Transcription: Web Axe Episode 92 (Frustrated)

Jennison: Hey, this is Jennison. And you're listening to my pal Dennis on the Web Axe podcast.

[Introduction, woman's voice over music] Welcome to Web Axe, practical web accessibility tips. Web Axe dot blogspot dot com. Web Axe. Web site accessibility. Web standards. Web Axe dot blogspot dot com.

Dennis: Hello, and welcome to Web Axe Podcast number 92, "Frustrated."

This is your host, as usual, Dennis.

Ross: And I'm your co-host, Ross.

Dennis: Hello, Ross.

Ross: Hey, Dennis. How's California treating you?

Dennis: Oh, good and bad. [laughs]

Ross: Michigan, too.

Dennis: Mostly good. The weather's been perfect. So, that's been nice, but.

Ross: Yeah, yeah, I bet. So, Michigan's getting better.

Dennis: The heat wave is over.

Ross: I hope so. Although August has been known to be pretty hot and humid, so, we'll see.

Dennis: We might hear your air conditioner come on in a little while, so.

Ross: Right. [laughs]

Dennis: We'll all understand.

Ross: Right, it's to prevent me from blowing here, while I'm doing the podcast.

Dennis: Oh, man. So, anyways, yeah, a couple topics to talk about. We'll talk about why I've been frustrated lately and go through some articles and some event reminders. But first, you want to give us a little update on your book?

Ross: Sure, sure. So, surprisingly enough, I'm actually done writing, which is wild, because it feels like I just started really recently. But I guess in hindsight, I really only had, like, four months to write it, so it did go quickly.

Dennis: Wow. And, I forget, is there a name for the book?

Ross: Yes, "The Six Layers of Design."

Dennis: Ah, yeah. Yeah.

Ross: So, now I'm in this very painful state of editing everything I've written and backed by a really good editor who's kind of going through and telling me the areas that don't make sense and not sugar coating anything, which is good, but also, disheartening at times. So I think it's going to turn out really good. I'm excited but...

Dennis: Yeah, that sounds great. And I think we discussed a little the last time some of the areas of accessibility you include in the book. And you don't have to go into it if you don't want to. [laughs]

Ross: Sure, sure. I taught one of the layers of design is reliability. And one of the aspects of reliability is being able to access the design or what you build or create in multiple different ways, multiple different situations, one of them being alternative browsers, such as a screen reader or Braille or something along those lines.

Dennis: Great. And, you know, nothing's happened yet, but an old co-worker of mine contacted me just the other day and he's putting together a book and asked me if I wanted to write a chapter in it.

Ross: Oh, great. Great. On web design?

Dennis: The token accessibility chapter. [laughs]

Ross: Absolutely. [laughs]

Dennis: Of his, yeah, it's kind of like a, it's a little more of a development kind of book. It has to do a lot with jQuery and stuff.

Ross: Oh, OK. That would be awesome, because then you can use that to, you'd be the launching point for your own book. And you can do a documentary or something. [laughs]

Dennis: Yeah, I mean, I haven't written a book before either or anything. So, writing a chapter might be a good start to get a taste of it. So that'd be cool if that happens. My friend, it sounds like he has a good plan and he's headstrong, so we'll see what happens.

Ross: Great. Well, I will wish you the best of luck.

Dennis: Thanks. I'll give updates as they happen.

So, next point, there was a California court ruling over that Jet Blue case for the inaccessible websites and kiosks.

Ross: Right, which we talked about last time. So, this is kind of a lot happening quickly, it's not like the Target lawsuit that's kind of went on forever.

Dennis: Yeah, really.

Ross: And unfortunately, it didn't rule in the way that we would have hoped.

Dennis: No, and myself and others, I think, were fairly surprised. So Jet Blue won the case. Our friends at LF Legal has a good write up about it. In the show notes, I'll list a couple other articles about it.

But basically, the ruling was that airline, specifically, airline websites and kiosks are not covered by state law in California. So that was kind of the reasoning behind Jet Blue winning that case.

It's a big disappointment, but we'll see what happens in the future. Hopefully, there'll be more wins in the courtroom.

Ross: Yeah, and I wondered if there's any plans to try and appeal. I didn't find anything on it, but.

Dennis: Yeah. Well, yeah, so the Department of Transportation, and these other organizations are kind of being scrutinized. Because if they made it federal law, FAA and these other organizations.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: Just a generic federal level to make websites and kiosks accessible that would surely help a lot. And so, hopefully, there'll be some improvements in the future.

