I'm disappointed to hear that this person got such negative feedback from the companies they contacted. It probably sounds cheesy, but I fixed quite a few bugs related to accessibility and to this day I get a happy feeling remembering the feedback we got from the customers for whom this support was critical to their ability to earn a living as a software developer.
I don't know if it has to do with US government ADA requirements or not, but I'm glad that across the board Microsoft tends to build accessible software.
For Visual Studio 2005, at least, this certainly didn't hurt, but we also had an incredibly dedicated and passionate group of people working on this issue, putting together brown bags educating developer division on MSAA and building accessible software, bringing in the creators of JAWS, logging bugs against every nook and cranny of the product, etc. etc.
I wish I could remember the names of everyone who was involved in this, but Sara Ford was instrumental. I'm glad I got to be a part of the whole thing, even though my contributions were focused on project management-type stuff.
I'm embarrassed I can't remember their names either. It was a great group of people. (Hey Arron! Hey Lars!) But yes, the accessibility virtual team consisted of about 50 people across the division all using JAWS, Window Eyes, and other programs to open bugs. Really good times.
The ADA requirements are pretty minimal -- it just has to "work." All the work we did to, for example, make the reader's navigation order sensible within the tree views for the solution explorer and class browser was because we wanted it to be good.
And because Sara Ford would just open another bug if we didn't fix it right, as mentioned in one other comment :-)
I understand that X Does Not Support Screenreaders is an imposition for folks who have issues with standard browsers, particularly because there are an awful lots of Xes. At the same time, X Does Not Support Screenreaders Because Of Y, and there are an awful lot of Ys, too.
You might think that scanning a menu and formatting a menu in HTML are approximately equally as easy. Not so much, no. There is an actual cost here. For a restaurant menu, that is likely to only be in the couple hundreds of dollars range. (<joke>I will entertain complaints about this from people who don't bill in six minute increments.</joke>)
For more complex applications, this can -- easily -- run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is easy to underestimate how expensive it is because you only see the element from the set of Ys that caused non-compatibility in the present instance, not the entire set of Ys which you have to a) avoid and b) rigorously test against.
Getting down to brass tacks, the population which benefits from any particular engineering effort to address a Y is generally very small and, often, far smaller in marginal value to the business than the cost of addressing that Y. It has occasionally been the public policy of the US that businesses are supposed to subsidize that population (see: Americans with Disabilities Act, etc). Reasonable people can disagree on whether that is a justice-maximizing policy.
But there needs to be economic incentives for this to work (and regulation is an economic incentive). Asking a business to be altruistic is like asking a bear to not eat your trash.
I get kinda annoyed by Capitalism Means Being A Heartless Bastard, because it doesn't. Businesses are routinely altruistic for the same reason that businesses are routinely greedy: like soylent green, they're made out of people.
I don't think the most important social progress happens spontaneously.
However, there is another way in which capitalism makes things better: it does its best to find markets for everything. For instance, Unilever sells very small packages of washing powder in India, which is optimized to be used in rivers. Previously, people in India did not have access to washing powder (the regular large packages were too expensive and the stuff wasn't very useful in the river). Now they have access to washing powder, which improves hygiene.
However, instructions on packages of washing powder are not printed in braille.
What an awful example.
Before washing powder, people used a bar of wash soap: cheaper, more convenient, purpose-designed and doesn't come in single-use packages encouraging you to use more than you need. (Wash soap also does a much better job than any powder I have tried when hand-washing, although YMMV.)
This sounds like a classic case of a large corporation's marketing department convincing people to buy a product that is more expensive and no better (and possibly worse) than what they currently have.
For the definitive example of this, see Nestle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nestl%C3%A9_boycott#The_baby_mi...
They have simply entered a market with a competing product. Unless you have evidence that their product is inferior to competing solutions and that they know it, but intend to overcome that problem by outmarketing the competition, then you really don't have any support for your position. Nestle has nothing to do with it until then.
I'm only relaying what I've heard an employee tell and I assume good faith: they changed their product such that it would be suitable for a new market and a nice side effect is that the product becomes available at all (which is nice because it improves matters). I have no stake in this and will readily revise my ideas, but not based on an unsupported accusation.
which is nice because it improves matters
But you haven't actually demonstrated that it improves anything, you simply asserted it without proof.
