Progress Over Perfection: The Better Way for Communication and Accessibility Advocacy


Disability and accessibility advocates are passionate. They speak up about accessibility problems. Sometimes, it can have the opposite effect. A progress over perfection approach to communication educates people and it's kinder. This article has four steps on how to do that.

Progress over perfection in accessibility and disability inclusion applies to everyone. It can help with accessibility advocacy as well as people getting started in accessibility.

Accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. The human resources department needs to ensure the hiring and employee benefits processes are accessible. Procurement needs to ensure the company buys accessible products and services.

Marketing needs to ensure it creates accessible content. Product management needs to ensure products are born accessible. Payroll needs to ensure employees can access their pay information. IT needs to ensure employees can use the company’s hardware and software.

Accessibility is big. Accessibility is daunting. It takes a lot to build a culture supportive of people with disabilities and accessibility. It can cause people to struggle with getting started and making progress on the accessibility journey.

That’s why I preach the progress over perfection approach to accessibility and disability inclusion. It breaks it down. Suddenly, it feels less overwhelming.

Getting Started with Accessibility

Don’t wait until you get the website, product, or whatever just right. Don’t wait until you launch something.

Progress isn’t always a straight line. Sometimes you go backward. The key is to get started and keep moving. You can start with a very small thing like adding an accessibility statement to a website. This statement needs at least two modern contact options. (Fax machine and snail mail don’t count, y’all.)

Now, you have a tool to communicate what you’re doing in terms of accessibility. You also make it easy for people to find contact information to report problems or ask questions.

This cartoon from Michael Giangreco and Kevin Ruelle is a perfect example of progress over perfection. It has two panels. The top panel shows two people. One has two large stacks of books next to them. The other person says, “Are we ready to include students with more severe disabilities in regular class?”

The second person says, “As soon as I finish reading these books on inclusion and draft our long-range plan… We should be ready in 7 or 8 years.”

The bottom panel has two people facing each other. One person says, “I’m sure glad we got started including and supporting all our students in regular classes.”

The other person replies, “Me too! I know we’ll learn things along the way from our successes and mistakes.” The tagline under the cartoon reads, “A tale of two schools.”

in post

Instead of waiting on someone else to do something, get started and learn from successes and mistakes. Sometimes you’ll go backward. That’s OK. It doesn’t mean progress has stopped. Progress isn’t always a straight line upward or forward.

The key is to start on the journey and stay the course.

Progress Over Perfection for Accessibility Advocates

There are many topics related to accessibility and people with disabilities. We can’t be expected to know it all. Yet, people will call out someone for an accessibility mistake.

For example, someone shared this image of an amazing ad at a bus stop’s window. The sign says:

“Dear Entertainment Industry, There’s no diversity, equity, and inclusion without disability. Disability is diversity dot com. Designed by an all-disabled creative team and powered by Inevitable Foundation.”

in post

The person who shared the photo did not add alternative text to the image. Fortunately, in this case, the comments about the missing alt text were kind or talked about irony. The person started adding alt text. Educating people goes a long way and leads to change.

Despite making it a habit, one of my images slipped through without alt text. And someone called me out. I’m human. Maybe I’m multitasking. Maybe I’m tired. Who knows? Believe me, when I realize I forgot the image description, I get mad at myself and fix it.

For those who don’t know. A website using an overlay typically has the accessibility icon as a button. When you select the button, it opens a range of accessibility options. These tend to break accessibility that is built-in with good coding practices.

This is not progress over perfection in action. Quite the opposite. For more info, visit

Overlays are a trigger for a lot of folks. Some overlay companies have unethical marketing practices. They take advantage of the lack of awareness about accessibility. They promise your website’s accessibility problems are quickly and easily solved with one line of code.

When anyone mentions adding an overlay to a website or how cool they are, it can lead to a backlash. This is why I preach progress over perfection so much. This applies to disability and accessibility supporters.

It means to educate … don’t berate. And here’s a very good example of backlash that didn’t have to happen.

A self-employed person with a disability posted how excited they were to add an overlay to their website to make it accessible. They thought it was a quick and easy first step toward accessibility. This is a progress over perfection attitude.

It didn’t take long before the backlash started in the comments. Despite this, the person removed the overlay. They simply didn’t know the overlay didn’t t work. Amazingly enough, the person edited their post to change their stance. They admitted their mistake.

