Accessibility Human Nature

But blind people can’t do that

This post was originally published on July 26 2007. It was last updated on September 7 2020 (8:00 pm).

Reading time: 2 minutes

As a conscientious web developer, I build web pages that endeavour to be accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. 

Inevitably, this means that every now and then I have to pull a project manager, client, or designer up on inaccessible content or a poorly thought out design. 

So, I might say things like,

is there an HTML alternative to this Flash content?



the Web Guidelines Web Standards* say that you can’t use colour alone as an indicator of x


(*the Web Guidelines Web Standards are great for enforcing personal beliefs and they’re pretty much the main reason why I code the way I do today).

It never ceases to amaze me that nine times out of ten their default response is something along the lines of ‘But blind people can’t do that’. 

It’s not even a question (‘But blind people can’t do that, can they?’), it’s just an automatic statement – one that the speaker feels totally justified in sharing with the world.

Because ‘blind people can’t do that’, there is thus no need to implement my suggestion, and another piece of partially (or totally) inaccessible content joins its friends in the matrix.

The thing that bugs me, is that we’re supposed to be living in some kind of über information age. Why then, are otherwise well-meaning people, with the power to make a difference in the lives of others, so ignorant of the needs of their fellow citizens?

In the case of today’s ‘stand-off’, a couple of quick and fruitful visits to Google gave me the virtual ammo I needed to prove that ‘yes’, blind people could indeed partake in the activity in question. Armed with this I managed to bug the project manager in question enough that he bugged the client in question into finally accepting my recommendation 


 So, all’s well that ends well, this time..

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