Accessible web experiences start (but do not end) with the digital agencies who create them
I am calling companies whose line of work it is to design and develop websites for other companies "Digital Agencies."
Attending sessions at last year’s Accessing Higher Ground (AHG) conference in Denver last November, I was struck by how many of the sessions were geared toward convincing the audience of the merits of incorporating accessibility features into their web experiences. Talk about preaching to the choir! Nobody in that audience needed to be convinced.
When attending sessions where people are demonstrating how to design or develop in an accessible way, the goal seems so attainable that it compounds your frustration about why it’s not happening at a large scale across the web. Why aren’t developers programmatically associating labels with fields? Why are designers continuing on their tone-on-tone campaigns that cause issues for low-vision users?
The answer is also self-evident: Those developers and designers are not attending accessibility conferences. The people in the audience at AHG were either developers or designers empathetic with the cause of web accessibility (the majority of whom were sent by their university), or university administrators already motivated to make their sites compliant.
Where do those developers and designers work who are not attending accessibility conferences? They work at digital agencies.
Many of the talks at AHG were geared at the website owner, and why he or she should care about the plight of challenged users trying to access the content on their site. This is unfortunate, because website owners were not in attendance at the AHG conference, either. These are the senior leadership of large companies who work with vendors to implement their eCommerce or editorial content websites.
Who do we need to convince to design and build things the right way? We need to convince the digital agencies — the vendors of these companies who are designing and developing large-scale experiences. That’s what I hope to accomplish with this blog.
Spread the word: The creation of accessible websites starts with the accessible habits of creative and development teams at digital agencies.