Is innovation more important than accessibility?

With more and more sites relying on technologies and techniques that hamper accessibility, there seems to be a move away from universal accessibility. But should we accept this as inevitable?

When Tim Berners-Lee appeared in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics his message to the world announced that the web was for everyone. However, I’m not convinced that this admirable sentiment is actually true.

Tim Berners-Lees message at the London Olympics
Tim Berners-Lee believes that the weather is that everyone, but is that actually the case?

Increasingly websites are becoming reliant on technologies and techniques that make access to some hard. Reliance on JavaScript, websites that do not use progressive enhancement and video or audio without a transcript, are just some examples of how the web is not accessible to all.

Many argue that this is an inevitable consequence of innovation, but do you agree? Should we accept that our websites will never be accessible by everybody, and that to try will hold back the web and be an overly expensive ambition?

As part of season seven of the Boagworld podcast we want to discuss this important issue. Therefore:

This house proposes that accessibility should not be allowed to hold back innovation.

Let’s use the comments to discuss what is a critical principle on which the web is built. I passionately believe that how we answer this question as a community will dictate the very nature of the web going forward.

  • richarddale

    I definitely think mobile sites have their place. Many of the sites I built prior to RWD, static sites that view great on desktop and tablet. Its only when you get down to smart phone size that things start to break down. For many of these sites a mobile specific site would probably work better than a RWD site where I could be more focused and target the medium specifically.

    I did a RWD e-commerce website recently and although the end results were good, trying to get the shopping basket working and looking correct whilst being responsive was a nightmare and I couldn’t help but think that a mobile specific site would have been a better solution. When I browse the web using my iPad Air I never visit a fix width website and think this is a poor user experience why don’t they have a RWD site. I ony ever think this when on my iPhone.

  • sanedevil

    I am not a web designer, but have a team that is building one for me. So in trad way, I have to have a “web designer” design the site in Photoshop which is then handed to “web developer” to generate code.

    You can imagine there are several problems w this – time, costs, rework, code doesn’t do what the design shows etc.

    I hit upon your blog while thinking if there are tools that would eliminate the design-to-code step

    I very much agree w the house and would love to know the process and tools to help achieve this.

  • David R

    The simple answer is yes, a website must be responsive and also Google is focusing more on responsive websites, a static design
    web development firm still works OK in most cases when you have separate mobile friendly website.