Rethinking accessibility

What we're reading blog post tag imageWe’ve written previously about making text content more accessible online. However, Anne Gibson takes a more expansive approach on web accessibility issues in a recent article.

Ms Gibson argues that present approaches to web accessibility, although a good start, are flawed because they focus on what people with disabilities “lack” in ability. In her words, “We need to stop invoking the internal stereotypes we have about who is disabled…. We can reframe accessibility in terms of what we provide, not what other people lack.”

This “ableism”, in her view, can result in an “us versus them” approach to web design. She says:

It may be more effective to see our differing levels of ability as a spectrum instead of a setting. There are people who will always self-identify as having a disability. There are other people who will never see themselves as disabled, despite needing accessibility technology such as glasses, canes, or track balls. In between, there are infinite combinations of needs, some of which last for mere moments, and others which last for the life of the person.

In support of this, she points to her “Alphabet of Accessibility Issues” – 26 real-life examples of needs for accessibility which may be invisible or temporary.

Ms. Gibson also touches upon the notion that exhaustion, illness or stress – all common in people facing legal problems – can affect one’s ability to perform online tasks. We find this concept important to keep in mind when developing legal information intended for a wide audience.

What do you think? We’d welcome your comments below.


  1. Author: Ingrid Sapona

    on March 17, 2015 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Ms. Gibson’s point is good — but I wonder what solutions she proposes. If present approaches to web accessability are jut a good start — what are her suggestions for steps two, three, four, five… and so on?

  2. Author: Anne Gibson

    on March 17, 2015 at 11:50 am - Reply

    @Ingrid Sapona –
    Your mileage may vary, because every site and audience is different, but ideally…
    1. Acknowledge you have a lot more people that need accessibility than your organization realizes.
    2. Test everything regardless of how many users you think you have. Take training to test in unit testing and Integration testing phases. Usability test with all kinds of users.
    3. Fix problems.
    4. Simplify simplify simplify.
    5. Advocate for best practices and the people you serve.
    6. Lather, rinse, repeat.


  3. Author: Kristina Brousalis

    on March 17, 2015 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Anne, thanks for stopping by! Obviously, we liked your articles. πŸ™‚

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