Ross: Yeah. Yeah, and I always think that it's good to, even if the lawsuit isn't won, just to have these going on, because it does bring attention to it. And the more people that are aware of it, the more that can kind of rally behind it versus everybody just kind of silently accepts it.

Dennis: Yeah, that's a good point. So, hopefully, we'll get more and more of these cases.

Announcer: Web Axe.

Dennis: Let's move on to Twitter. So, new Twitter is available for everyone to use. [laughs]

Ross: Yeah, I didn't realize it took this long. If you can use it.

Dennis: So, old Twitter is gone, as of, like, last week. And I saw some tweets going by about that from some disabled users, and a few more people tried Easy Chirp. So, that was good, a good result of old Twitter being gone.

Ross: Yeah, I didn't, I know that they were rolling it out slowly, but I didn't realize they were still rolling it out.

Dennis: Well, no, they were completed rolling it out.

Ross: Oh, but you could still use the old one?

Dennis: Yeah, you could just, like, for most of this year, you could still use the old one if you wanted to. And they were going to end of life it, you know, like, six months ago or something, and just never did. So, finally, they did.

Ross: Yeah, got you.

Dennis: Yeah. It's interesting that it's gone and hopefully, we'll have more users on Easy Chirp, so, I'll have to check the numbers and see if it's, how much it's risen.

Ross: Yeah, you know, it's funny, it kind of makes me think about, I think it's, the designer's, what, Doug Bowman?

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: There was one response he had, I think, to what was then accessible Twitter and now Easy Chirp, saying, he kind of recognized the value in accessible Twitter, but why not just make the Twitter site, or why not keep the same design, just make it accessible? And I always wondered, well, why not just make Twitter accessible? [laughs]

Dennis: Yeah. I mean, you've got to do that from the start, retrofitting that is going to be, wouldn't even be worth the effort, in my opinion.

Ross: You think?

Dennis: By my experience. [laughs] I mean, they had the chance a year ago. I was in their office when they were making it, and they never invited me back.

Ross: Really? Wow.

Dennis: Oh, yeah, I was going to say, so, the official announcement, and I'll put a link in the show notes, all it says is, I can't remember exactly the phrasing, but it just, it mentions the mobile site. Like, if you can't use new Twitter. It just says, the mobile site, that's it.

Ross: Oh, OK. So, that's supposed to be slightly more accessible?

Dennis: Yeah. So, I don't know. If anybody out there has tried the mobile site or can give some feedback on the ins and outs of the accessibility of either site, please let us know.

Ross: Yeah, it'd be great.

Announcer: Web Axe.

Dennis: OK, let's move on to our main topic, "Frustrated." So, [laughs] the two stories we just talked about already, kind of, are a preview to this topic. So, obviously, the Jet Blue winning the case and Twitter not being accessible aren't good things.

But it hit me when I saw the article the other day about the World Wide Web's 20th anniversary. So the World Wide Web has been public for 20 years to the day, I think, last Friday or Saturday. So, that's awesome, but the bad part is, I think the web today is less accessible than it was 20 years ago. So, it's like we're moving backwards.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: I mean, there's all this great technology, but people just continue to implement it and create barriers along the way.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: So, let's see. I'll just quickly go through some of these points, but it's like the laws really haven't improved, so section 508 has been static for over a decade.

And lawsuits, like the JetBlue and, even, say, Target. I mean, Target, they got ordered to make the site more accessible and got a relatively small fine. But they weren't found guilty in that case.

Then, the social media sites aren't accessible. Even the Olympic website. And we did a podcast about that. I mean, I did a blog about the Winter Olympics website, a couple years ago, wasn't accessible.

I recently blogged about the keyboard-access problems with Google Plus. But in addition to that, I mean, widgets and services aren't accessible, like all these little social media widgets you see everywhere on all the sites nowadays that are slowing down your pages tremendously.

Ross: Right. [laughs] Not only inaccessible, but annoying.

Dennis: Yeah. [laughs]

Ross: But yeah, they're all JavaScript-based, and there's no fall-backs. What's interesting is, I worked on a project where a similar tool to DISQUS was being used. And they had an API to do a server-side version, but obviously that takes more work, and so they ended up implementing the JavaScript one. And I think that's what happens in a lot of these cases.

Dennis: Oh, really?

Ross: They don't want to put the effort in, the time and the effort, to do the server-side so that it's accessible to everybody, when they can, quote-unquote, "get the same results" from the JavaScript one.

