Five Stages of Accessibility

By November 11th, 2011

Organizations grow over time. Their understanding of accessibility and their attitude towards it change too. Have you seen these five stages of accessibility where you work?

You may have heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “Five Stages of Grief” as taken from her book On Death and Dying.

If not, they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

If the names of those phases aren’t a fit for what happens in the accessibility world, I don’t know what is. We all progress in our understanding of accessibility—both at a personal level and at higher level within our organizations (at least, we hope so!)

Have you seen these stages of Accessibility in your organization? How do you know which stage you’re at? Here’s some famous quotes we’ve heard over the years that might help you figure out where you are.


  • “This is a web ‘application‘ so those rules don’t apply to us”
  • “We’re not the government so we don’t have to make this accessible”
  • “People with disabilities don’t come to my site… they just aren’t my customers”


  • “I can’t believe they’re making us do this!”
  • “Why don’t our team members know how to do this already!?!”
  • “This is just going to cost us money that we’ll never make back!”
  • “This is so unfair!”


  • “What about making it just level A compliant instead of AA?”
  • “Can we just leave that part for later?”
  • “I know we have three web sites, but can’t we just make one of them accessible?”
  • “The mobile site doesn’t need to be accessible because our main site is.”


  • “Sigh. We’ve done all this work, and its made no difference, and that consultant still told us we did it wrong…”
  • “This is really hard, and there’s so much to think about”
  • “What’s the point? No matter what we do it won’t be good enough”


  • “Lets make things as accessible as we can, in a way that doesn’t compromise our business goals, or the aesthetic quality of our site. And, if we need to make changes later to make it more accessible, then we’ll do that too.”
  • “We can do this!”

Where are you?

So, where are you? It would be great if we were all at the acceptance stage, but that might not be realistic. In which stage is your organization? Have any quotes you’ve heard over the years that you can share from inside your organization or from your clients? If so, please do share (anonymously, if you like!)

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