The Kashrut of Online Accessibility


This is part of a series of essays in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month.

The other day, I had the most intrinsically Jewish and disability advocate moment. A client was requesting that I audit the accessibility of their documents to PDF/UA, which is a super stringent accessibility standard. It surpasses what is regulated by the United States government as best practice and even some European countries. Then it hit me: this was the glatt kosher of accessibility.

What is glatt kosher? It’s the standard of kashrut that is stricter or more watched than other standards. I have relatives who only eat glatt kosher meat and I have clients that only want PDF/UA-certified documents, even if we’re making hamburgers. 

The beautiful thing about accessibility is that it is a qualitative standard, and not a quantitative. Too often in my line of work, I have well-meaning but skittish clients who demand the highest standard of accessibility because they fear a lawsuit driven by non-compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act. And yet, their development staff is not well-trained on the coding basics that would necessitate the basic building blocks of accessibility, their stakeholders are not informed on an extra cost to audit for accessibility, and their lawyers may not know there are regulations for website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

For Jewish people who are striving to be more observant, or feel guilty after the final shofar blast on the High Holidays, it can be so easy to declare that you are suddenly going to keep Shabbat again, or keep strictly kosher after bacon cheeseburgers on Saturdays. This is not unlike the phenomenon of gyms on New Years Day that are chock-full the first month, and then a steep drop-off in members in February. Jumping from nothing to something huge is not the most obtainable. But starting small is.

I encourage my clients who create websites, applications, and mobile apps to tackle accessibility in bite size chunks to prevent becoming overwhelmed. Glatt kosher is a wonderful standard to aspire to, but websites can be more holy, rather accessible, if even simple steps are taken to become more user-friendly and inclusive. These include:

  1. Adding alternative text for images
  2. Increasing keyboard accessibility
  3. Writing synchronized captions for website
  4. Checking for strong color contrast
  5. Labeling buttons and form fields

Hebrew National claims they answer to a higher authority. Accessibility puts the authority back in the hands of the end-user. Whichever standard you choose to apply to your website or electronic properties, there is always more you can do to become accessible. Start small and savor the process. Invite others to the meal, or rather the development process. There is always room at the table for users with disabilities. Your website may not be glatt, but it won’t be treif either. 

Sharon Rosenblatt is an accessibility professional and advocate working to improve the overall web experience by a user with disabilities. With her tendency to be ‘hands on,’ Sharon feels that accessibility is a human right, and not a ‘nice to have’. She has been a part of the Accessibility Partners team for the past six years, and specializes in document remediation and web/softwarecompliance testing. Her efforts have enabled developers and manufacturers to see the tremendous potential that accessibility has not just for users with disabilities, but of all abilities.

Read more from The New Normal here.