Dennis: Interesting. Is that how you pronounce it, "discuss"? Or is it "discus"? "Discuss"? [laughs]

Ross: Oh, that's a good question. I guess I always thought of it as "discuss" because it's, yeah...

Dennis: That makes sense. I don't know.

Ross: [laughs] Well, yeah, if anybody knows, let us know. [laughs]

Dennis: There's an article I Twittered a few times, "DISQUS: Shutting Out the Blindness Community from Discussion," because their widget's not accessible.

I mean, even the US government, some of the websites are not accessible. I've written a blog on that and a California one. And even the W3C, with their specs, in my opinion, are not doing the right thing. With the whole HTML5 thing, they're just removing portions of the spec that would increase accessibility, especially like the longdesc attribute.

Yeah. I mean, they're leaving accessibility issues, just as maybe a last topic to address, like video captioning and stuff. It's not their priority. It's like lowest priority.

Ross: Right. Yeah, there's a lot of...

Dennis: I'm depressed.


Dennis: Somebody buy me a Starbucks gift card.

Ross: [laughs] There's nothing a Frappuccino won't fix, right? [laughs]

Dennis: Hey, guess what, though. I'm going to be getting a free Starbucks drink in the mail. Well, not in the mail, but a postcard in the mail, because it's my birthday in a couple weeks.

Ross: Oh. That'll help. [laughs]

Dennis: Yeah. That makes me smile.

Ross: Right. You can't go wrong with Starbucks. Yeah. There's a lot of, I want to say, overlooking of accessibility, it seems like. There's these other things that people are really focusing on.

When you'd written up this topic and I read over it, I thought to myself, "Why is this happening?" And I have my theory, but I wanted to ask you, why do you think that accessibility has kind of moved backwards?

Dennis: I think a lot of the reason is just business decisions that are made badly. They're not taking into account all the things that accessibility benefits. And just with the lack of knowledge and the lack of time, and no law, businesses just ignore it.

And developers, who don't have the awareness or the knowledge, don't develop things, like the widgets and web services that are accessible. I think that's the main reason.

Ross: Yeah. I've got a few theories. One pattern or trend that I've noticed before. I'm hoping that this might be the case. Having started designing for the web very early on -- I want to say maybe '96 -- it seemed like there was kind of this weird transition where, at first, it was just great to be able to put content online. And then, as technology improved, everybody just was really excited about using these new technologies, like Flash and tables and images.

And at some point, everybody kind of said, "Whoa, hold on. We have to think about what we're doing." And that was almost the first point where there was really a boom of discussion around web accessibility, I would say, like in the early 2000s.

Then it almost seems like that's kind of repeating because, at that time, it seemed like the other topic that people were really talking about, again, was usability and user experience. It was kind of this, "Oh yeah, we can do anything we want with Flash, but is that a good experience?"

So we have all these technologies that allow us to do whatever we want on the web, but how does that affect how people use it?

And it does seem like recently there's a lot more people paying attention to and talking about user experience. It's almost like JavaScript and its capabilities gave us all this power again, and then everybody just kind of wanted to go out there and use it, without thought of user experience and accessibility. So my hope is that accessibility will kind of have its second coming, maybe.

Dennis: [laughs] I hope so. A term that comes to mind when you're talking about that is Ajax. That's another one.

Ross: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.

Dennis: I think another part of it is all these new technologies, and companies are pushing the envelope and trying to do the coolest, newest thing as fast as possible. And when you do the coolest, newest thing as fast as possible -- say, like New Twitter -- and you don't put any emphasis on things that are important, that's what happens.

Ross: Yeah. Yeah, I think you're right. It's kind of like maybe not respecting the business benefits of it, too. Maybe there's a book idea there. There's no book out there that really does a good job documenting the business benefits of accessibility.

Dennis: Hey, that's a good idea. [laughs]

Ross: It's an older book, but still one of my favorite usability books, is "Prioritizing Web Usability" by Jakob Nielson. I think, even though he wrote that, I want to say, in 2002 or something like that, a long time ago, his figures and references and specific examples of how usability not only saves money but increases it, but fixing it after the fact costs something like 10 times more.

Dennis: Oh yeah.

Ross: And so, if there was something like that out there for accessibility, maybe people would kind of wake up and go, "Oh my God."

Dennis: One thing that comes to mind is that article by the W3C. They have a good, long article about the business cases for web accessibility.

Ross: Yeah.

Dennis: Yeah. And we talked about this, also, in the last podcast, with the game plan. I mean, what can we do about this problem? Tough question.

