I saw this exchange between Christian Heilmann and Jared Smith on twitter today:
jared_w_smith “There are no bigger problems in Accessibility than following every paragraph of the guidelines.” says @codepo8. Amen brother!
codepo8 @jared_w_smith seriously, every forum and mailing list is running in circles. Accessibility is stuck in 1998, web development in 2012.
I follow most of the accessibility forums and have since 1995. In 1998, people were asking if the “alt” attribute had anything to do with the “alt key” on the keyboard. Today’s questions are about menus, gmail, ARIA, forms…When DHTML was first surfacing as a technique we were panicking because NO ONE was talking about it. Look where we are now: ARIA built into several toolkits and the major browsers and access technologies understand it.
Yes, the accessibility forums are not as far ahead as the developer forums and that sucks. But, there is a larger disconnect between accessibility and technology that shapes this gap. Accessibility and disability awareness is not part of everyone’s everyday experience. The cultural dialogue about basic human rights is ongoing…we’re still debating if accessibility is even a human right! Until it is assumed that every web site, every web application, every web service must be accessible, this gap will exist.
So, yes, the guidelines are pretty dense, but so is every other technical specification and that hasn’t stopped them from being adopted and used. There are bigger issues at play here.