On WaSP today, Derek wrote an incredibly poignant post about the NFB lawsuit against Target. In fact, I thought it so relevant to the interactive work we do at Cronin and Company (the ad agency I work for), that I forwarded a copy of it to everyone who works there. The reaction was, for the most part, pretty good (at least from those that read it), but there’s always at least one person who just doesn’t get it.
I received the following feedback via email from one of the higher-ups in our company (who shall remain nameless):
Is Target forcing blind people to shop there? If they don’t does Target hurt them in some way?
If it doesn’t meet web standards, why don’t blind people just shop somewhere else? Is Target funded by the government?
If Target doesn’t want to change their web site why should I get upset about it? (I don’t hold any Target stock either.)
I couldn’t belive what I was hearing. What an unhealthy attitude.
I sent him an email back. Perhaps it was a bit harsh—though not as harsh as my first draft—but this is something I’m passionate about. I thought I’d share it because I think accessibility is dismissed as “unimportant” far too often:
I imagine you’ve heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA and related laws ensure equal treatment for disabled persons in terms of access, housing, employment, voting, etc. Do you consider wheelchair ramps pointless? Handicapped doors? Elevators? Just curious.
The changes necessary to make a website accessible—in a manner similar to the way “brick and mortar” businesses are required by law to be—are not great at all. In fact, we do it routinely with every site we build (at least every one I oversee) at no additional charge and it takes no additional time, just a little forethought. So cost can’t be an excuse to hide behind.
But if you want another reason to do it, consider SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google (and all web spidering applications, for that matter) are the greatest consumers of websites in existence. And they don’t see the pretty pictures and they don’t use a mouse. Semantically marked-up, accessible, web standards-based documents routinely generate higher search rankings than non-semantic/standards/accessible ones because the content is accessible.
Then there’s the cost savings in maintenance, the cost savings in server storage space, the cost savings in bandwidth usage, the faster page downloads for your users, and the ability to deploy the same content to multiple devices/media—print, TVs, PDAs and cellphones, just to name a few. In terms of benefits, the list goes on and on, and all of these come at no additional cost when you use web standards.
If you don’t see the point in making the effort for selfless reasons, perhaps these will make more sense.
I realize that most of you reading this have, more likely than not, already joined the accessibility bandwagon. Some selflessly even. I just needed a moment to publicly rant. Thanks.