Web Accessibility

As I write this, am just recovering from an appendix operation. The symptoms were diagnosed in less than an hour and before I could say geek…I was in the operating room. Thank God I survived it and my love goes out to everyone that came to my rescue. Thanks and I love you all.

Complacency and disbelief are phases I go through when I think about web accessibility.

Working in a software development firm, where our day to day activity involves building applications and making old ones better; we spend time making sure our sites are accessible, that our applications degrade gracefully, that our JavaScript doesn’t create barriers when using our applications. We do this ad-hoc, without even a firm sense whether our target ultimately requires it. And for no reason other than its our job. In all we do, we make sure best practice is right at the top of our priorities.

Most developers out there don’t necessarily agree, to them its all about getting an application off the shelf and kicking accessibility to the curb. We should make an effort to create accessible content, because its’s part of our job. And frankly, it doesn’t take much effort.

Nobody’s expecting perfection. Nobody in their right mind ascends to the notion that everyone is equal, or that life is fair. People aren’t equal, and life isn’t fair. But that makes it even more important that we attempt to redress imbalances when we encounter them.

What we do is not rocket science — I won’t say it’s easy, but it’s not spectacularly difficult either. HTML was designed with accessibility in mind, and it provides the hooks and meta-information to make content more accessible: alt text for images; caption, summary and headers for tables; good heading structure; semantic use of paragraphs, lists and other structural markup. Used properly, our tools will do the job. Used badly, they create barriers.

And technology is the one area of human endeavour where that simply isn’t acceptable. Technology is not like the physical world, where there are good, tangible reasons why some things can never be accessible. A person who’s blind will never win the 100 meter dash; someone in a wheelchair will never be able to climb Mount Everest. Technology is not like the physical world — technology can take any shape. Technology is our slave, and we can make it do what we want.

If we call ourselves professionals, we owe it to our clients, their clients, and ourselves, to do our job properly. A chef must care about health, a builder must care about safety, and we must care about accessibility.

For starters let your next application be accessible to screen readers and work fine on mobile platforms…. It’s the end of a big year for us, and we’ve got a lot to celebrate … but of course there’s also plenty to look forward to in the year ahead! ……MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

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