And this is not something that can just be assumed to be true, because the pre-existing solution really is very good.
OK MS does screw up, but much less than pretty much everyone else they have competed with. Google, Sun, post-Jobs's-return Apple, and Canonical are also good at doing stuff right.
Indeed, we're all going to get old. Being "able-bodied" is fleeting; enjoy it while it lasts.
In a perfect world, we'd do both things at the same time. When people thing about accessibility now they think about people with mental or physical problems, but what about when our generation gets old? The only reason this is not a very widespread problem is that there are very few people with accessibility problems, this will not be the case 10-15 years from now.
Even the basic steps of using alt text, and seeing if your pages are readable with no CSS, and with different browser font sizes takes care of a huge number of issues that people encounter every single day. There are many more users affected than you think, and it's insanity to blatantly alienate customers.
The argument about accessibility has essentially always been that processes and things being designed for accessibility from the outset doesn't really cost anything extra, it's bolting accessibility on afterwards that gets so very expensive.
That argument is convenient for some advocates to believe in a way which is orthogonal to its truth about a statement of engineering reality.
What if the restaurant only got a final image from the graphic designer? I know it's silly and restaurants should ask for the proper files with layers & text etc., but lots of them don't know about this.
Imagine a GetSatisfaction-type site where you publicly list and track accessibility issues. Apart from making these issues more visible, the upside to fixing an accessibility issue goes way up because now you have something embarrassing in your SERP for all to see instead of a few disgruntled non-customers.
In the UK its a bit different. No cases yet, but give it time.
Write tests with KIF, ensure that blind and low-vision users can use your app, ensure that your app is functional. What's not to love?
 i'm totally unaffiliated with Square, its creators. I just happen to be in love with it, that's all.
For example http://validator.nu/?doc=http%3A%2F%2Flightgetsin.dreamwidth... shows some possible WebAIM accessibility guidelines breaches.
- non-valid mark-up.
4.1.1 Significant HTML/XHTML validation/parsing errors are avoided.
4.1.2 Markup is used in a way that facilitates accessibility.
This includes following the HTML/XHTML specifications and
using forms, form labels, frame titles, etc. appropriately.
1.1.1 Form inputs have associated text labels or, if
labels cannot be used, a descriptive title attribute.
- Use a modern doctype (of the strict variant if not HTML5)
- Don't use deprecated tags like <b> for article headings.
- Provide an option to skip large lists.
If you start wielding all these guidelines and specifications like a D&D guide you are sure to bump into hostility here and there. :)
Please stop using 'flashing images' as a way to co-opt epileptics into defense of the issue-of-the-day (that's the only thing I can think of as to why you included it). Yes, some epileptics do respond to flashing images (~15% have the kind required, less actually respond), but the parameters are pretty tight for the bulk of them. The kind of flashing that can trigger a seizure is also monumentally irritating to regular users, and generally hasn't been used since the 90s.
I spent four years in a full-time job where I sat in the dark flashing lights at epileptic and suspected epileptic patients, 4-6 times a day while recording EEG, so I've got a reasonable subjective feel for the kind of flashing that fires it off. I've spent a lot of time on the web, too, and the only thing that even comes close in general use are the flashing-style 'you are the 999999th visitor' ads, and even then they usually subtend too small an arc of the visual field.
For the record, the usual range for photosensitive epileptics to respond to flashing images or lights is 12-20Hz, with a peak different for each patient and with some rolloff at each end. Above 25Hz epileptic responses are extremely rare - I've not personally seen one, but they do exist.
Yes, there are some epileptics that can have a seizure from a single camera flash, and I've seen them, but they're reasonably rare amongst flash-responsive epileptics (themselves an uncommon group). I've also heard of an epileptic whose trigger was orange circles - not orange other shapes, or other coloured circles (anything can be a trigger for a seizure). At what point do you set the bar for rarity?
Sorry, but it gets up my nose - almost every time I've seen someone 'defend epileptics' online, they don't actually know much about epilepsy, and seem more to be using common mythology about epilepsy in order to co-opt the illness to strengthen a point being made.
