Don’t Use Slack? (Or Why Aren’t We Better at Accessibility?)

In Don’t Use Slack, Christian Heilmann raises some critical questions about why accessibility doesn’t happen more in modern-day apps and startups, highlighting some issues he observed when a former  colleague who’s blind needed to use Slack. He also touched on why Slack is a fantastic tool, and has some on-point conclusions about the nature of open source and proprietary development, and the advantages of each:

… [O]pen and accessible doesn’t beat usable and intelligent.


Diving deeper into the real problem, Hint – it’s not that Slack’s app has some accessibility issues:

As the people who love open, free, available and accessible we have to ask ourselves a few questions: why is it much easier to create an inaccessible interface than an accessible one? How come this is the status quo? How come that in 2016 we still have to keep repeating basic things like semantic HTML, alternative text and not having low contrast interfaces? When did this not become a simple delivery step in any project description? It has been 20 years and we still complain more than we guide.

Heilmann says that we (Slack’s users) should just talk to them. Communicate. It makes sense. Accessibility is hard because it’s everywhere when you think about a web product’s lifecycle: planning, research, user experience, design, code, delivery, maintenance, etc. Everyone has to be involved, and everyone shouldn’t be afraid to talk about accessibility. It’s a people problem above all else, and most people don’t realize they already have the skills to make what they work on accessible.

Published by David A. Kennedy

I work as a Design Director at Automattic on Jetpack, focusing on the front end experience.