Accessibility Camp TO 2011

September 25, 2011 - By

On Saturday I attended Accessibility Camp Toronto 2011. Now I feel a bit shallower, but in a good way.

It’s really really really easy to make websites that work they way I (and almost every single person that I know) use them. Having sight, hands, and hearing are some wonderful gifts that are just so easy to take for granted, along with a positive experience on the average site. This conference is just focussed on making the digital realm equally available to everyone – including those without the abilities I take for granted.

This was a much needed shift in thinking for me.

A part of my issue with shallowness stems from (previously) not knowing anyone with a physical disadvantage that hinders their online experience. There were some interesting demonstrations of the various tools that people use to help them get by, ranging from the impressive accessibility features that come stock on mobile devices to Active Braille readers (these dynamically change braille text while the user reads – I had no idea this technology existed (or would be so expensive)). While these tools are immensely useful, there’s a lot that needs to be done to websites themselves. That’s where web designers and developers come in.

Jutta Treviranus (Director and Professor at Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University) kicked off the event with a poignant metaphor about the aforementioned technology as a poor solution. “Web accessibility is like agreeing to bring your own expensive ramps to online entrance ways. The only difference is there’s no guarantee it will work.” (admittedly this isn’t a real quote, it’s reworded from my pathetic shorthand notes). Her final point resonated with me as an exclamation point on the fact that I have some learning to do: “Nothing can be declared ‘accessibility’ until you know who it’s for, and what it’s going to be used for.”

The conference had some practical advice for people like me who make websites, some exciting prospects of the accessible semantics of HTML5, but more importantly an angle of perspective and empathy that I won’t forget: the Internet can be for everyone.

We just have to make it better.

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This post was written by ArleyM