Of course, two other common forms of trigger, depending on the kind of epilepsy, are stress and hyperventilation (strictly speaking, these are less triggers and more threshold-to-event reducers). In this case, one could argue that frustrating site design works against epileptics...
Which have the following guidelines (or myths?):
- allow users to control flickering, avoid causing the screen to flicker
- allow users to control blinking, avoid causing content to blink
- allow users to freeze moving content, avoid movement in pages
While people with epilepsy are browsing web sites, they
may encounter pages that have blinking texts and
animation that may trigger seizures. Sudden loud sounds
and repetitive audio in some web pages can also cause
It seems you have an uphill battle to fight if mentioning epilepsy and accessibility in one sentence gets up your nose. Like my quotes show, I am not the fringe 'defend epileptics' spreader of myths here, this is part of the accessibility topic.
What I was really reacting against was if you search hard enough any site will breach some accessibility guideline for a ... epileptic user. The other three, sure. But I just do not come across any kind of website offering a service that violates these principles. You could throw a brick and find any website that violates guidelines for people with blindness or mental illness. You'd have to search for specific audio-based sites to find ones that discriminate against deaf folks (I can't see how HN does so, for example, but I may be missing something). But you'd have to go through a lot of service-offering sites to find a serious one that caused problems for epileptics.
The only kind of violation of these principles I could think of is a bug anyway - the issue where a mouseover changes the shape of a menu, moving it out from under the pointer, reverting the menu back to original shape, repeat ad infinitum.
Apart from that, I just don't see websites that cause problems. Served ads on some low class websites, perhaps (999999!), but not the content that the website itself is providing.
Solutions for epileptics to use poorly designed sites (if they were a real problem like they are for the blind) are here anyway - [Esc] in pretty much every browser cancels image animation. Flashblock kills flash dead, allowing you to throttle it to your needs. If you're really, really susceptible to simple movement as an epileptic (I've never heard of it, but it could happen, I guess - see the orange circle guy), you can install noscript, which breaks a lot of websites, but kills non-image animation dead. But if you're that susceptible, you're extremely rare and the web probably shouldn't be designed around your use case.
It seems you have an uphill battle to fight if mentioning epilepsy and accessibility in one sentence gets up your nose.
Please read my comment again. It's not 'mentioning them in the same sentence', that's a strawman.
If you're stuck in a wheelchair, it's good when people build ramps, but it's far, far better to have a wheelchair that can go up stairs.
The former makes you dependent on the consideration of others, and sometimes that consideration is really not a reasonable thing to ask or expect.
Even in this apparently simple case, as others have pointed out, it is not easy to make everything accessible to screen readers. Also, what about older websites and archives of scans and so forth? It's far better to focus on tools that let one be as independent as possible.
I understand the annoyance. And I really hate it when people respond to requests like this in a hostile manner. But at the end of the day it is better if the person with exceptional needs can take on the responsibility for making these transactions possible themselves. (Also I'm sure there's loads of money to made developing these tools.)
Along the same lines, the purpose of accessible digital text isn't only to help the blind, it's also to help the dyslexic and who knows who else, and generally facilitate content extraction software of all types. It's good when to do when it's feasible, but it's better to not have to rely on people doing it.
Perhaps in the future online information will be pushed in formats like rss and our client device will do far more rendering? We will all access content in a way that suits us?
I mean, come on. I'm sorry company X site was all but useless to you. It would be nice if they made an extra effort to make it more accessible. But they don't have to. They spend their own money, time and effort to build the site, and they get to decide what their priorities are. Asking is okay, but so is refusal.
I was interning in a government related web development job, and it took several weeks to properly remake a site to conform to WCAG AA level standards. Unfortunately, that was just for the templates. The dynamic content generated by the CMS usually breaks the conformance. Making websites accessible is not an easy task, and could cost a heavy amount for small businesses.
How is this Google and not Jaws fault?
Also in this case, even if Google Instant wasn't crashing Jaws, Google Instant plays havoc with screen readers (yes, I have experience of this), and as the article says, Google haven't provided a global off option, which would be really useful.
All most screen-readers want is a really basic HTML interface, preferably no AJAX at all. Even if it is slow and needs to re-load a lot, that is still preferable to no access.
