessibility habits

Building better habits is something that is free. Here are other low-cost ways you can include Web accessibility into your whole marketing process:

While not every update will be completely free, it’s worth noting that there’s a cost to ignoring Web accessibility too. 😅

Web accessibility is subjective

“I never really know what I’m supposed to add for alt-text…” is a common thing I hear a lot.

Alt-text is a small snippet of code that helps search engines and screen readers understand how to ‘see’ an image. When you use a screen reader it will rely on the alt-text of an image to describe what the image is about.

Knowing that you’re supposed to fill in the alt-text section on a blog or social media image is the first step. Understanding exactly what makes the alt-text good or bad is a whole other thing.

Some images are about the visuals and others are about the feeling. You don’t need every detail, but you do need to include enough details so that someone who can’t see will understand the context. The reality is that including any description is better than nothing at all and it’s unlikely that it’ll ever be perfect. Like any piece of writing, how good it is, is fairly subjective. The same applies to:

  • How you format hashtags
  • How simple or complex your written copy is
  • How you choose to include hyperlinked text
  • How many headings you choose to use throughout your web content

It’s not always black and white in terms of your approach to web content. There are, however, lots of online communities available online to help answer questions and provide guidance when you get stuck.

It’s easy to see that there are many elements tied to Web accessibility that are open to interpretation. My advice is to do your best, try not to overthink it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions as they come up.

Web accessibility is too techincal

The third barrier that people often run into is that true Web accessibility may require a complete overhaul of your website.

The basics are pretty easy. Reevaluating your brand, getting buy-in from leadership, and finding the money to update your site is where things can get a bit complicated. There are plenty of technical components in Web accessibility and it’s common to see it get pushed to the back of the priority list.

3 ways to incorporate Web accessibility into your work

Taking on large projects to restructure your website can also require a lot of investment in terms of time and money. You need to have people on your team who have the technical skills to make the changes happen. If that’s not something in the cards for your organization right now, there are still ways you can weave Web accessibility practices into your work:

  1. Set up new processes and policies — For example, when creating new landing pages and marketing campaigns, include a review of brand colours to check the contrast ratio is easy for everyone to see. This ensures that everyone will understand all the context throughout the material.
  2. Commit to making Web accessibility a priority — Updating your content and bringing accessibility into the fold can be a gradual and continuous process. You don’t need to everything all at once. Commit to making changes and set aside time to review/discuss how it’s going.
  3. Drive awareness internally throughout your organization — Web accessibility is going to fail if it all falls on one person. Encourage your team to follow best practices and start exploring new ways to make it work throughout your organization.

Many of the changes needed are a matter of changing the process instead of reinventing an entire brand. Anyone on your marketing team can make an impact, they just need a bit of guidance to know where to start.  

The challenge to change

Marketing 101 does not cover Web accessibility, but it should. If you ask around, you’ll find that the most common justifications for not having accessible web content are time and budget.

Learning something new is always going to be more work. Trying to change someone else’s workflow is usually met with resistance. Building stronger processes throughout an entire team will take time. These are all valid reasons why Web accessibility doesn’t get the attention or traction it needs.

The shifts are happening, but the adoption is slow.

The better news?

It’s free to start.

By Christine

Hi, I'm Christine. I'm a public speaker & marketing professional with a specialization in digital strategy. I live and breathe all things content & marketing. In my previous positions, I've done everything from rebranding companies, launching new SaaS products, writing sales copy, and developing long-term SEO & social strategies. I believe that quality communication and measurable results are the key to every digital marketing strategy.