Archive for March, 2007

Amazon.com to go accessible?

Cross-posted to the WaSP site, but this news was so shocking I had to check that it’s not April Fools Day yet:

Amazon.com, the leading online retailer, and the National Federation of the Blind have entered into a cooperation agreement. Amazon.com will make its Web site and e-commerce platform fully accessible to the blind in collaboration with the Access Technology staff of the NFB. Full release

Now, this is almost certainly because the NFB are suing Target.com (which is “powered by Amazon”), but is nevertheless welcome news. I hope, though, that the fact NFB are leading the way doesn’t mean that it’s a single-issue revamp. Let’s hope that for two things:

  • the developers remember that not everyone with a disability is blind: accessibility is more than just assisting the visually impaired
  • they use decent, semantic html for the site. Not every disability-lobbying site gets that.

The wonderful world of Julie Howell

It must be fab to be Julie Howell. Last night, she won a special lifetime achievement award for her work with the RNIB and her efforts to bring digital access to people with disabilities, hot on the heels of the finest accolade a woman could be given: I told her she has a nice arse. Does it get any better than that?

As you’d expect, she kept her usual regal composure and dignity when accepting the award. Congratulations Julie!

Return of the Friday joke

There’s two teenage Liverpudlian girls looking in a jeweller’s window. “That’s the ring I’ll ask for when my boyfriend and I get married”, says one.

Her friend replies, “That’s the one I’d get”.

Suddenly, a Cyclops crashes through the window, and shouts angrily, “Who are you calling a one-eyed get?!”

Is your site like Terminal Five?

Because I’m a serious intellectual, I always listen to Radio 4’s Today programme when driving to work. Today there was an interview with a guy who runs all the big airports about the new runway at Heathrow, in which he said it “will be a landmark moment in construction: it will open on time and to budget”.

Indeed, after the endlessly delayed Wembley Stadium, and ever-increasing bill for the 2012 Olympic infrastructure, he’s absolutely correct that it would be a landmark moment.

I often think building corporate websites is like civil engineering projects: something built to spec, on time and to budget would be almost incredible.

Is your site more like Terminal Five, or Wembley Stadium?

Poem: Three o’clock

When the train from the city finally stopped
It was three o’clock forever:
Past and future were stolen from me.

Nobody knows my name. I do not know my name.
At there o’clock we dance in the evenings
Once the ice is broken.

At three o’clock I do not eat much
Thinking of those who must carry me
Wandering and working as this world requires.

A broken toy a rag doll
That I had loved as a child
Once bright faced, now crumpled.

By her clothes I knew it was she.
I covered her face and broken eyes
And glanced back only once.

A punch-drunk puppet in pajamas
That dreams with open eyes said,
“I hear wilderness crying in your voice”.

I had not spoken a word.


Written 1987. (Found three months ago in a pile of papers in my Dad’s attic).

This poem was inspired by an article in the Partisan Review by an ex-inmate of the Treblinka extermination camp. In an attempt to preserve the fiction of ‘resettlement’ as long as possible, the Nazis had erected a false train station. In the interest of economy, none of the machinery there actually worked, so the station clock that the victims saw on arrival was permanently fixed at three o’clock.

Much of the poem’s imagery is derived from medieval wilderness poetry, especially the description of the dead in the fourteeth century poem Sir Orfeo, lines 389-408.

10 May: hear me speak

I shall be pontificating on May 10 in Birmingham at a one-day training bash called “How web accessibility works in the real world”.

It’s the kind of shindig I like; evangelising practical accessibility techniques. Also there will be

Come along! It’ll be just like having sex with all of us at once, in that it’ll be great fun, good for you, you’ll be the envy of your friends and it will last all day.

The DTI to the rescue!

The Prime Minister has responded to the petition over UK government sites’ accessibility, which came about because of the fuss Dan Champion and I made over the Department of Trade and Industry’s disastrous redesign:

“The Government is committed to ensuring that all government websites are accessible and easy to use for people with disabilities.

Action 7 of the Prime Minister’s Digital Strategy is to ‘improve accessibility to technology for the digitally excluded and ease of use for the disabled’.

This strategy is to be implemented by DTI with support from OGC and eGU (now the Cabinet Office Delivery and Transformation Group). A cross-government review of the Digital Strategy is currently under way under the supervision of the DTI).”

Joined-up government? My arse.

See me …. then see Me

Regular readers will know that when I go out, it’s either with middle-aged punk rockers or web standards wierdos, so when I received an invite to a posh art gallery for a private viewing of a new collection by Melissa Mailer-Yates, I was excited to see how the beautiful people live, with their wine and canapés rather than Stella and crisps. I took my daughter Marina with me, to distract people’s attention from my scuzziness.

The exhibition includes nudes of women with multiple sclerosis, and one of the models is my old mate Julie Howell. It’s an odd feeling, looking at a painting of a mate’s nether regions and trying to say sensible things, so I failed dismally and told Julie that she has a nice arse. Oops.

The paintings are quite attractive, although with some of them, I didn’t really understand what they were “trying to say”. There was also the irony that the gallery had hung some on a small mezzanine floor, accessed via a narrow spiral staircase and therefore completely inaccessible to one of the models who was in a wheelchair.

8 year old Marina and Julie Howell

Anyway, if you get the chance, go see the exhibition. It’s raising money for the MS Society.

The Undertones’ ‘Thrill Me’

First gig I ever saw was The Undertones at the Odeon in Birmingham in 1980. They rocked so much that, 27 years later, I still play “Teenage Kicks” in my band.

So when I discovered that they’d reformed (without Feargal Sharkey) and released an album I had to buy it. And it’s great! The opening song “Thrill Me” is a complete classic, with a chorus that’s running through my head constantly.

Turn your speakers up!