Wendy Chisholm

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

Archive for the ‘humanrights’ tag

The Girl Effect

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I was so moved by The Girl Effect (video). I wish everyone would watch it. Here’s a transcript for those unable to view it. Note there is no speech during the video only music. The following words display briefly on the screen one or a few at a time. Where the words interact to create an effect, I’ve attempted to describe the animation to convey the message. Enjoy.

The world is a mess. Poverty. AIDS. Hunger. War.

So what else is new?

What if there were an unexpected solution that could turn this sinking ship around?

Would you even know it if you saw it?

It’s not the internet.  It’s not science. It’s not the government. It’s not money.

It’s (dramatic pause) a girl.

Imagine a girl living in poverty. No. Go ahead. Really. Imagine her.

Description: The word “girl” in large orange letters with the small, black words “flies” flying around like flies. “Baby” small and in front of her. The word “husband,” much larger than “girl” falls into the scene and looks to weigh heavily on her. “Hunger” pops up from below, pushing up “husband,” “girl” and “baby.” “HIV” pushes up from below.

[Back to words displaying on the screen one or a few at a time]

Pretend that you can fix this picture.

Description: The stack of husband, girl, baby, hunger, hiv appears. All of the words fall away except “girl.”

Ok. Now she has a chance.

Let’s put her in a school uniform and see her get a loan to buy a cow and use her profits from the milk to help her family.

Pretty soon, her cow becomes a heard. And she becomes the business owner who brings clean water to the village, which makes the men respect her good sense and invite her to the village council where she convinces everyone that all girls are valuable.

Soon, more girls have a chance and the village is thriving.

Description: A stack forms with the following words: Village, Food, Peace, Lower HIV, Healthier babies, Education, Commerce, Sanitation, Stability. The stack becomes so large that the top words have been pushed off of the screen. Stability flashes again briefly.

Which means the economy of the entire country improves and the whole world is better off.

Are you following what’s happening here?

Girl -> School -> Cows -> $ -> Business -> Clean H20 -> Social change -> Stronger economy -> Better world

It’s called the girl effect.

Multiply that by 600 million girls in the developing world and you’ve just changed the course of history.

Written by wendy

January 7th, 2010 at 1:04 am

HTML 5–What I’m Watching

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I have recently become glued to my computer monitor as the latest reality show “HTML 5” unfolds. Since I was a participant in previous W3C reality shows (both seasons of WCAG), I understand some of the history and sympathize with many of the participants/actors. Here’s my take on where things are and where I hope they are going.

HTML 5 is the first time where people with disabilities are at the language development table at the same time as everyone else and I think the reason things have gone a little wonky is that we aren’t used to being at the table at all or we show up to the table a decade after everyone has left (Windows and AJAX are both good examples). There are two very different cultures learning how to work together. It’s exciting and frustrating to watch.

For example, Ian suggesting that aria could be incorporated after Last Call stirs up a lot of history and emotion. We’ve seen it happen far too many times where accessibility is thrown out for the sake of progress and it’s nearly impossible to catch up if we miss that initial window. (While some people seem to be assuming a Second Last Call is a given, there is no guarantee.)

In terms of the canvas element, we’ve already missed the window. canvas is implemented in Firefox, Opera, and Safari and several applications exist that are not accessible such as bespin. I’m heartened by the quick pace of the work to remedy the situation, but it’s hard to tell how it will play out.

Here are the things I’ll be watching and hoping for with the spec in general:

  1. As of last Friday’s Canvas Accessibility Task Force meeting, folks at Apple (Doug and James) are working on a prototype that creates a limited object model with aria attributes. I’ll be interested to see what information will be available to access technologies, how that information is provided, and how someone will interact with it.
  2. One of my biggest concerns with canvas is that current implementations use JavaScript to draw pixels and there are no objects or nodes to which you can attach aria semantics. I’m hoping that object-oriented JavaScript libraries (like Objective-J) build in aria and that people will use these instead of just drawing pixels. Folks are talking about creating “shadow DOMs” (or shadow trees) that sit behind or beside a canvas. While I’m happy for a solution that will work, that one doesn’t seem to be directly accessible. There’s a lot to watch in this area to ensure we don’t end up with something that looks like Flash circa 1998.
  3. I like the direction that the HTML WG and the PF WG are taking in integrating ARIA into HTML5. I’ll be watching for the HTML WG response to Steven’s proposal.
  4. The discussion about text alternatives is puzzling. I’ll definitely keep tabs on that, although I have a lot to catch up on to understand the issues.
  5. Dare I even touch the summary attribute? [grin] It seems that it was used as a sacrificial lamb to make a process point. While it was intense, the energy and space that were created as a result look promising and I hope are sustainable.

