Discussion for Technology is the last, best hope for accessibility
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Posted by Matthijs on 2007-03-13 at 15:12:34 (GMT)
Well said! Completely agree with you.
Posted by Neil on 2007-03-13 at 16:52:34 (GMT)
Posted by JD on 2007-03-13 at 18:40:55 (GMT)
And yet, accessibility technology (screen-readers, braille readers, etc) is uniformly expensive and sub-par. I've done a lot to make my pages section 508 conformant (the US standard for accessibility), but it's full of warnings like (I joke, but just barely) OMG NO TABLES and Watch Out For Forms, described in vague, loose terms.
I want to be accessible, but cripes, meet me halfway here.
Posted by brothercake on 2007-03-13 at 22:35:46 (GMT)
@JD - I agree to some extent - the capabilities of assistive technologies are a big part of the equation, and it would help a great deal if the vendors would get on board a bit more.
But I don't think the warnings you refer to are anything to do with them - I'm not too sure what you're talking about actually. Is this the output of some kind of validator or checking tool?
Posted by Craigus on 2007-03-14 at 01:07:02 (GMT)
Accessibility can't be left as a response to disability, it must become a response to ability. That way we can fight for victories rather than fighting to overcome defeat.
Posted by brothercake on 2007-03-14 at 02:11:57 (GMT)
@Craigus - I don't really know what you mean - can you expand on that point?
Posted by telga on 2007-03-14 at 22:50:39 (GMT)
Great stuff, Brothercake, I'm with you.
I, too, try to make my Web sites accessible--structured headings for every section, clean semantic markup, jump links, fluid layouts that you can increase text size in, and accessibility pages that contain what I hope is useful information. But because I have a family member who uses a screen reader (Festival on his Ubuntu box), I know that, as JD says, bad quality assistive devices ARE a big problem: The screenreader reads so slowly and unexpressively and has so many problems deciphering the technical papers that he wants to read.
Yeah, I get angry, too, but I am installing Festival on my own computer so I can use it to try to figure out what's to be done to improve things. Has anyone tried the screenreader add-on for Firefox or tested their Web sites using it?
Posted by Craigus on 2007-03-14 at 23:13:37 (GMT)
If we limit accessibility improvements to only allowing us to empower the disabled community, we risk losing opportunities to encouraging other communities to enjoy our sites.
Accessibility benefits every visitor to a site.
Semantic code makes your site accessible to developers and robots.
Folksonomies make your site accessible to new varied groups.
Marketing makes your site accessible to emerging markets.
Considered design makes your site accessible to sighted visitors.
Edited copy makes your site accessible to Web literate viewers.
Content syndication makes your site accessible outside the browser.
Validated code makes your site accessible to the browser.
Multi-lingual distribution makes your site accessible to other tongues.
Shift developers from thinking that accessible sites only benefit a tiny group of a site's community, and we can leverage the drive to accessibility.
Add accessibility as a separation to the structure/presentation/behaviour model and it starts to become a discipline that can be embraced and promoted. If it remains a lobby-group's topic only and continues to be a chore, we're unlikely to make many advances.
Promote the fact that 100% - not 1 or even 10% - of a site's population benefits from accessibility and the powers that be will clamour to adopt accessibility practices. If we continue to push the cart that developers need to find even more time to provide features utilised by a tiny group of the site's population, we'll continue to see accessibility as one of the corners that are cut when a site is launched.
If accessibility best practice becomes an unwritten tenet, we can focus on wins, rather than Pyhrric victories. News stories will go from the currently typical "Big Business drops the ball" to a hoped for "Big Business scores!". When the high profile sites are shouting about how obviously accessible they are, rather than hoping no one talks about their accessibility issues, then small operators will take accessibility as stet and the web will start to really benefit.
Posted by Craigus on 2007-03-14 at 23:18:30 (GMT)
Posted by brothercake on 2007-03-19 at 13:50:45 (GMT)
I'm broadly in agreement - I believe that accessibility is not about people with disabilities, per se - it's about everyone.
However when we're talking about people with disabilities, we're talking about a proportion of the population who are already suffering disproportionately in terms of their ability to acess services and information. So in that regard, I think it's right to put particular emphasis and priority on the needs of people with disabilities. I suppose it's a kind of positive discrimination, something that I philosophically disagree with (because unfair discrimination is unfair discrimination, whichever way it goes); but pragmatically I feel a little different, if it's necessary to discriminate in one direction in order to counter discrimination from the opposite direction.
But still I hear you - perhaps if accessibility were viewed more as something that benefits everyone (as it does) rather than catering to a specific subset of needs (as it also does) then perhaps more developers would be persuaded to take it seriously.
But I'm not sure that's really the problem; I think it's just a case of priorities - accessibility is seen as a feature - something optional, that would be nice but isn't essential. From a strictly business point of view I can see some logic in that, but I think it's short-sighted (if you'll forgive the pun!). I mean - how many times have you heard people say words to the effect of
we don't need to care about accessibility because disabled people don't visit our site? I certainly have, and my retort is always the same -
maybe they don't visit your site because it's not acessible!
