Skip to content

"Yeah, but" - objections to doing accessibility work

I’m a big fan of human-centered design (which I think of as inclusive design and accessibility) and human-centered development (which I think of as progressive enhancement). When talking about these things, it’s not uncommon to be confronted with “yeah but”s.

I’ve found that the way to address these is to dig a little bit first (using a five whys map or a cause and effect map or a similar structure) to find the underlying reason for the objection. Here are some common objections and ways that I’ve addressed them (with varying degrees of success, of course!). One way of doing this is addressing the objections as they come up. They often come in a chain. One I’ve seen a few times is: people with disabilities aren’t our target market ➡ it’s too difficult to do ➡ we don’t have time to do it.

Over the years I’ve tried to keep notes on these objections, and on what I could and did say to them. These aren’t complete arguments, just a rough list of starting points to get talking. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong: it’s about finding common ground somewhere in the middle and trying to do what’s best for our users. I also keep a list of notes on presentating ideas, which has more general ideas.

“Yeah, but”s, and ideas for discussion

  • "Yeah, but people with disabilities are not our target market."
    • Disability is a spectrum, not a binary. A disability can be permanent, temporary, or contextual.

  • "Yeah, but it's too difficult to do."
    • It gets easier with practice, like most new things.

    • Part of our job is continuous learning and improvement. For example, we’ve learned responsive web design.

    • Plain old semantic HTML gives you lots of a11y for free.

  • "Yeah, but we don't have time to do it."
    • Do small bits at first: five minute piggybacks on top of other things.

    • Make a choice to replace one small bit of existing work with an a11y tasks, as an experiment.

    • It’s not doing more work, it’s doing the same work differently.

  • "Yeah, but we don't have support to do it."
    • Get buy-in with a small, high-value, example.

    • Set up a tiny test for people to do, so they can see the problem, feel it.

    • Talk about how it gives us more, happier, customers, and what metrics that increases.

  • "Yeah, but it's boring."
    • It’s an exciting challenge, working within stronger constraints. It requires more creativity to find good solutions.

    • It’s being a superhero to our users. In the best case scenario, we take something from can’t use to can use. In the worst case, we make it easier to use for everyone.

  • "Yeah, but it's not important."
  • "Yeah, but it's limiting"
    • The accessible version of something doesn’t have to be the only version. We need to provide keyboard support, but that doesn’t mean only keyboard support: of course we should support mouse (and touch) too!

  • "Yeah, but it's only realistic / practical / possible on small projects."
    • Yes, remediation on large projects is difficult and costly. The way to approach this is to shift left and address problems earlier, when they’re cheaper to fix.

    • “It doesn't have to be perfect. Just a little bit better than yesterday.” - Leonie Watson