Just the other day I was trying to explain to someone why should a web design support anyone and everyone who wants to visit it. Unfortunately this is one of the things that does not work purely on the rationale. The person has to see the bigger picture, understand the purpose of Web to really appreciate it. If only a minute number of your users are visually challenged, or are not using a specific browser, is it worth caring about them?
I am not sure if it worked, but here it is anyway.
Accessibility is underlying purpose of the Web
We have a lot of restrictions in our worlds. I stay in India, so I cannot go and buy a book from Barnes and Noble. Or I cannot go and meet Steve Wozniak, or I cannot attend one of his talks. I am in the danger of not being able to do a lot of things or even lose a lot of information because it is simply not accessible to me. What Web did, with the help of digital media, is to remove these restrictions by giving a lot of freedom to the user. Going by Theory Of Constraints, it broke the constraint of inaccessibility for me, and helped me more than any other software ever.
When you lock out users or impose restrictions on them, you are basically undoing all the good work done by the Web. You are introducing constraints that are reducing the ROI for the user, and indirectly for you. No surprise, even SEO is about accessibility.
Meat might be in the 2%
Yes, it is quite possible that your design is inaccessible to only 2% of your readers. Quite possible. But you will make a false assumption if you think that they are unimportant. In today’s world of viral marketing, only 2 influential readers are enough to help you achieve your aim. You will be shooting yourself in your leg if you lock them out. Even if you have a lot of visitors, only a small percentage of them will actively contribute towards your success. There is no minority on the Web which you can neglect.
Does this mean you should not use any of the modern technologies? No, you should of course use them. But make sure that the content is still available to the ones who cannot use them. Or in some cases you might have control over the user’s environment, which might prompt you to tightly couple your design to that. But in today’s fast changing world, it will not be long before that environment changes and there will be a need for your design to adapt to that.
I hope this will help someone at least rethink about inaccessible design. But if you wish to ignore me, maybe Roger Johansson can convince you better.