This mode is step one, just basic competence in authoring. If your content isn't available in a self-describing form at a stable URL (regardless of any presentation you may layer on top of that later), you are building a lowly client/server app that leeches off the Web rather than contributing to it.
Not making it easy to disable is definitely google's fault.
I also suspect any hostile response would be due in part to the concern that someone is going to swing the big bat of government at them.
In the past I've made a few websites where the owner required images incorporated into the menu. I've spoken to owners about accessibility, countless times, but more often then not I end up having to do some retarded flash intro coupled with a graphic heavy menu. Owners don't care, they want it to match their vision, and of course they don't want to pay extra to have everything made accessible to the blind as they are probably some percentage of a point of their customer base.
That's why economic forces didn't do much to open up things for blacks in the south between the Civil War and the era of Federal civil rights law. If you have a "No Coloreds" policy, and the store down the road does not then yes, they'll get the black business you are giving up--but they are giving up to you the business of people who do not want to shop around black people. The latter is worth more to the bottom line than the former, so you'll actually likely come out ahead economically with a "No Coloreds" sign hanging out in front of your shop.
Then that business down the road decides they'd rather have half of the whites-who-don't-want-to-shop-around-blacks business rather than all of the black business, and out comes the "Whites Only" sign on their store. Yes, they have less total customers after the change, but the white customers are wealthier than the black customers and that makes up for the difference in quantity.
Now it gets interesting. The mathematics of this kind of discrimination turn out to be the same as the mathematics of a boycott of a small country by the rest of the world. (I don't remember where I saw this--it might have been in Posner's "Economic Analysis of Law"). Unless the small country is completely self-sufficient, it loses badly. The net result is the discrimination keeps the blacks poor, and so they don't as a group rise to the point where the stores gain by integrating.
Humans in small groups of approximately equal status and means where everyone knows everyone else simply do not behave the same as humans in very large groups of widely varying status and means where people only know a small part of the group. Libertarianism probably works great in the former case, but not in the latter.
Perhaps, though the fact that states felt the need to enact Jim Crow laws lends some doubt to that claim.
The challenge is what to do about it? It would be VERY hard to regulate since the internet is so dispersed.
Could a non-profit offer to help?
The Treasury data shows that public sector spending in England was 15% lower than that of Scotland last year.
England bends over backwards to do things for the Scots, but they still can't pull their weight.
Thanks, great point! :)
Where there has been no supply (the small country example) blacks, for instance, often would band together and form businesses that served their community. This was inhibited by government regulations that would often deny them the "license" needed to operate that business... but it was not economics that kept those businesses from forming, it was regulation. (And where there wasn't regulation, the businesses would form.)
Lately I've been wondering if a better approach would be to provide an API to functionality, and let the disabled or their advocates build interfaces for themselves. That way they'd get exactly what they need. Mouse-free versions, high-contrast versions, simplified text versions... All could be built ane everyone would be happy. Companies could even support these efforts with open source or donations or training.
What do you think? Could this work in practice?
For example: No restaurant will go bankrupt or even perceptibly lose money because blind people can’t read the menu on their website. There are too few of them.
Also: Getting accessibility right would be costly and complicated for those restaurants. The vast majority of restaurant owners knows nothing about accessibility in the web, they would have to hire someone who does.
Creating a successful product means more often than not picking the commonly used stuff and leaving everything else out. The same dynamic is at play here, the only difference is that the affected people have no choice.
The incentives are set up in a way to favor inaccessible websites. I don’t see how the market can solve this problem.
Old people often have money. They also tend to have eyesight issues and other physical limitations. At the moment, old people are underrepresented online. Give it a few years and that won't likely remain true. At some point, making it easier for people with eyesight issues to access your site may become a much bigger issue. Some businesses may not realize it is impacting them, but I strongly suspect it will seriously begin to impact them in the not too distant future.
The stars may align every once in a while and circumstances may create a situation where the same improvement also benefits a different and much larger group of people but you can’t take that for granted.
Let me just recap the point I was trying to make: If there are situations where something is not accessible to a small group of people (for whatever reason) and making it accessible would be a lot of effort (for whatever reason) then market mechanisms alone are likely not sufficient to make that something accessible.