Overall, I think things are heading in a good direction. Having been an editor on two specifications that were fairly contentious, I know it is hard work to find the “right” words that a disparate set of people will be willing to build consensus around. And, consensus is really, really hard. It isn’t unanimous; it’s “what can we all live with.” And since we all have to live with compromise, it isn’t perfect in anyone’s eyes–that’s the most disappointing aspect of specification writing. But, that same compromise is also the beauty because it shows commitment and connection for the future.

So, I’ll keep watching the “HTML5 Reality Show” and hope that accessibility doesn’t get voted off of the island. On the surface the discussion is about elements, attributes and apis, but at its heart it is about everyone’s ability to participate in the future society that will be based on these technologies.

A big shout out to all of you in the HTML 5 trenches. This is really hard work and keep at it. I’m watching, cheering, and jeering from safely behind my monitor. [grin]

Written by wendy

August 25th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Is web accessibility a human rights issue?

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A post from David Baron questions if web accessibility is a human rights issue.  Here’s a quick summary of some of his major points: He acknowledges that laws exist that give people with disabilities basic human rights and that on-line government services should be made accessible. He disagrees that Flickr should require all photos to have alt-text and he believes that requiring all web services and applications be accessible would stymie innovation. He calls people such as John Foliot and Matt May extremists and worries that “this community is in significant danger of being taken over by, or at least best known by, those within it who espouse such extreme positions that they risk causing the entire community to be ignored.”

David says, “It’s far better for accessibility to be the automatic result of writing HTML in the normal way rather than something that has to be done as an extra development step” Yes! That’s part of the goal of the W3C Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG). If the tools just produced accessible content, then voila. The web would be more accessible.

David wants us to explain why access to the web is a human rights issue.

Human rights refer to the “basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.”[1] Examples of rights and freedoms which have come to be commonly thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights. Fetched 12 March 2009

Web services and applications are becoming the way that people participate in culture, buy food, work, and learn. Therefore, ensuring that they are accessible to all people is a human right. This is supported in the United Nations  Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that has been signed by 139 countries. Article 9 – Accessibility and Article 21 – Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information specifically mention services provided via the internet.

It’s important for us to recognize each other’s concerns. On the one hand we have technologists who want to create things to help make the world better–help people communicate more richly and quickly, to create technologies for self-expression and commerce. Rock on. We want you to innovate because you’re changing the world.  On the other hand we have people who want to use the technologies and to participate in society. When the technologists say, “Don’t make me think about accessibility, I want to be innovative.” The response from people with disabilities can be hostile because the message from the technologists is, “I do not value you enough to include you in my innovation.”

The funny thing about David’s post is that he mentions the invention of the telephone. Thomas Edison was hard of hearing and part of the reason he spent so much time experimenting was that he wanted a device to help him hear. For Edison’s invention to be complete, it took the help of another person involved in the Deaf community, Alexander Graham Bell, who in his experiments to understand speech,  invented the microphone. In both instances, inspired by friends and family who had hearing loss, they changed the world.

The irony is that these technologies changed the way we communicate so much, that people who are deaf were unable to participate and it was later that the modem (for the TDD) and other devices were developed. But, those tools were in response to the earlier inventions and have further changed the way we communicate.

Therefore, the exact worry that David has–lack of innovation–is exactly what we’ll avoid if people with disabilities *are* considered in the design and experimentation of new ideas!  So, see, we really *all* can get along and no one gets hurt. Come on folks, let’s go play and have some fun.

Written by wendy

March 12th, 2009 at 3:52 pm