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Accessibility, Part 1: Why I Care

This is a post written for the March 2024 IndieWeb carnival, Accessibility in the Small Web.

I'm so glad I got a blog up and running in time for this month's IndieWeb blog carnival! Accessibility is my jam.

Since I'm quite new to the small/personal web, this isn't a manifesto about how I think accessibility fits into the community. That would be very presumptuous! Instead I'd like to write about the perspective I'm bringing along with me as I slowly dip my toes into these waters.

So join me as I first discuss why I care about accessibility and what it means to me. And maybe stick around for some some general advice based on how I approach accessibility as a hobbyist.


Part 1: Why I Care

The Right Thing to Do

The first and foremost reason I care about digital accessibility is that it's the right thing to do. Accessibility is making sure that disabled folks can access everything that abled people can — information, social life, public services, healthcare, businesses, art, and more. All of that exists here online, so accessibility matters here, too!


The second reason is that I'm disabled myself, and I know what it's like to not be able to participate in public life. When I was nearly 16 I got a mild cough that turned into disabling post-viral chronic illnesses. Almost 2 decades later these still affect my day-to-day life and limit the things I can do.

Some of the limitations I face are imposed by my body, and I can't get around them. Exercise intolerance and post exertional malaise (PEM) mean that going for a walk can be difficult, let alone something like a marathon (impossible).

But some of the limitations I face are imposed by society not being accessible, such as in-person events with no virtual option. (This also includes the current lack of response to the ongoing pandemic. For those of us who can't risk a single infection due to how it may affect our health, mask-free society with rampant transmission is inaccessible. I've been pushed out of public life and only go to medical appointments, my p100 mask pressing into my face as I dodge coughing patients.)

So I know what it's like to miss out on things. I also know how much of a lifeline the internet can be — it's been my main method of socializing since I got sick, and I don't know where I'd be without it, especially 4-years into the pandemic. (It's also an amazing way to meet fellow disabled people, become part of the disability community, and learn about disability justice.)

There's a lot I can't change about my limitations, both physical and societal. But one thing I can do is make everything I post online — social media posts, blog posts, websites, zines — as accessible as I can for other people. My life might be filled with barriers, but I can avoid making more for other people.

Of course, I know I'm not perfect. The way I write probably isn't very accessible for some folks; I need to learn more about cognitive accessibility and plain language. I may be slow to fix accessibility errors if my symptoms are flaring up. And I will always have more to learn.

But I believe that access is love, and as such I will always do my best.

An Aside: "Not everything is for everyone."

I've seen this sort of sentiment a few times in regards to personal sites and accessibility, especially in regards to animations. "Not everything is for everyone." The idea is that some websites have artistic goals and techniques, and that adding a warning or giving the option to change or remove them, even for accessibility, would compromise that.

But personally, I feel that if I knowingly make a site that's inaccessible despite having the skills and knowledge to make it more accessible, I've chosen to take agency away from people. I'm not allowing them to decide for themselves if my website is "for them," because I've made it unsafe or impossible for them to perceive it.

It sucks to have someone decide for you what hobby or interest or piece of media you can enjoy. It sucks when someone says that because your experience of a thing might be different than originally intended, you shouldn't get to experience it at all.

I understand other folks may feel differently; it's true that not everything can be made accessible (like marathons for me). And Deafblind poet and author John Lee Clark makes an important point in his essay Against Access that some folks may be uninterested in accessibility as defined by abled, sighted, and hearing people.

But on my website I choose to explore and be creative in ways that as many people as possible can experience (if they want to).

Part 2: How I Approach Accessibility

This post was getting away from me, so I've split it into two parts in an effort to move slow. Please check back later, or follow my blog feed!