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Is Accessibility Hard To Learn And Implement?

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#1 cre8pc


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Posted 05 February 2008 - 05:24 PM

I found myself agreeing with this piece:

Helping others understand web accessibility

I like accessibility. It's taken some time to learn and there's a lot to memorize. As the article says, much of the documentation is hard to understand.

In my work testing sites, I can tell that most developers still miss the basics, like alt attributes, link attributes, contrasts, text alternatives to scripts and plug ins...to name a few.

What do you think prevents mass adoption of good accessibility implementation? What prevents you from learning it in greater detail?

#2 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 06:21 PM

Damn good topic!

I seriously believe the biggest hinderance to accessibility on the net is sheer ignorance.
Most people in the UK don't even realise that laws/rules/regulations were passed years ago regarding discrimination, let alone the more recent EU ones.

After ignorance comes laziness in second place. Considering the vast number of sites that don't scale text, or have strong contrast in fore/background colours etc., it's not a suprise that a large number of sites aren't very friendly to certain user-types. Some people simply do not stop and think, let alone test.
What is just as worrying is the whole "it passes, that will do" mentality that some develop... they don't think about the extras (bigger reactive areas, form highlights etc.)

A severe shortage of "validated" instructional material is to my mind third place, (official resources, things that you know are "true" and not heresay etc.).
Most of our fields have issues in regards to accessing details on "right/wrong" and "good/bad" practice/methods etc... yet the accessibility area seems one of the worst (which is kind of perversly funny if you think on it!).
Trying to find out how to do something is hard enough, especially if you lack the correct terminology in the first place - then when you do find something, understanding it can prove difficult (just look at the specs!).
(It would be a serious help if along side the ever increasing list of "Don'ts" to see a nice set of "Do's" and "How To's" with it.)

I'd say fourth place has to go to inability to comprehend/empathise/relate to the difficulties that can be encountered. I admit to not being overly pleased to discover that I really had to make my sites accessible (esp. when I couldn't find anyhting to help), but ended up convinced when reading something Jim Thatcher wrote... and decided to try using a site with a screen-reader. After a whole 2 minutes, I redoubled my efforts to find useful info... no way I could cope with some of the stuff other people have to!

There... that let out some of the steam :)

Edited by Autocrat, 05 February 2008 - 06:23 PM.

#3 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 07:09 PM

Oooh...I want to contribute to this right now, but I have to run to a rehearsal in five minutes --- I'll be back!

#4 iamlost


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Posted 05 February 2008 - 08:05 PM

I can tell that most developers still miss the basics...

The answer, my friends, is that most developers do not actually understand what they are doing.

They learn something and that is their tool and approach from then on out. Being able to build in Dreamweaver or Wordpress, to create in Photoshop, to add-on osCommerce, etc. is being able to utilise extremely useful applications BUT how many of those same people can hand tweak them? Actually know what those scripts and code mean and do?

So many have no concept of business or market planning that it certainly is no surprise that those that fail to plan for themselves also fail to consider accessibility for others.

That so many have made so much for so long with such little thought is a testiment to the newness of the medium. We took what we could get because that was all that was available. That is increasingly changing. Off-line standards are coming on-line as the big players come onboard. As governments require various standards, including accessibility, for their sites CMSes will slowly become more standards compliant. Those aforementioned applications are much more 'accessible' than just a few years ago.

It will be a slow process. But the taming of the World Wild Web is underway. I find it encouraging that civilisation is coming both from the top (governments) and the bottom (evangelists and best practice dweebs) meeting in some middle with standards organisations and commercial entities.

A few more Target and similar lawsuits will put accessibility front and centre in a lot more clients minds. And that is what, in the end, will cause web inaccessibility developers to evolve or die: client expectations and requirements.

#5 A.N.Onym


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Posted 06 February 2008 - 02:37 AM

Accessibility doesn't ring a bell, because:
- people think it is related to handicapped people only
- there's no obvious direct connection between accessible coding and good results
- it is branded as "accessibility" in terms of "do it for the 15% and for the law", not "to earn 15%+ more money".

If the branding of A becomes more focused on the benefits to either parties and the results can be tracked and become obvious, there won't be many problems.

Another simple way would be to integrate accessible practises into existing practises, such as web coding, SEO and usability. Heck, most of my SEO/usability practice is already 80-100% accessible. I don't see why people don't do this, really.

Maybe they should read the AAA checklist a couple of times (or find a human-friendly version somewhere), really. Now, the answer to your question may relate to the other thread we've had about the usability/accessibility of this very checklist (someone please post the link, I can't remember the thread title for the life of me), too.

It isn't a technology issue, it is a comprehension issue.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 06 February 2008 - 02:39 AM.

#6 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 11:02 AM

I have to say that at a fundamental level, web accessibility is very easy. As the complexity of the site grows, so do the accessibility issues, but when you take a relatively simple example site, making it accessible is simply not all that challenging.

However, it does require attention to detail, compassion, and understanding.

Both Yuri and Iamlost touched on some of the key issues: developers who don't know what they're doing and people who don't care about accessibility on principle and don't understand the added value associated with it. But leaving those groups aside, attention to detail is a pretty crucial element.

It's very easy to take shortcuts when it comes to accessibility. It's easy to decide that the color combination you've chosen is perfect, despite the fact that it fails color contrast guidelines. It's easy to decide that it's just simpler to design using graphics instead of headings. It's easy to assume "oh, everybody who comes to this site will understand these abbreviations." But in the end, making sure that a site is optimally built for accessibly requires a lot of forethought into the kinds of issues your audience might need to confront.

Attention to detail is where people who are actually knowledgeable and concerned with accessibility are most likely to fall down: because they got lazy when it came to actually checking on every detail. Making sure spelling is correct, grammar is correct, and punctuation is proper, for example. Screen readers read what they find: errors and all. Well-written text is far, far easier to understand when read than a garbled mess.

#7 glyn


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Posted 06 February 2008 - 11:21 AM

For me:
1.accessibility is about following every single link and making sure that it results in a piece of information or an instruction that tells the user where they stand.
2.HTML coding pages properly gives the technical accessbility requirements.

Many webmasters/designers don't do A, and as a result people get lost and think this company doesn't care about me. They also make bad assumptions about who their users are.

But I'm guessing that most of the problem is that most websites does not have a good webmaster/project manager who is the key to getting all the parts of the puzzle (programming, marketing, branding, design, information) together. What usually happens is one of the specializations end up taking the lead role, either from the start or along the way, resulting in something that is either written from a programmers point of view (good scripting, crap interface), designers point of view (looks good but no one can navigate it), or information point of view (tells the story but leaves the user thinking I'm never coming back).


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