Ross: Yeah. Yeah. And I know we mentioned a few other things, kind of the traditional things like... Interestingly enough, there's the refresh groups and usability groups, but I don't see too many accessibility-focused groups, certainly not around here.

Dennis: Yeah. Well, there's none around here either.


Ross: So, listeners, we champion you to start them. [laughs]

Dennis: I think the idea of a lot of folks in the new accessibility game plan is to spread the word by going into the other groups.

Ross: Yeah. That makes sense.

Dennis: Because if you call your group an accessibility group, the only people that are going to show up are people who already support it.

Ross: Right. But that could kind of rally people together. I guess I would see a value in it.

Dennis: Yeah, it would be a good starting point, if your community doesn't have one at all.

Ross: Yeah.

Dennis: A couple things you can do is use that site, Fix the Web. You can submit issues with websites that they'll try to get fixed. Or just directly contact some websites or companies and just ask them, or point them out to what's wrong on their websites.

But anyways. There's a new article, actually, just came out yesterday or today, by the mighty Karl Groves. It's called "Users Must Become Their Own Advocates," and it talks about a lot of this stuff and what you can do.

I think he cites another article by the W3C, "Contacting Organizations About Inaccessible Websites," which gives a few pointers there.

Did you join the Contrast Rebellion?

Ross: I did. I did. I thought that was particularly funny.

Dennis: [laughs] That was awesome.

Ross: Yeah. [laughs] It's funny. I don't know if it was related or not, but I was participating in a discussion on Forest, which is the social network for designers and developers. It was all talking about contrast and why designers don't pay attention to contrast and that sort of thing. So it was funny to see that afterwards.

Dennis: Yeah. Listeners, if you don't know what we're talking about, go to

Ross: Right. It's basically a group of people saying designers should use readable fonts and contrast. Makes sense. If you have text, make it legible.

Dennis: Right. Yeah. So, I guess in our discussion we've uncovered a lot of ways to address the problem. Oh, just another way that just comes to mind is, and I try to do this, if you read in a blog or a chain on LinkedIn or something, mention accessibility and say, "Have you ever thought about accessibility?" You know what I mean. Not those words, but [laughs] bringing up the topic.

There was a discussion on LinkedIn about WordPress e-commerce plug-ins. And not one person in 50 comments even mentioned or asked if any of these plug-in suggestions were accessible. So I did. So I wrote a comment and suggested one. But things like that, I think that helps.

Ross: Right. Making people aware that it's something they should consider, because that can be a big, big problem. It's one thing to know about it and kind of ignore it, or maybe not realize how important it is. But a lot of people, I think, just don't know that it is a concern.

Dennis: Hey, you know what? [laughs] Another thing I did, kind of answers this question. It's pretty cool. And I think this has happened since our last podcast. I totally even forgot to mention it. Web Axe is now on Facebook.

[applause sound effect]

Ross: Oh. I did not know that.

Dennis: So I wrote a little blog post, and every day I put one update on the Facebook Web Axe page. Yeah, I figured, to help spread the word. Facebook, obviously, is a good avenue, since that's the largest social network in the world. Even though Facebook itself isn't that accessible, but what are you going to do? [laughs]

Ross: Right. It's still a way to access great information.

Dennis: Yeah, it's still a way to spread the word. So I went with it. If you're not huge on Twitter, check out my page on Facebook. It's just

Shall we move on to articles?

Ross: Sounds good.

["Web Axe" sound effect]

Dennis: All right. The first one is an excellent "Simple Introduction to Web Accessibility," by a gentleman named Ian Hamilton, who works at the BBC. Have you seen this?

Ross: Yeah, I did read through it. I thought it was really, really good. I bookmarked it. It's always good to have a good set of articles written by other people justifying things that you value, I feel like.

Dennis: It's on Net Magazine, and it just goes through some of the four types of disabilities and the issues on the web regarding each one, and some solutions. Just good, solid, basic stuff. So check it out if you haven't, or pass it on to a friend. Post the link [laughs] on a discussion forum.

Ross: Right. [laughs] LinkedIn.

Dennis: Or on your Facebook account.

Ross: [laughs]

Dennis: Anyways. Yeah. And 4Syllables, Writing4Web on Twitter, they continue their series of writing for accessibility. So it's a great series. We posted it before.

So part nine is "Link Purpose," talking about the hyperlinks. Part 10 is "Headings and Labels." So, again, fairly basic stuff, but it's great that they're spreading the word.

