Content reflects culture - change one change the other?

January 27, 2021
“Accessibility itself is not hard.
But, accessibility at scale is hard.
Doing accessibility consistently well IS hard.
Accessibility where it hasn't been done before IS hard.
Creating a culture that values accessibility IS hard.
Don’t confuse one with the other.”

Derek Featherstone (@feather on Twitter)

This is one of the more accurate things I’ve read on Twitter.

See, the thing with accessibility is this:

At a basic level, when it comes to content and buildings and workplaces, the mechanisms that make it happen are relatively easy.


We still don’t do them consistently. They’re not part of the process.


One reason is what I’ve seen @pacingpixie call the ‘the inaccessibility cycle’. The world is inaccessible. Disabled people aren’t included in public discourse or spaces. And so they are erased.

And the cycle continues where the process isn’t inclusive, so accessibility continues to sit in the background.

Given that more than half of all Australians have long term eye problems, and 1 in 5 Australians are estimated to have disability (and similar figures across the world), it’s clear that accessibility in content is not a ‘nice to do’, it’s a ‘need to do’.

Our newest social media darling, Clubhouse, is a prime example of how basic accessibility is still not the status quo in development and design. Despite a compelling economic (let alone moral) argument. There is a lot of chat on the internet about its complete lack of accessibility. You can look it up. It’s easy to see that inclusion wasn’t part of the development process.

To add something new to the conversation, let’s talk about what we’re seeing amongst it’s new fans.

When a new platform pops up our first thoughts might be,

“How can I use this?”

“What will I get out of this?”

“Where on earth will I find the time for this?”

It’s rarely, “Can all people use this?”

Accessibility - and inclusive processes - aren’t put in the centre in business decision making. I put this down to that inaccessibility cycle.

But things are looking up.

Cultural change takes both on-the-ground and top-down approaches.

And while this isn’t exactly local to me, let’s take a trip away from Clubhouse to another house that the world has had its eyes on recently. The White House.

On the 20th of January, the Unites States of America swore in a new president in a ceremony where disability was visible and included. On the day that the Pledge of Allegiance was spoken and signed simultaneously (by the same person) a new White House website was launched.

It was the little things that marked a change in the culture of governance. A contrast and text size toggle and a written accessibility statement, stating a commitment to bring content to a WCAG 2.1 AA standard.

It showed inclusive intent, and that accessibility had sat in the centre of decision making. And will drive work in the future. It makes us think, what other decisions will be more inclusive*?

Sustainable, consistent accessibility can only be achieved where disabled people, and accessibility, are included in decision making. Language choices, colour choices, subtitling: these are easy decisions we can make to open our content (and businesses) to more people.

Accessibility itself is not hard.

But cultural change is.

* The internet was also fast to notice that the contact form on this site now asks for pronouns. Things are looking more inclusive on all fronts.

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