I’ve spent the past decade working as an accessibility, efficiency, and usability consultant to companies who have found themselves in court over accessibility failings. When I first started out in this type of freelancing I already had three decades of programming under my belt, around 12 years of that working with web technologies. At that time in 2010 the most common failings were easy ones to fix … well, if you could kick the ignorant PSD jockeys under the DELUSION they were designers to the curb.
Illegible colour contrasts; fixed width layouts; illegible undersized fonts in pixel metrics; These were the daily routine… I came to call them the “Trifecta of /FAIL/ at web development”. More so when “frameworks”, the monuments to ignorance, incompetence, and ineptitude were involved.
Wait, You Can Be Sued or Fined for Accessibility Violations?
Absolutely! There are accessibility laws and they vary by country. The United States has its “Americans with Disabilities Act” or “ADA”. In the UK it’s their 2010 Equality Act, aka “EQA”. These laws have traditionally targeted healthcare, insurance, banking, public utilities, and government websites, with banks having been my bread and butter for a while.
However, over the past few years there’s been an uptick in civil cases against regular businesses and websites. From Beyonce to Dominos this has been getting more and more high profile, with the supreme court refusing to hear / overturn the Dominos case making it “open season” on ANY business that operates in the US and deals with US customers.
Queue the Lame Excuses
You can even hear it in the rhetoric they spew, where they attack the blind man who filed the lawsuit instead of Dominos for being in blatant violation of the ADA. I hear this from my clients too in that they basically want to say “screw the disabled” and cannot believe that their own ignorance is at fault.
And it is always the same tired fallacies in action, such as:
But thousands of major companies use this framework.
And if all the other lemmings go running off a cliff? The “bandwagon” fallacy — oft powered by “testimonial” is insanely powerful at bypassing rational thought.
But so-and-so said it’s perfectly fine. They’re a big name in the industry.
Mercola, Paltrow, and the dirtbag calling himself an avocado are big recognized names. Doesn’t mean they’re not peddling snake oil by spewing lies.
But it’s easier to work with and maintain.
If scripting is off, can the visitor get to the content and perform basic operations? No? Well, you’re in violation.
“Progressively Enhance”, what’s that mean?
Progressive Enhancement is a very powerful process for building accessible websites that “gracefully degrade”. It means building a page from the bottom up, instead of starting with what should be in the middle (appearance) or at the end (scripting). It is also something that artists under the DELUSION they know what design is, and scripting junkies oft scoff at or are utterly incapable of working with.
The overall process of progressive enhancement in client-side site building is:
- Start with your content or a reasonable facsimile of future content in a flat text editor and organize it into a logical order as if HTML doesn’t even exist.
- Mark that content up semantically, your tags saying what things ARE grammatically and structurally, NOT what you want them to look like!
- Create your CSS style(s) for each media target you want to support, along with any responsive / media queries. The semantically neutral tags DIV, SPAN, and Anchor get added only at this point, with any classes or ID’s saying again what things ARE, NOT what you want them to look like! (this is why HTML/CSS frameworks are incompetent garbage made by people unqualified to tell others how to make websites.)
If you are not following this process, your website is likely on the hit-list to sooner or later have an ambulance chaser come after you! You follow this process your page should work scripting off/blocked/disabled, images off/bloced/disabled, and even CSS off/blocked/disabled/inapplicable. That base underlying HTML being the fallback for everyone, even the non-sighted.
It all boils down to one simple concept:
— Dan Schulz (RIP)
Sure, there are exceptions to this — Google Maps for example — but most business websites have no such excuse, and it’s why all this “JS for nothing” does little but screw you and your visitors over.