I was not advocating alternatives to market mechanisms (I was trying to not advocate anything), I was trying to make no value judgments about that situation.
I now have a full-time paid job for the first time in my life and I have found that when I talk to people long enough, everyone at work has some issue or other. I have had conversations with someone at work who a) had previously told me they have a medical condition (diabetes) which can be significantly impacted by diet and then b) later essentially expressed pity for me that I must limit my diet as it was something they could not relate to because they "could eat anything". Yeah, they could -- and take drugs to deal with the consequences. Or, with a different mental model, they could be pickier about their diet and take less medication. They aren't as different from me as they think they are, they simply frame their own issue differently from mine and deal with their problem differently from my approach -- and then they frame themselves in their own mind as "normal, healthy" and me as "handicapped" when in reality we are both dealing in part with the exact same issue as we both have blood sugar problems. I have also seen parents admit they have some of the same traits as their kids but they swear they don't have Asperger's while labeling their child as "having Asperger's". Why? Because it's stigmatizing and would hurt their career to self-identify as a "handicapped" person worthy of a label. Such parents are typically pretty hostile towards me and my attempts to say "so if you and your child are not so very different, why does the child deserve a stigmatizing label but you do not?" I have two kids who both fit the profile for ASD. I do not say they "have Asperger's". For one thing, that makes as much sense to me as saying "they have male" or "they have Caucasian". No, they are male and they are Caucasian and they fit the profile for certain traits that some people would give the label "Asperger's Syndrome". Not labeling them or stigmatizing them has been a significant part of how I have helped them learn to play to their strengths and accommodate their weaknesses without winding up mentally and logistically trapped into being "the pathetic handicapped person".
Personal limitations are very widespread. We all have them. As we grow older, we tend to acquire more of them. Making things more generally usable is not really about jumping through hoops to make big accommodations for a small number of people. And when people finally wrap their brain around that and do something about it, it begins bringing down barriers in a way which allows "handicapped" people to live more normally without anyone focusing on their handicap. Yes, some handicaps, like being blind, won't be as easily remedied or readily supported as others. But vision problems are more widespread than people seem to think. And making things visually accessible tends to also benefit "normal" people who don't particularly think of themselves as "handicapped".
Thanks for asking. I hope that is clearer to you but I really don't understand what the disconnect is so I am not confident it is.
He's just saying that there's no economic incentive to accommodate for variations in people that there's no market incentive to accommodate for, and that may or may not be a problem. He seems honestly confused at why that's setting you off.
I've done my best to back out of the conversation as gracefully as possible without saying "yes, you're right, it's just a handful of blind people" because I don't think that is true. Give me a way to disengage that doesn't involve saying "yes, you're right, I'm just some twit who didn't know that and I'm simply overreacting" and I will happily take it. I am both baffled and, at this point, highly frustrated at how this whole thing has gone. The increasing attempts to characterize me negatively aren't making me feel any better about it. That's never a good thing.
My opinion is that it's always worth it to be inclusive when it comes to coding. ugh seems to be implying that extramarket forces should be brought to bear to encourage(or force) accessibility if that is a goal that we want to achieve. If you're fighting with us, what are we fighting about?
See, this is where I feel I am being negatively characterized: I don't think I'm fighting with anyone. Again, if there is a fight, why is it people seem to think I am the only one fighting? It takes two to fight. At this point, I strongly suspect the issue is that I publicly admitted I have a serious handicap and people are basically dismissing me as someone being emotional and irrational, which is one of the reasons people often try to hide their handicaps: It's socially stigmatizing and gets them taken less seriously.
I will try to say this one last time and then attempt to shut up (assuming no one jumps up with any new negative characterizations of me as an individual): I believe that in the future, as the current generation of web-savvy folks age, there will be more incentive to work on this issue and be more accommodating of the typically poor eyesight of older people. Right now, there may be seemingly little incentive to do so. No, that doesn't mean it will be perfect. But we aren't talking about "a handful of blind people".
Peace and have a good evening.
Thank you for your concern about the welfare of the forum but blaming one side in a misunderstanding is usually not the way to build a more civilized atmosphere. It usually just perpetuates the problem.
