Design and Accessibility

Hi, fellow designers. I hope you’re all healthy and doing well.

I searched in the forum and found no posts about accessibility, only a few comments about it. So I wanted to bring it up. Unfortunately, this topic has not been front of mind to many designers and developers, but it needs to be.

I’ve been in the accessibility world for the past 4 years, designing and remediating InDesign files and designing and developing accessible websites.

Just this week, I heard from someone who posted in a Facebook group that her client got slapped with an accessibility (ADA) claim. To settle the matter, they are looking at $7,500 to $10k in legal fees plus any other costs that may arise. They asked her what she would be willing to contribute to them.

Someone (wrongly) suggested that she just use an accessibility overlay, which only causes more problems and doesn’t solve the existing ones.

I’ve heard similar stories in accessibility groups as well. In one case, a plaintiff sued a restaurant and the web developers. In another, a large company was sued and forced to pay a hefty settlement, then went after the developers for some of that.

I don’t mean to scare you. I’m trying to help prevent this from happening to you.

As design experts, we need to bring this up to clients.

Clients should know if they need to comply with the ADA, Section 508 (U.S. laws) or another accessibility law. But clients who aren’t required to comply with these laws have still been sued.

Designers and developers need to also protect themselves if the client declines accessibility or if they don’t bring it up.

It doesn’t just affect websites though. In remediating InDesign files that would be exported to PDFs, I’ve had to modify a client’s brand color palette to make it accessible, so they could be compliant. So the client spent who knows what to have a color palette developed, then it needed to be changed because this wasn’t brought up at that time.

Because most web designers and developers are not talking to clients about this and do not possess these skills, it happens to be a great way to stand out from the pack.

It’s also the right thing to do, and it results in more usable electronic documents and websites.

I’ve put together some resources to help you get started understanding this if you’re interested. I welcome any questions here or privately as well.

Your point is well taken and there definitely needs to be more awareness. The other side of it though is part of what’s wrong with this world.

A simple, “hey, your website needs to be fixed,” should suffice. People wandering around looking for deep pockets to sue. It’s a “cottage industry.”

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Yes, 100%. It shouldn’t be a legal issue right off the bat. There needs to be more education about this. These lawyers in NY, CA and NY especially, have been on the prowl, making it that way, which makes people thing accessibility is something to worry about or it’s a thorn in their side. Sadly, that’s what’s going to make people pay attention when they otherwise wouldn’t.

A couple of years ago, I built a website for a government agency that manages hunting and fishing in the state.

When I argued for better compliance with ADA requirements, I got a blank stare followed by a snarky statement about how blind people don’t hunt, which got a big laugh from the good ol’ boys in the room.

When I pressed the issue of it being federally mandated, I got an irritated lecture about how the state isn’t subservient to extremist federal regulations and that, besides, people can’t sue the state.

Then others in the room, who thought accessibility was an important consideration, jumped into the fray arguing the other point of view.

Several people in the room were wearing sidearms (law enforcement), and the whole thing bordered on surreal. They finally reached a compromise that since there were some handicapped people who fished, they were owed something. This lead them off on another tangent about how most of the fishing spots in the state couldn’t handle wheelchairs anyway and how those handicapped people already got a discount on their licenses. It went downhill from there.

I didn’t bring it up again, but I at least made sure I put alt tags on all the images.

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Wow. Unbelievable for a government agency to do that. Well, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. And I guess people with hearing impairments don’t hunt either?

  • 6.4 million people in the United States have a visual disability.
  • 10.5 million people in United States population have a hearing disability.
  • 20.9 million people in United States population have a ambulatory disability.
  • 14.8 million people in United States population have a cognitive disability.

Of the visual ones, blindness comprises the smallest portion. Everyone always assumes accessibility is for the blind. But there are so many more people it serves.

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