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Recently I attended a job interview at a fairly well known agency. In my resumé I had specified that I always try to come up with easily accessible solutions regarding assistive technology. The interviewer then pointed out that this is nice, but most of the time this is not necessary when I work for them.

While I understand that accessibility is often out scope for small projects or for small agencies – its all about money in the end – I was a bit astonished to hear that during a job interview at a big agency.

Am I just naive to always care and think about accessibility? I often take the time to implement the most accessible menu I can find, sometimes talk to the designers regarding the contrast of chosen text/link color etc. How come this seems to be totally unusual for most people?

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I can only assume the agency you went to was a marketing one and not one who cares about users. "We don't want people who wear glasses looking at our product". "We don't want people who use a prosthetic leg from coming into our building". "We don't mind getting sued because the best deals can only be found by sighted users...". –  JonW Dec 8 '13 at 21:39

4 Answers 4

To begin with, most companies (i.e., clients) are little educated about accessibility. This is in the same way that many commercial spaces are not designed for wheelchair users, and even in public spaces information boards are often too high for those.

In addition, accessibility concerns are vast and diverse. Yet the user group they serve is relatively low for most commercial projects (this, of course, can trigger a fierce debate - it is enough to mention 9% of males being colour blind and off we go; so it is imperative the statement is taken in context).

Whether justified or not, most businesses will put accessibility users under the complementary persona category - meaning people with radical needs that may need specialised design.

It is worth remembering that in a competitive market, many companies hire creative designers who are briefed to create the most stunning visual designs in order to increase sales. So the last thing in these designers mind is accessibility.

You are not naive to always care for accessibility - I think this is a noble and important characteristic of a UX designer. It's just that, like so many times in UX, a judgement has to be made as to the level of compromise between the users (both those with and without accessibility needs) and business goals. If accounting for accessibility does no harm (to the business or general users), it is clearly a blessing and well worth practice.

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Accessibility serves everyone. Not just the 'relatively low' numbers of people with a particular physical or mental disability. This is even true of things in the physical world: See entry ramps and Oxo products as examples. –  DA01 Dec 12 '13 at 7:33

Without accessibility you cannot sell your product to some very large customers like the US government or the European Union (soon) because it is a pre-requisite.

For many non-institutional customers this isn't a concern.

Still, implementing accessibility is a good practice for many reasons (first of all ethical).

Source: Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

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What is necessary is all relative.

That said, there are plenty of agencies where quality of product takes a back seat to winning design awards.

Given that they are still in business and making money, from a purely business perspective, I guess accessibility isn't necessary for them.

But like any industry, there are plenty of financially succesful entities that still happen to produce poor quality products.

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It sounds as if this agency are not fully educated in UX, they may have a loose definition or use it as a marketing tool.

As far as I can tell there may well be projects where you know that the end user will, for example, always have perfect 20/20 vision (if it's aimed at active RAF pilots for example) in which case you can safely drop that part of the accessibility, but this will not be the norm. Things like contrast and readability should never, in my opinion, be compromised on because they impact on everyone to some extent. That said I've worked for places which consider accessibility to the the least important thing to go into a project, these people/companies are usually fiscally minded and consider that it will take too long and cost too much to produce a product that has adequate accessibility.

I would say a lot of companies have never really given partially sighted people (for instance) much thought when they consider their projects, not because they are bad or inhuman but because no one has ever explained to them that certain considerations may need to be taken. They may think that partially sighted or blind people just don't use computers. Educating people is part of UX so I think that it's not naive to try and put good accessibility into a project, it's naive to think that you won't need good accessibility and that it's part of our job to try (note I said try!) and explain why we need good accessibility and what it could do for the company/project.

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