I bookmarked a post by Heydon Pickering entitled Web Accessibility Is Out To Get You And Make You Feel Sad and my sharing of that post received some feedback from one of the developers who was apparently involved and who has made the accusation that Heydon is attempting to hide his abuse by lying about everything he did during the conversation.
I’ve asked for a link to the relevant conversation, and so far haven’t received a response, so in the meantime, (assuming that this individual has the best of intentions, giving benefit of the doubt and all that), I’d like to get an honest answer to the question which forms the title of this post, because as both an accessibility practitioner and as a person with a visible disability who quite literally is reliant on whether or not accessibility is viewed as more than just a nice-to-have by developers, I’m tired.
I bookmarked Heydon’s post because quite frankly it telescopes excuses for inaccessibility I hear on a regular basis from developers, and yes, I’m glad someone can manage to create some humor borne out of what is very draining: Advocating for accessibility.
Advocating for accessibility and in some cases fixing accessibility issues in code is draining because there appears to be no end in sight, and experience tells me that even if I wade into a code base, make accessibility fixes, leave detailed comments explaining the fix, more often than not for free, and the pull request is accepted, that fix will be reverted or broken in some other way and it’s only a matter of time as to when this will happen. And that’s the ideal situation. I can wade into a code base, propose a fix, and for the most part be guaranteed a protracted argument, sometimes over a single line of code, about why that accessibility fix won’t go in, and we swear we care about accessibility and we’re never going to admit anything but the purest of intentions and don’t you dare call us ableist because that will hurt our feelings.
And I’m far from the only accessibility practitioner who gets to experience things going down like this.
If you’re a person with disabilities, even one who doesn’t professionally work in the accessibility space, you are expected to advocate and educate for your entire life, most of the time for free, except when you’re inspiring the living daylights out of abled people through the videos and photos they take, often without your consent, which they then post on social media and through which they enjoy viral internet fame.
Oh and you’re also expected to be polite, ask nicely for the accessibility crumbs you manage to catch falling from the table, and God help you if you file a lawsuit because lawsuits are bad and well to be honest they’re evidence of your ingratitude.
This is a battle we have been waging on the web for the last twenty years. Accentuating the positive hasn’t worked. Providing business case after business case hasn’t worked. Pointing out the benefits to everyone who isn’t a person with disabilities hasn’t worked. Fixing your code for free hasn’t worked. Thousands and thousands of hours of free advice and training and examples hasn’t worked.
So yeah fellow developers, I’d really like to know at what point accessibility folk are permitted to lose our patience with all this without you stomping your feet and crying fowl, and I’d really like to know what exactly will convince you to do the needful, learn the basics, and start creating things that everyone can use without having to badger you into it so we can quit going over the basics time and time and time again and focus on fixing actual issues.
What exactly is the magic solution to ending this fight and not spending the rest of my life advocating for my civil rights and training you and inspiring you because if there is some magic solution I will gladly employ it so I can stop giving a damn about accessibility and just live my life like a normal person.
A web developer who is absolutely exhausted by constantly fighting with the rest of you.