WaSP Accessibility Task Force

Web Standards Project logoI’m delighted to announce that I’ve accepted an invitation to join the newly-formed Accessibility Task Force for the WaSP.

Molly invited me at the @media conference when I first met my colleagues Gez Lemon, Andy Clarke, Patrick Lauke, Ian Lloyd and Derek Featherstone, and I’m honoured.

Now that I’m a WaSP task-forcer and a reviewer of the draft of the British Standards Institutes’s Publicly Available Specification: Guide to good practice in designing accessible websites (PAS), I hope to be able to help bring the worlds of Accessibility and Standards closer together.

As Standards wonks, we believe that Standards help accessibility. But take a look at many “accessible” sites – the RNIB, even the Disability Rights Commission who are sponsoring the PAS – and you see invalid code, nested tables and tag soup. Yet they’re evidently accessible to their audience. This has caused me a crisis of faith in the past; I agree with Roger Johansson when he says “screen readers don’t currently make proper use of all that tasty semantic markup we offer them”, so there’s work to be done with the screenreader vendors.

I have two personal bugbears.

Primarily, I’m eager to make accessiblity be seen as best practice rather than an issue of compliance; that means encouraging people to design (and, where practical, retrofit) in accordance with inclusive principles, rather than “bolt on” accessibility by grudgingly ticking off a checklist to do the minimum possible to avoid a lawsuit.

Finally, I really want the community to reach out into businesses. I’ve met a lot of really enlightened management people who want to have accessible sites, not just because of the law but because they represent decent companies who want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, these people get conned by snake-oil salesmen who sell them expensive, and useless, packages and consultancy. The snake-oil salesmen talk the language of business; we talk the language of developers and we’re not properly heard because we don’t properly communicate.

There’s a lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

12 Responses to “ WaSP Accessibility Task Force ”

Comment by Derek Featherstone

There’s a lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

You said it, my friend… you said it. I’m really looking forward to working with you and the others!

Comment by Peter Buchy

I’m so glad you’re going to be working on this.

Accessibility is so important, and I started off fighting an uphill battle at work to better serve our seniors and special needs residents (we do affordable housing). Once I showed them that an accessible design meant less coding work later on, better features for the office user, easier interpretation by search engines, and less worry about outdated browsers, they suddenly thought this was good.

With luck, we should be launching a new design at the end of July. And then I have to go back and do the second wave. Hopefully I’ll have a good screenreader to test with.

Best of luck to you!

Comment by Isofarro

Congrats and good luck Bruce.

Also, its not as bad as it seems – have you tried validating the RNIB homepage recently? Its now valid HTML4.01 Transitional, so they are making steady progress

Comment by Bob Easton

Big Congrats Bruce! Happy to see you made it into WaSP.

We are of very like minds in wanting to promote best practices, not just compliance. You’re going to have a fantastic time!

Comment by Matt

Great news!

Communicating the right knowledge to managers and decision makers is the next big challenge in accessibility (and standards too).

Comment by Introduction to html5

[…] Bruce Lawson (@brucel) – Works for Opera, evangelising open web standards as part of their Developer Relations team. Also a member of the Web Standards Project’s Accessibility Task Force. […]

Comment by 23 Recursos Esenciales de HTML 5

[…] Bruce Lawson (@ brucelosis) – Obras de la Ópera, evangelizadora web, estándares abiertos como parte de su equipo de Relaciones con Desarrolladores. También es miembro del Web Standards Project‘s Accesibilidad Grupo de Trabajo. […]