The power of learning even a little bit about accessibility and inclusion.
Inclusion is a lens through which you see the world.
Inclusion, accessibility, universal design, diversity... they are all powerful words and powerful tools for better understanding and improving the world. While they all—rightfully—have practical applications, there is a bit of magic to these terms as well:
Once you start learning about inclusion, accessibility, universal design, and diversity, they will quite literally change your outlook on the world. And—for all but the coldest of hearts—that change will be for the better. It’s nearly impossible not to notice their implications damned near everywhere.
Once you’ve read about Ronald Mace and Selwyn Goldsmith pioneering universal design in architecture and environmental design, it’s hard to overlook buildings or cities that don’t take disabled communities into account. As soon as you’re exposed to the online #a11y movement or read something like Laura Kalbag’s Accessibility for Everyone, you look at your own design, code, and copywriting in a new light. Once you’ve devoured everything Ashe Dryden has published, it’s extraordinarily difficult not to have diversity on your mind pretty much all the time.
And those are all amazing things.
These are topics that are worth discussing ad nauseam because, even if you’ve been exposed to them, more people haven’t. You might be sick of reading yet another article about alternative text on the web but, if that’s the case, your eyes are probably open to the importance of accessible images online. You may skip over an article on hiring people from underrepresented groups, but hopefully it’s because that is a part of your hiring culture anyways.
So many people haven’t been properly exposed to these ideas or haven’t discussed them enough. We haven’t changed their outlook and marginalized groups are suffering for it.
People are still talking about web standards in 2018, even after we moved on from table-based, all-image, or Flash-based designs. That’s because there are still people and organizations out there pushing shitty work to production. They build inaccessible, hard-to-navigate, mobile-unfriendly websites that but the burden of use on the user instead of themselves. As much as we’d all love to move onto topics outside of web standards, we can’t—they are absolutely foundational and always will be.
Similarly, a lot of us dream of a more enlightened, inclusive world but we won’t get there unless we keep discussing these topics in the open: publishing articles, writing books, posting videos, and—more importantly—having difficult conversations at home, in our communities, and in our workplaces.
There’s magic in inclusion, diversity, universal design, and accessibility, but only if we keep at it. We can flip those switches in people’s minds and open their eyes to a better world, but there will always be more people to educate.
Magic tricks are wonderful things. Once you see the technique behind one, you can’t unsee it. A magician’s trick is impressive on its own but—to me at least—it’s far more magical once you see the years of work and dedication that went into perfecting it.
Don’t shy away from that work, don’t stop discussing those important topics. Once you see the power behind them, you won’t be the same.