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I’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.