Out to Lunch says accessibility is in ‘no way possible’

Recently I’ve posted comments on Out to Lunch’s remark against accessibility on the web who notes when debating how to code for the blind:

I see it in no way possible given current technology.

This may seem like an paradox to most, but Donavon’s statement is in no way true. My frustration is in part of the fact that I’ve posted two detailed answers to his remarks regarding accessibility and further offering to help teach him how to code… neither were posted.

Whether this is an attempt at blog ratings or a move to play devil’s advocate – the answer is clear to those of us who hold ourselves as professionals in this industry that accessibility is relatively easy to accomplish to even the mildly experienced, and of course difficult to those of us without experience; so is everything else.

But that doesn’t justify a rant with ill-informed comments such as:

This is absolutely absurd!! When will the lawsuits stop! Maybe I’ll sue for being unable to read a book printed in braille!

That’s a poor comparison of the current issue and far from the truth. No one is stopping you from learning braille – however, the current Target website doesn’t allow it’s users to access medication regardless of their attempts at learning a new technique. Nevertheless, the subject of this lawsuit has been beat to death, and I am tired of teaching/debating with writers on subjects they know little about:

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2006/02/07/target-sued-by-national-federation-of-the-blind/

http://www.webstandards.org/2006/02/09/taking-aim-at-targetcom/

http://www.webstandards.org/2006/02/10/staying-on-target/

http://www.webstandards.org/2006/09/14/target-interim-ruling/

This post is far from able to breach the topic of coding with proper standards; but in general, coding right the first time is 99% of the way there. I’ll paraphrase tonight’s comments below for your review.

This is standard web 101 – and any professional in this industry is expected to know this code. Millions of sites are accessible; just cause Donovan doesn’t know it, doesn’t make it true. All of my sites I’ve created have a large focus on accessibility, and those that do not fully pass by way of error, will be easily fixed upon request. Donovan seems to think that we have to require recorded audio to make it accessible – actually, they have screen readers for those purposes that read standard code; you can even use CSS to style for aural readers:

http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/aural.html

Here’s an interesting walk through about ‘Is Accessible Design a Myth’ by a master in our industry:

http://complexspiral.com/events/archive/2005/www2005/w4a-keynote.html

Remember, it’s about doing it right the first time – semantic, standard code is 99% of the way there. What are semantics? Learning how to code your so that it actually means something, here’s one of my references in regards to cubecart that discusses semantics:

http://www.dotfive.com/2006/08/26/design-theory/semantic-code-for-cubecart/

You can learn more about proper coding at:

http://htmldog.com/

Here’s a tutorial I wrote about the web in general:

http://dotfive.com/html/

Here’s a site for tutorials and tools about accessibility on the web, including a forum to post up and ask for help… for free:

http://accessify.com/

Here’s the initiative on web accessibility in standards:

http://www.w3.org/WAI/

Adobe/Macromedia on accessibility:

http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/index.html

Here are some great walk throughs that discuss handicap users and how by coding with standards you can help each scenario – Dive into Accessibility is a great introduction for newbies and the experienced:

http://diveintoaccessibility.org/

Jakob Nielsen is an excellent resource for tools of the trade:

http://www.useit.com/jakob/

Here are some more advanced level articles to discuss:

http://www.usability.com.au/resources/index.cfm

…and there are hundreds of little articles that teach simple newbie methods, this is just touching the iceberg of everything out there:

http://webaim.org/techniques/css/invisiblecontent/

So. If Donovan really wants to learn how to code a site properly, I’m happy to teach him and offer solutions as to why we’ve moved away from our old habits. His current site is a good start because the template designers built it off of a standard, tableless design with a focus on semantics. They could take it further, or Donovan, with a few extra lines of code or some sprucing. So how much did this darn close to accessible site cost Donovan? I think Donovan’s last debate was cost – when again, the cost is simply doing it right the first time, and is no extra expense to experienced coders. It could become an expense in a redesign, of course – however, redesigns are inevitable in our business as technology progresses – and the potential loss of a whole slew of target demographics simply because they don’t know what their doing, is poor business management.

Simplebits Web Standards Solutions is an excellent example of a quality book to get started with if need be.

In short – if you’re questioning how to make a site accessible (and not questioning to learn or expand your knowledge, but arguing against the premise or the validity of the methods) you are not a web professional. It’s a shame to see sites such as Out to Lunch arguing against a technology they have little understanding from – but I assume the title says it all.

My original censored post from Donovan’s site that was

This post was a response to him questioning the technology. He deleted this post, but added others’ followup

I’m not agreeing lawsuit is the only option here – but it is an option that they’ve felt is the only recourse for development. I sincerely agree they should have provided access to the site – thought the libertarian in me disagrees with an aggressive lawsuit. However, your statement comparing braille reading to blind access to a website in no way is a strong comparison.

In regard to making the site accessible to the blind – are you challenging the technology or seriously inquiring? If you’re inquiring, development of a site to be blind accessible is very easy – in all serious, it takes making the site developing properly the first time and that’s about the basics. By making a site either HTML or XHTML and properly validated with semantic code… how you should be building your sites now adays anyhow, and how we’ve been building sites for the past 5 years+, will be the base foundation for development. If you’d like to go a step further, you can actually code aural style sheets (just as I code print and handheld style sheets for most sites), and can post sites up for other users to demo.

Aural style sheets:

http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/aural.html

Tutorials for proper coding for HTML/XHTML and CSS:

http://htmldog.com/

Alternative, advanced, accessibility information:

http://www.usability.com.au/

More usability information from the usability expert himself (also briefs accessibility reports):

http://www.useit.com/jakob/

Blog on accessibility, including tools:

http://accessify.com/

Forum for critique and questions:

http://www.accessifyforum.com/

Again, though, the development of Target’s site is dated and not professional. Web professionals know their tools, just like a carpenter knows his profession – and they don’t cheap out on the build. Had they built their site and simply followed the guidelines for a proper site:

http://validator.w3.org/

This lawsuit wouldn’t have been an issue. So it comes down to lack of experience, lack of ambition, or lack of admittance to inexperience – all irresponsible and a bad name to our profession.

The changes it would have taken to make Target’s site proper would take me a weekend with a bit of Pete’s coffee:). So the frustration can be a bit understood, both in our profession and from accessible users – because this is a simple and cost effective fix. The benefits of a properly accessible site don’t end with gravitaty a new demographic; they also lower bandwidth costs and improve search engine ranking. So even the tired arguement that this isn’t their target market (no pun intended) is irrelevant to the development of a site.

To paraphrase: Developing the site with modern standards, as professionals do, would have satisfied the need for accessibility. This type of development is the cornerstone to our profession, and easier too develop for. If they wanted to go a step further, they can test the site in a screen reader or inquire in the accessibility forums, as well as an alternate style sheet – but those are just icing, the base cake is plenty for most users. Their failure shows their lack of professionalism when the solution is common knowledge for all of us in the industry that don the titles of ‘web’ anything.