Accessibility Misconceptions

Two students collaborate on computer

Misconception: If it is digital, it is accessible  

One of the most common misconceptions about accessibility is that if the material is digitally available, then it must be accessible. Nothing could be further from the truth. While digital formats can offer a range of flexible supports, digital materials can also be equally, or even more, inaccessible than materials in a paper format.  

The reality is that digital materials need the same care and level of attention to accessibility as any other materials. Accessibility requires thoughtful attention across any medium to ensure best practices are implemented.  

Misconception: Accessibility only benefits people with disabilities  

While accessibility does support people with specific disabilities, accessibility benefits everyone. For example, captions directly benefit people with hearing differences and are required to ensure they can access video content. However, captions are also used by people in gyms and restaurants, by language learners, and by people who just prefer to have them. By including captions on videos from the start, many people benefit. Ensuring accessibility ensures a better experience for everyone.  

Misconception: Accessibility can just be an add-on later 

Sometimes people think that they can focus on design first and then accessibility later. Accessibility can just be an add-on. While there are some accessibility features that can be added later in the process, accessibility should be considered at the very beginning of design. An important part of any design process is consideration of specific users, and people with disabilities are critical users of all services across UNH. Leaving these individuals out of the initial design process can lead to unnecessary exclusion and costly retrofits.  

Misconception: Accessibility is all about compliance 

It is true that accessibility is an important part of compliance. We are responsible for ensuring what we do is accessible to all those in our community. However, the benefits of accessibility stretch far beyond compliance. Accessibility is about creating materials and designing experiences that allow all people independently “acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services” (Joint Department of Justice and Department of Education "Dear Colleague" Letter on Electronic Book Readers). Compliance is the baseline but should not be the end goal.  

Misconception: If you can provide accommodations, you don’t need to be accessible 

Some people believe that you can rely on accommodations and other individualized supports and therefore do not have to worry about accessibility and accessible design. This is a common misconception. It is our responsibility to create a community that is inclusive of individuals of all abilities. Additionally, some inaccessible materials cannot be effectively retrofitted to include any access.  

Misconception: You need to be an accessibility expert to implement accessible practices  

There can be a lot to learn about accessibility. That is, after all, why there are accessibility experts. However, accessibility is the responsibility of everyone within the university system. While not everyone will know how to create accessible code on a website, we can all learn more about the Accessibility Essentials and implement accessible practices within our work.  

Misconception: Student can use Assistive Technology so there is no need to be accessible 

While Assistive Technology (AT) is used by many students, effective use of AT still requires environments to be accessible.  One of the WCAG POUR principles (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust), is that the environments must be designed to be “robust” (WCAG - WCAG 101: Understanding the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). In other words, content should be designed to ensure that the greatest range of people can interact with and ultimately benefit from the content. The AT is supportive and needed, but environments still must be accessible.