disabilities

Bruno Girin brunogirin at gmail.com
Mon May 24 10:52:59 BST 2010


On Mon, 2010-05-24 at 02:18 -0500, Kenny Hitt wrote:
> Hi.
> On Mon, May 24, 2010 at 02:08:11AM +0100, Phillip Whiteside wrote:

[snip]

> > I asked on the forum for someone to check and see if my coding was correct -
> > I had exactly zero replies back.  How do you expect me to push forward
> > people to include the minor code changes as they are learning when none of
> > "you" are even prepared to see if it is correct?
> > 
> I don't know for sure, but there are likely very few disabled people on the standards committy.  There
> is likely a token member, but the real power is with sighted people who consider this as just
> some cool project and don't really get that there delay causes real problems for the disabled.

There are more than disabled people on standard committees than you
think. In practice, the problem is not with web and accessibility
standards themselves, they are with their implementation in browsers and
how well (or not) they are followed by web site designers. My experience
in the industry is that there are very few designers who are aware of
standards and why they should be followed. And even when they are aware
of accessibility standards, they don't understand them well enough to
argue the case for following them, especially when it is perceived that
following the standards will increase the development cost. I constantly
face this problem in my day job: every time I need to write
specifications for a new web based system, I include accessibility
guidelines and invariably I get answers like "that will increase the
cost by X" or "that will delay delivery by Y" when it's not an outright
"we can't do that".


> 
> > So, I shrug my shoulders and say "well, at least I tried".
> > 
> > It is not my loss that you have gotten yet another person do that, it is
> > your loss as a group.
> > 
> Actually, it is my loss since I don't know anything about web design or standards.
> Once again, I'm not part of the "group" you are talking about.  I'm just a user who is loosing access to more and more
> sites because some "educated" sighted people don't get it and don't listen.
> The "educated" sighted people in this case are the web standards group.
> BTW, my experiences with Firefox and Gnome are making me do the same as you.  I am finding myself
> lumping all sighted people into the same group of fuckers who don't get it.
> This is bad for both of us.

It's true, as a person with no disability, it took me a long time to get
it. And I don't think I completely get it yet but at least I'm now able
to make a judgement call on whether some code uses techniques that are
likely to cause accessibility issues. This is to be expected: it is
extremely difficult for someone who does not have a given disability to
understand what it is like to live with that disability. In fact, I
suspect it is difficult for a blind person to understand the challenges
faced by people with motor disabilities for instance.

What really opened my eyes was attending a talk by Robin Christopherson
from AbilityNet [1] at the @media conference [2] a few years ago. What
made the difference was not the content of the presentation but the fact
that it was delivered by a blind user and got me to see first hand what
issues blind people face when using a computer. And that's the problem
with accessibility: even with the best will in the world, it's
impossible for non-disabled people to understand the challenges faced by
disabled people without witnessing them first hand. And very few
developers ever see first hand the software they produce used by
disabled users.

All this to say that to solve accessibility problems, we need to talk to
each other and understand that "getting it" is very difficult for able
people. Which means that able people need to be ready to listen and see
their assumptions and "cool ideas" challenged; while disabled people
need to be patient in explaining why a particular design doesn't work
for them and suggesting constructive alternatives.

[1] http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/webteam#robin
[2] http://atmedia.webdirections.org/

Bruno





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