Especially really large companies don’t want to have an attack surface called “They don’t care about disabled people!” (There are also other reasons why larger companies have more incentives to be accessible.)
Evidently, however, that’s not enough. It’s hard to create public outrage. It’s hard to organize. Hard enough that being hit by outrage or being swamped by phone calls is quite unlikely. It’s a simple numbers game.
People don’t want to organize shitstorms all the time. They have better things to do.
Customer: We want a menu on our website.
Developer: We can do that. The meter is running.
Customer: Crikey that meter goes up quickly. Just OCR it! That should be almost free!
Customer: There are all sorts of speling mistkes! Fix them!
Customer: Now all the text is right but it looks nothing like the menu! We're a freaking restaurant. We spent thousands of dollars to make the menu look good because it is the freaking menu. Make with that HTML and CSS... stuff!
Customer: Finally, we're getting somewhere! But the description of Chicken Genovese overlaps with the wine list when viewed on an obsolete browser or a Kindle! Make with the fixings!
Developer: We can do that. The meter is running.
Luckily most can also be used with a mechanical key.
Electric automatic doors are also a problem for hotels and hospitals (most other places would not be visited on the Sabbath anyway).
Just like, as a vegetarian, I can't get much to eat at Ruth's Chris or The Outback or whatever. I just take my business elsewhere — it's a voluntary restriction on my diet. I should live with the consequences.
A Jew can leave lights on, or set things on timers before the Sabbath, but can not do anything with electricity on the Sabbath.
There are other considerations as well that apply to battery devices, but the main thing is fire.
Not allowing blacks/jews/gays is about admittance policies that don't cost, unless they require some sort of infrastructure to be created for them.
It would be good to hear from a UK web designer as to opportunity cost, as accessibility is a legal requirement for .uk sites, if I recall correctly. I imagine if everyone's doing it, it's cheaper from the outset as the pool of web talent is trained in the issue.
If they had responded “we know it’s inaccessible, but we are not fixing it, because people with disabilities are a drain on society and should be put down”, that would be hostile.
Also: “it would be too hard,” (universally incorrect) is just not true. Unless his standard is "nothing is too hard for this noble cause."
> What more could you ask for than honesty?
An attempt to fix the problem or raise the issue with someone that can.
And it's not all images that are a problem, just those that are images of large blocks of text, like the restaurant menu that was given as an example. If it's a short bit of text like a logo, that's what ALT tags are for.
When there's the entire menu full of text as an image, that's just plain bad design. It's worse for everyone and it won't even get indexed by search engines. Text should be text. It's just easier that way.
I wonder if part of the non-response they got was because they never explained what their disability was in their letters. I understand it really isn't some pizza restaurant's business to need to know it, but if they left that off, then it is hard for someone to understand their dificulty-- they might even read the email too fast and not even realize there is a disability at all. Thus it just sounds like someone who can't describe why the real problem is, and is instead giving web development advice to a customer service rep who, more likely than not, has no ability to even parse the email into actionable or useful information for the developers simply because the context is dropped by missing this key bit of information. (Even though the advice is useful to someone who is a web developer, even without knowing the disability, the CSR may not realize that.)
That said, I have gone thru a recent terrible experience attempting to deal with a company who is bringing in $150million a month in revenue, and can't be bothered to have CSRs actually read letters. Over the course of a dozen back and for the responses, each form letter I got from them, was written by a different person, and seemingly responded to a random word or two from my previous message, where they clearly didn't' read the whole ticket or even take a few minutes to actually comprehend what I was saying.
There's some really bad customer service out there, even from companies that at least don't have lack of budget as an excuse.
From the article: ...making it inaccessible to blind and low vision users.
More CTO's with disabilities need to be hired.
For example, I once worked at a firm where the HR person was my direct boss' sister-in-law and was living with one of the [shithead] project managers I had to deal with, who's sister-in-law was the receptionist/marketing genius. Do you think any of those four people had any grease to make demands on whether or not a product should include, or even be based upon conventions that would assist those with disabilities if said inclusion were to set back the shipping timetable? I think not.
tl;dr: CEO's focus on sales and revenue, HR is a rubber stamp/sick day tracker, which can be outsourced.