However, the person did not deserve the backlash. They simply needed an education. Once they learned, they fixed it and admitted their mistake multiple times. But it doesn’t erase the horrible feeling that comes from reading all the comments. It’s not easy to shake it off. I know it can take me days to get over a nastygram.

Please educate. Don’t berate. Try it first and see what happens. You just might find yourself a new ally.

How to Communicate and Advocate for Accessibility

How can we better communicate and advocate for accessibility and people with disabilities? Here’s an example. “Stranger Things” captions got raves. But I was struggling with them in season 4. I felt like it was the caption show and it affected my viewing experience.

When I gave feedback, I approached it with that it has great captions. Here’s what they do well. Here are a couple of areas to improve and take to the next level. And it was well-received. This is why I preach progress over perfection. It’s kinder. People respond better. They’re more likely to keep trying.

That’s the approach I take when contacting someone or a company about accessibility. I open with gratitude or something positive without sounding phony.

Then, I share a suggestion or what can be improved with an explanation. I’m not going to give them a suggestion without giving them a reason why. Then, I end it with a compliment or a thank you for listening and taking action.

4 Steps to the Progress Over Perfection Way of Communicating

I used this approach when I saw my friend Cam Beaudoin‘s captions on a video. He appreciated my approach and described why it worked. Here’s my feedback to him.

“Hi Cam. Thanks for publishing the 360-degree accessibility clip. One tip. The color (karaoke style) captions are painful. I cannot read the captions because my eyes are following the color instead of reading the word. I hope you reconsider using this.”

He broke it down into the four steps I always take. (Gratitude, suggestion, explanation, and soft close.)

  1. Show gratitude for what they do right.
  2. Provide the suggestion.
  3. Explain the reason for the suggestion.
  4. End on a high note or with a thank you.

Cam said the message wasn’t snarky or mean. There was no shaming or blaming. He also said that when you need to educate or correct someone on accessibility, remember the person creating the barrier is most likely not aware. They don’t think about accessibility every day like some of us do.

I am careful to avoid sounding angry or huffy. I also don’t shame or blame. If I’m upset or angry, then I wait until I’ve calmed down. Or I write the message while it’s fresh in my head, but don’t send it. I wait at least 24 hours and re-read it to ensure it’s cordial.

It might help to remind yourself that some folks simply don’t know what they don’t know. Many accessibility advocates think about disability and accessibility every day. Many people do not think about accessibility often or at all.

The Value of Progress Over Perfection

What happens when you adopt a progress over perfection mindset? Four things.

1. You communicate more effectively

Effective communication involves listening actively, opening yourself to learning, and being flexible. It leads to more inclusive and accessible interactions. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. People respond better to nice than to sour.

2. You encourage a growth mindset

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (affiliate), defines the growth mindset as the “belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.”

A growth mindset to advocacy means you’re helping other people grow. When someone faces backlash, they’re not going to grow. They’ll fall into a fixed mindset thinking nothing can change.

3. You are more flexible

The progress over perfection approach emphasizes learning, adapting, and growing. It means accepting you may not have all the answers. It views mistakes as opportunities for improvement.

The approach encourages taking risks, experimenting, and collaborating to find better solutions. It’s a reminder to focus on the journey rather than the destination. Every step towards progress matters.

4. You celebrate progress

No matter how small the progress is, it’s worth celebrating. By doing this, people will feel excited and motivated to keep iterating and improving. Whenever a company added automatic captioning, advocates would complain that there was no way to edit the automatic captions. In doing this, they may undermine a company’s efforts to improve.

Celebrate instead. When the company sees people like the progress, they’re motivated to keep going. You can even say something like, “Great job on adding automatic captions. Hope you take it to the next level by adding editing capabilities.”

Creating a culture inclusive of people with disabilities and accessibility is an ongoing journey. Accessibility is everyone’s job. Accessibility takes time to learn and bake into your processes. Don’t stress over perfection.

Accessibility is rewarding. It takes all of us to make it happen. Focus on progress over perfection. Make progress every day.

Accessibility and Disability Awareness Training

A great place to start or make progress in your accessibility journey is to provide company-wide training or to bring in a speaker. I can do a series of presentations and training sessions. Or if you want to start small, I can train the marketing and communications team on how to create accessible content. Contact me or get to know me.

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