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My takeaways from "giving a damn about accessibility"

I recently got around to reading Sheri Byrne-Haber’s very excellent “Giving A Damn About Accessibility” handbook. Here are some of my key takeaways.

  • Discriminating against People with Disabilities (PwD) is ableist and unethical. “Is it okay to make software that [any given group] can’t use?” No!
  • Saying inaccessible software only impacts a small number of users is emotional compensation for an ethics violation.
  • “PwD aren’t part of our target market” is a circular logical fallacy.
  • Not fixing things now builds up accessibility debt since the standards are becoming more complex, detailed, and strict.
  • How do we solve this problem?
    • Reward employees for releasing accessible software.
    • Have more PwD involved in the process.
    • Solicit vocal executive support.

Ways to approach people who don’t give a damn

One of my favourite frameworks for thinking about behaviour change is outlined in the Heath Brothers book Switch. They talk about three areas to consider: the Rider (the rational); the Elephant (the emotional); the Path (the environment). Different problems require different approaches.

In Sheri’s handbook, she highlights six types of people who don’t give a damn. Here’s a list of the types and a Switch-based way of approaching them. Some of the ideas are interchangable and work for multiple types!

  • The type: the people who are allergic to change. An approach: Remind them of changes bigger than this that they’ve already made.
  • The type: the people who want to see “the business case.” An approach: Create empathy by showing the problem with not changing.
  • The type: the people who want to see detailed proof for every accessibility recommendation. An approach: simplify the problem by scripting the critical moves.
  • The type: the people who prioritize the creation of inaccessible new features over making old features accessible. An approach: shrink the change. Make it so small they can’t say no.
  • The type: the people who believe “well, it only impacts a small number of users.” An approach: tweak the environment so that whether they see the need to change or not is irrelevant.
  • The type: the people who don’t believe that disabled people are part of the product’s target audience/demographic/customers. An approach: highlight how it matches (or conflicts) with their sense of identity.