Posted by Ricardo Carrasco on 2007-03-24 at 06:25:46 (GMT)
you can only make a site accessible as the people who create the software for this situation, web developers have nothing to do with this issue. People that have accessibility issues with the internet have issues with driving a car, shopping, walking, seeing, hearing etc... it's that simple, just text; and pics if they can see, that's it, that's all, give me a break!
Posted by brothercake on 2007-03-24 at 14:12:53 (GMT)
A break from what exactly? What actually is your point?
Posted by steve on 2007-03-29 at 21:33:23 (GMT)
I agree with the frustrated sentiment "Give me a break!" offered by Ricardo Carrasco above.
calls for "Accessibility" as if it were something that could be 'provided' if only we designers weren't so stingy/unfeeling/poor coders!
The fact of the matter is there is a LOT of DIFFERENT types of disability and who is to say that catering for a bloody screen reader helps the blind?
Have ANY of you actually SPENT time with a blind person? Much of the current logic or suggestions for making web sites 'accessible' Menus as "ORDERED/UN ORDERED LISTS" are just so much irrelevant bullshit, working on the same ASSumptions that BLIND people are just like SIGHTED people, only with a little less vision, kinda like KIDS are just like ADULTS, only shorter. The fact is, the brains of the child input, contextualize and process information much differently than adults, and so do the brains of those w/o sight.
think about it.
Your best bet to developing blind ready software is to play some of those old text-only adventure games. There, you were forced to maintain a mental map of your current location, heading (or pathway) and inventory.
As a blind person entering the room, what you need is :
1. A quick orientation map
2. A list of the HOT areas of the room ie. Items Of Special Importance. each HOT item would of course indicate by way of its announcement whether IT has further hot items attached to it (ie. is it a path that I can follow?)
THIS PAGE: "Discuss: Technology is the last, best hope for accessibility"
Is logically invalid as it clouds the issue by referencing SITE navigational elements first instead of the page. Logically the most important parts of the page should be listed first (in outline form allowing drilldown)
PAGE TITLE (where you are) "DISCUSSING accessibility"
There are 5 comments
+ you can read comments
add a comment
BEHIND YOU HAVE THE PATH TO <BROTHERCAKE HOME>
TO YOUR LEFT :Other BrotherCake items are:
# Products & services
# Resources [this area]
TO YOUR RIGHT:
+NOTES FROM THE FIELD:
+BROWSERS AND DEVICES
+IDEAS AND PROTOTYPES
Textually you paint a picture the way a blind person would 'see' it. In a room, surrounded by 'objects' instead of 'looking' at a page!
Posted by brothercake on 2007-04-02 at 19:30:54 (GMT)
You make some fascinating points about the need for orientation cues to form a mental map. You're right also when you say that most people (myself included) have little experience of working with people who are blind, and no direct understanding of what it's actually like to be blind.
And so I thank you for your insight, and welcome it very much.
What I don't understand is your frustration or cry of "give me a break"? All I'm doing here is asking people to care - to try - and if I'm preaching to the converted in this case .. well, what? Is it just my tone you took exception to?
I'm not a puritan or a bleeding-heart liberal; I'm just trying to encourage people to give a toss if they don't already. (And I have some specific developers in mind, but that's between me and my mind!)
Posted by steve on 2007-04-04 at 17:49:50 (GMT)
so much of our accessibility efforts are unfocused blind gropings - "Screen Reader" software is largely a huge,expensive, unfortunate kludge.
we should flat out refuse to support such expensive, poorly designed and elitist hardware.
With stereo sound support now available to even the most basic PC, it is possible as web designers to make audio navigable web sites available (and accessible) to the walk up off the street Blind -user.
lest people think we are advocating a disproportionate allocation of resources to the .01% (or however many/few) prospective blind visitors to our site(s), realize that an audio driven site opens up your site to new markets and applications as well!
Just think "Interactive podcast" - with voice navigation, I can enjoy the Brothercake Audio site on my may to work, leave comments, even have a direct chat with members on the site!
You can buy audio books on Amazon (tm) or even Jackets and fur coats (a nice sultry voice tells you how good YOU would look in one )
All of this works best on a standards foundation though: The ubiquitous and somewhat mildly illogically structured File, Print Edit Menu seen in just about every GUI application (even those that neither have files nor printing) work because, well, they are everywhere! Maybe not where they should be, but where you expect them to be.
For consistent audio navigational cues, we need a standard
Introduction to page sound:
->I've announced the following material to you before.
->this is NEW material
->this is a regular category you've explored, but some of its underlying content has changed
(analagous to the Hover and Visited links CSS attributes)
theres a whole lot more, I really havent given it a lot of thought other than that provoked by this thread, but you get the idea!
I guess in short, my position is that to be accessible, YOU have to do more than layout hooks for some incompetent interface to grab, but to design a mini site specifically for the purpose and use the power of server side programming to limit duplication of content and structure as much as possible.
what we should do I guess, is work on developing a PDL (Page Description Language) or PNL (Page Navigation Language) that will then allow a helpful compiler/parser to 'build the mental map' that really supports true accessibility.
I think webdevs are more than willing to help with making sites accessible, if only they had the tools.
(p.s. One thing to take a look at is Microsoft Agent)
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