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In Monday's post, I attempted to explain what "accessibility" means in terms of computing, while tossing out some statistics about what portion of the general population has issues with vision, hearing, and dexterity.
But, as someone so deftly pointed out to me, there is another group of people I left out: folks with cognitive disabilities, such as learning disabilities, people with Alzheimer's, dementia, and so on. Which tells me that even if you or I don't have any of those disabilities or issues I mentioned yesterday and just now, there's a pretty good chance that in the not-so-distant future we're going to need to use the technology that's out there, the work that's being done now to ensure that we remain a productive part of our society and the world at large.
<Whew. That's heavy stuff for Crabby.>
Today I want to give you a few more numbers (the "Who is it for?" numbers) so that you can understand WHY the issue of making and making available accessible software is so important. Next Monday and Wednesday, I'm going to delve deeper into what assistive technologies are out there, how YOU and your fellow employees can use them, and how you and your company can learn what it means to be responsible about making YOUR documents, spreadsheets, videos (and whatnots) accessible and obtainable to everyone.
Now, a couple of things to read, view, and think about before we get deeper into this topic next week. I hope you decide to take the time at last to scan the material because I'm telling you there WILL be a time when you're going to need something to help you out—or help your mom, your dad, a sibling, a friend, a recently discovered rich auntie—when it comes to computing.
Okay, so, there's not a whole lot of levity or humor in today's post, but you know, there IS a lot to think about. Friday I'll offer a grab bag of comments I received over the holidays, and I'm pretty sure there's at least one guffaw for each and every one of you in there...
Crabby's Find of the Day (appropos of nothing and thanks to Boing Boing for this story): "The Union Bank of Switzerland has released a new, 43-page dress-code for employees in four test branches that specifies things like what color underwear you're allowed to wear (underwear that matches your flesh-tones); what kind of tie-knot you're allowed to have (one suited to the "morphology" of your face); prohibitions on new shoes, millimetre-specific fingernail length requirements; and the dictum that any scent must be applied as soon as you leave the shower and no later."
First of all: great post with a valuable insight on accessibility! It's good to remind ourselves from time to time who we're doing it all for.
I do however have some questions:
Do you happen to know any user that loves it when he forgets one field in a rather large form before he submits, and then gets returned from the error page to a whole empty form again?
Do you know of any users that loves it when text has such a low contrast that they have to squint their eyes in order to read your content?
Do you know of any iPad user who's never been happier than that moment when he gets to a page where he sees a blank spot instead of a cool video?
The point I'm trying to make is this: building accessible websites has - in essence - nothing to do with people that have to cope with disabilities. It has to do with building thought-out interfaces with enough focus on each layer of the product: Code, content, styling and behavior. Of course we do have to make a few extra steps to make it fully accessible to anyone, but the general quality of your product should be sufficient to at least commit to WCAG level AA. If we would take 2 of 3 random websites of the internet, you'll probably find that this quality standard is where it goes wrong every single time.
I suggest we focus on this general quality first, with arguments like a logical interface, a better findability and a more usable website. If we can make this step, accessibility will take less effort to achieve.
Just my two cents, thanks for your insights!
Jeroen: Thank you so much for your well written and well thought-out comment. And of course you're absolutely correct: So much needs to be done, thought about, implemented before even attemtping to commmit to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG; Readers, more about what that is here: en.wikipedia.org/.../Web_Content_Accessibility_Guidelines).
I am in the process of finding one of our accessibilitiy group leaders to read and respond to your comment. If you could kindly send me an email (MSFTCrabby@hotmail.com) I most appreciate it. Then we can converse further about this important topci. I'd really lovey our input.