Ben Langhinrichs

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When accessibility doesn't refer to "someone else" - being an accessibilty consumer

Wed 30 Aug 2006, 03:34 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Accessibility in software and on the web has been an interest of mine for a number of years, from adding Section 508 and WAI (web accessibility initiative) support to our Midas Rich Text LSX HTML generation capability, to my more recent interest in Open Document Format and document formats.  Yet, in all that time, I have thought of myself as a provider of accessibility.  Even my focus on making our corporate webpage fairly accessible has been due to a sense that we should do this for "those who need it", or worse yet, so that others who did care about accessibility would not be able to point out how inaccessible our website is.  My mindset has still always been that of a provider.

So, I was on Bob Sutor's blog today, and he happened to mention that he was making his links more visible.  I responded, then sat and read my response a couple of times, and realized that I am an accessibilty consumer.  Perhaps we all are.  Here is what I said over there (although don't hesitate to visit his excellent blog):
I have to say, my eyes are not so great, and I am somewhat color blind, so I can never see the links in your text. I just mouse over where I think a link might be, and if it shows an underline, I know it is really a link. Some additional indication would be great, especially in light of your interest in accesibility.
Now, I am 43 years old, so I am not an old man, and my color blindness is only a partial red/green blindness that I read is quite common.  But my point is, I would never think to tell someone else that their website, blog or software was "inaccessible".  I would either use it as best I could, or not use it if it got too annoying.  Accessibility is something other people have to deal with, or so I tend to think.

But it isn't.  Accessibility is something people need, people like me and you.  Some need it more, some need it less, but it is a reasonable thing to expect.  It is not just a politically correct thing to do, or an expiditious way to gain business from government agencies who do have such requirements.  It is a way to treat your readers and users as people, worthy of respect, and worth keeping.  The flip side is, as a consumer, it is also my right, and responsibility, to let people know when their websites, blogs or software are not meeting my needs, even if I am not blind or uneducated or culturally different.  I will try to do so proudly.  How about you?

Copyright 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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