Progressive enhancement and accessibility

This article asks a question I don’t know the answer to: What is the exact relationship between progressive enhancement and accessiblity?

I mean, there is considerable overlap between the two. Good progressive enhancement can help accessibility, while accessibility can guide progressive enhancement decisions.

When I created the progressive enhancement reading list for my PE course in March I asked for good articles. I got a few submissions that I eventually rejected because they were about an accessibility problem that isn’t (quite) PE. Still, these submissions indicate that PE problems can be confused with accessibility ones. We instinctively we feel there’s considerable overlap between the two.

Still, they are not the same. You can have an thorny progressive enhancement problem that poses no accessibility problems, and you can have an accessibility problem that bears no relation to progressive enhancement.

The problem is that I can’t quite put my finger on where progressive enhancement and accessibility meet. Well, they can meet in individual problems, but that’s not what I mean. I’m looking for serious theoretical thought, and so far I haven’t found any. Also, my brain refuses to throw out a workable definition and stays stubbornly silent.

So can anyone define the relationship between progressive enhancement and accessibility? You can reach me via Twitter or my contact form.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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