And they're spreading it to a slightly different audience, to people who are writing for the web, not web-accessibility people and not, really, web devs.

Ross: Right. I think that's really cool, because it shows that you don't have to be in there building templates or in Photoshop to really care about it, or to make a difference.

Dennis: Yeah. And it goes to show, you have to approach web accessibility from different angles. It's the design, it's the code, and it's the writing. So, good stuff.

And another angle: SEO. So a new article from WebAIM. Jared Smith, I believe, authored this one: "Web Accessibility and SEO." And he talks about a lot of the search-engine-optimization benefits from an accessible website.

There's a great bulleted list there that sums it up very well, things that you do for accessibility which also benefit SEO, like proper alternative texts for images, the heading structure, descriptive links, all kinds of stuff, providing transcripts, captions ensuring URLs are human readable and logical, defining abbreviations and acronyms.

Ross: Yeah, and it's just kind of goes to show there is another business case right there, accessibility. If you improve your accessibility, you're also going to improve your SEO which increases traffic and you gets to more customers.

Dennis: Totally, totally, good point. So I had an article published a few weeks ago on Design Festival of popular mistakes in universal web design. It's done really well and I was surprised to see that Smashing Mag twittered it the other day, so that brought a lot of traffic.

Ross: Yeah, I liked the approach of not labeling it necessarily as accessibility because I think some people sometimes tune out accessibility.

Dennis: Yeah, and I think I wrote that right after we talked about the game plan and maybe trying to use different terminology so we don't scare away people. So I kept that in mind and it worked. [laughs]

Ross: Yeah. [laughs] Yeah, I think maybe even framing as a form of design helps, as well. Accessibility sounds, I guess maybe like something you should be worried about where universal design is practiced. So I think that works really well.

Dennis: Yeah, that's a good point.

Ross: I came across an article called "30 (Million) Reasons for Accessible Design." And this was not actually Web-specific but one of the things that I've done in researching for my book is looked outside of the Web for information on design.

Because obviously design is something that happens with everything around us and accessibility is actually a design principle that extends way beyond the Web. Accessible locations in architecture and that sort of thing existed way before the Web.

This was just a really good article that talked about all the different reasons for accessible design in and outside the Web, so I thought that was cool.

Dennis: Yeah, this article looks great. I'll have to Twitter it. It's by that Trace program at University of Wisconsin. That's an excellent program.

Ross: Yeah, yeah, I've heard a lot about it.

Dennis: Cool, great article.

[WebAxe sound effect]

OK, let's move on to our event reminders. So, coming up soon here in a couple weeks in Montreal is the Accessibility Camp Montreal. Check that out August 26th.

Ross: Then in September, Boston Accessibility Unconference. That's September 17th.

Dennis: And Toronto, another Canadian one, September 24th, on Saturday is Accessibility Camp Toronto.

Ross: Is that an Unconference or do they just call it a camp?

Dennis: I think it's the same thing.

Ross: Oh, cool. It feels like those would seem pretty cool. Maybe I can check out the one in Toronto. It's only a five hour drive. [laughs]

Dennis: And then you could meet my friend Jennison.

Ross: Oh, yeah, there you go.

Dennis: [laughs] That'd be cool.

Ross: [laughs]

Dennis: And what else we got up?

Ross: Let's see, Web Accessibility London Unconference, that's September 21st.

Dennis: No, it's 21st of September.

Ross: Oh, 21st of September, sorry.


Dennis: [in English accent] 21st of September.

Ross: Man, a lot going on in September.

Dennis: [laughs]

Ross: I guess it's a big conference month.

Dennis: Oh, yeah, those three right there.

Ross: Right. I will not be going to London, though. As much as I'd like to, that's a little bit of a hike.

Dennis: [laughs] And October 22nd, Saturday, in DC, Accessibility Camp DC. I'll post these links and Twitter accounts on the show notes.

So hopefully you can make one of those. If not, look for another event this fall, or create one, or go to a usability or a refresh group and spread the good word of universal design.

Ross: Yeah, continue forward with the game plan.

Dennis: And if you're experiencing any issues on a website, please try to contact them and explain what the problem is. And if you are unable to use New Twitter, check out

Ross: Yup, I assure you you'll like it. [laughs]

Dennis: The most robust Twitter client ever.


Ross: And it will remain that way for eternity.

Dennis: [laughs] Oh, man. All right, Ross, it was another good podcast.

Ross: Yup, good to catch up, Dennis.

Dennis: Yeah. Talk to you next time.

Ross: Bye everybody.

[music and commercial]


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