Asking for access

This week I noticed a great post by lightgetsin on asking for accessibiilty improvements in which she records the results of asking a couple of dozen sites to fix inaccessible content.

It was a familiar story to me, very similar to what happens when I ask for accessibility accommodations off the web. Sometimes no response at all; sometimes a few reasons why the person or company can’t be bothered; very often, outright hostility, fear, and defensiveness.

Lightgetsin’s post became very popular over the past few days and the responses were quite interesting.

The reactions on Hacker News, Asking for accessibility gets you nothing but grief, were often faily but in complicated ways, worth reading and sometimes worth arguing with. You can see from many of the responses that it is the norm for developers to think that it’s not worth it to make software or sites accessible. Their reasons vary. There are also excellent and positive comments in the Hacker News thread.

Bryant Park accessibility sign

Naomi Black from Google responded to the post in a more helpful way, pointing to Google’s accessibility page.

I’m glad that lightgetsin’s post has sparked such widely ranging discussion.

It’s always hilarious to me when people ask me for help or advice with web accessibility or want me to be on web accessibility panels at conferences. I’m a wheelchair + crutches user; I don’t surf the web with my legs! And while I want to be a good ally, frankly, I am not always, and don’t have particularly special knowledge about web accessibility. You could boil down what I know into “use alt tags on images”, “don’t autoplay stuff”, “transcribe videos”, “make the text in hyperlinks meaningful”. So I try to refer people to actual experts in the field, when I get asked.

I’m spending the morning today checking my blogs with WAVE, a tool to show errors that would break a web site reading experience for users of screen readers. I’m also going to install the WAVE Firefox toolbar, to help remind me to check my blog posts for obvious accessibility errors. I’m looking at this huge list of resources, hoping to learn a bit more: Web Design References: Accessibility.

What guides or tools would you recommend for web developers, bloggers, or software developers, to educate themselves about accessibility?

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4 Responses to Asking for access

  1. Liz Henry says:

    Thomas Logan added some recommendations over on my short post on accessibility on Google +,

    “I like WebAim which you already mentioned. I recently found http://www.ssa.gov/webcontent/developer_resources.html which looks fairly new and comprehensive. The WCAG2 techniques are good for developers that need code examples http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-TECHS/.
    I also like +Chris Pederick’s Web Developer toolbar which has a multitude of uses including assisting in fixing a lot of accessibility issues in web content. http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/

  2. Liz Henry says:

    More suggestions from Anna and Lisa:

    Lisa Hirsch: Anyone can install JAWS, a screen-reader widely used by people with sight limitations, point it at your web sites, and see if JAWS can read the pages.

    http://www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/jaws-product-page.asp

    Anna Pearce – Another option is a website called webanywhere: http://webanywhere.cs.washington.edu/ It’s aimed at allowing people who need a screen reader to be able to use one even on public computers.

    Also:
    I want to develop a more accessible website: what do I do? from the Disabled Feminists blog.

  3. My experience as a web designer/developer is that including basic accessbility features is easy and sensible. The real problems come from (a) the art/design department, and (b) the CEO or equivalent.

    Artists, as a rule, have a great deal of trouble imagining things from other people’s POV. They tend to have a very strong “vision” and hyper-strong aesthetic preferences, so they will resist anything that e.g. makes fonts more readable or images resizable. They often have a lot of psychological difficulty even doing something as simple as looking at the site on different screens — the fact that the site *never* looks exactly the same makes them very cranky, and they’ll often start demanding “pixel-perfect” implementation even though, IMO, that is Doing It Wrong On The Internet.

    The CEO (= the highest-ranking person who has to sign off on the site) is generally short-tempered and has a short attention span. They don’t read, so the fact that the text is illegible doesn’t bother them. They often are the sorts who e.g. want everything to be in Flash, because it looks cool.

    I could rant for hours …

  4. Liz says:

    For blog accessibility in particular, you might want to check out Glenda Watson Hyatt’s stuff – http://blogaccessibility.com/ and http://doitmyselfblog.com. She does a great job breaking down the more complicated recommendations into something usable.

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