Wendy Chisholm

Stairs make the building inaccessible, not the wheelchair. Co-author of Universal Design for Web Applications. Strategist for Microsoft. @wendyabc at twitter.

today’s stew

without comments

It’s interesting that comments on my previous stew focused on types of toilets (although, I am happy to have learned about the toto 2000). I’m not sure if that means the idea of monetary incentives for accessible web design should be flushed…

This morning as I prepared for my commute to work (the walk to the basement of our house), I was thinking about the comments on Scoble’s Will videoblogs be outlawed because of California‚Äôs accessibility laws? One of the concerns is limits on personal expression.

Having recently wrestled with making a slideset accessible, I can understand the pain and frustration. I don’t have the hours to spend futzing with broken software. I need to get those slides accessible, publish them, and move on. As a working mother, I only have 24 hours per week to do my work – and that goes by far too quickly.

With the civil rights movement, the government literally held doors open to ensure integration in schools and on buses. For accessibility, it almost seems as if we are holding the doors open but forgetting to fix the ramps and railings that lead to them. Those renovations hold a cost that the civil rights movement did not have to contend with. Civil rights is overcoming attitudes; human rights/disability rights not only has to change attitudes but must lower physical barriers as well. That cost – in time or money – is a barrier. How do we remove that barrier? Is it up to the government? The community?

Getting back to personal expression, our laws say nothing about making private homes accessible. In a similar vein, personal web sites are not covered by law. Again, looking at civil rights, if you don’t want to let a white person into your home, you don’t have to but if you own a business, you must open your doors.

On the web, the line between personal site and public service blurs. I would argue that Scoble’s site is not a personal site, he offers a public service – the information he disseminates is astounding (not only in quality but in quantity! :). But, who should pay for the captions of his videos? One of the values of what he is doing is the real-time interaction – streaming video from his phone.

When making information accessible, you can run into a lot of broken tools along the way – as I did yesterday (and let me pause here to apologize for using my blog as a venting receptacle. My purpose is to help make the world more accessible – bitching and moaning is not a constructive way to enter the dialog…I task myself with sending constructive feedback to folks working on OpenOffice and Acrobat and making sure the problems did not stem from my own ignorance). Unfortunately, the reality is that many tools are broken (or not as easy to use as they could be) and making information accessible is not always cheap and easy.

How do we make it cheap and easy? And this need for “cheap and easy” goes both ways. Not only do the barriers to information need to be lowered for people with disabilities – the typical screen reading or magnification software costs more than a desktop computer – the barriers to creating accessible information need to be lowered. So, who should assume the costs?

Written by wendy

July 10th, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Leave a Reply