Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Accessibility Slap In The Face

While this is a personal post and I don’t make it a habit to get on my personal soapbox on this blog, I think that the issues covered in the email are relevant to Serotek’s mission of providing and advocating for

“Accessibility Anywhere.”

Below is a letter submitted to the IPad Today show on the Twit Netcast Network. It frustrates me that even so called “geeks” don’t understand how important accessibility is in both software and on the web. What do you think of this letter? Please post your comments so perhaps someone will read them and really know that accessibility isn’t just a law but that it really does allow us as a market to enjoy the same level of access to products and services that our sighted peers enjoy and take for granted.


Mike Calvo



Program 51 Advocates for Universal Design … for Once

Hello Leo and Sarah,

I’ve been a long-time listener of The Twit Network and iPad today, and have
always been impressed with the insightful commentary you both consistently
provide on the show. I was very excited to hear your thoughts on HTML 5 on
show which aired on June 23
. As the CEO of an assistive technology company providing accessible cloud
services to the blind, I’m a staunch advocate of HTML 5. It allows for
consistent cross-platform design, and has the added benefit of being far more
accessible than other design technologies such as Flash.

I was all set to hear a well-thought-out
and candid discussion of the benefits of HTML 5, so imagine my shock and
surprise when you began discussing the iPad experience for the new
Potter site
. You first
lamented the fact that the site displayed on the iPad was a
text-only site, which lacked all the appealing features
of the main site. Then, Sarah took things one step further and asked the
developers to: "consider the community with good vision for once!"
Really? Seriously?

Sarah, have you ever been prevented from
conducting legitimate business because of an inability to use a particular
site? Have you ever had to contact a site designer to explain that you wanted
to purchase a business’s products and services but were prevented from doing so
because of a flaw in web design? Have you ever overheard a friend or family
member discussing a particular site, only to realize you couldn’t enjoy that
site yourself, again, because of a flaw in web design? This is the struggle
that the blind community faces on a daily basis. When your entire audience of
web developers, business professionals, and blind and sighted consumers hear
you minimize this struggle with a few snide and ill-considered words, it is
incredibly damaging. With this single statement, you’ve implied that
accessibility may be a headache which some designers have to address, but only
when it doesn’t detract from the experience of the mainstream audience or in
your words "those of us with good vision." What you fail to
understand is that the members of an audience who need accessibility don’t
actually want separate but equal. We want the same bells and whistles that
everyone else enjoys. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the consideration when a
site designer at least acknowledges the need for accessibility by providing a
text-only site. With that said, my primary goal is to educate developers that
accessibility doesn’t have to be an afterthought, and can be incorporated quite
easily without adversely impacting anyone else. In fact, when a developer
chooses to use something like HTML 5 over something like Flash, everyone
benefits, including the sighted iPad users like yourself who want a more
compelling experience.

As well-respected tech enthusiasts,
imagine how much you could do to further the education on web accessibility
just by including information like this when you discuss platforms like HTML 5.
Conversely, consider just how damaging it can be when you make statements which
encourage actions which further your own interests while minimizing those of
another population. Would you rather advocate for the continuation of a
separate but equal philosophy, or would you rather advocate for universal design,
"for once?"


Mike Calvo CEO

Serotek Corporation

Ph: (612) 246-4818

Fax (612) 643-3483

United Kingdom +44 2080-990685

accessibility anywhere

1128 Harmon Place

Suite 310

Minneapolis, MN 55403


Penny said...

I am a sighted person with a blind child. I don't think people understand 1. that the web can be made accessible to the blind. 2. Having an inaccessable website to the blind is same as not having a ramp for wheelchair for a brick and mortar building.

I think people think that an accessible website blind is impossible. They simply don't understand what it means to be blind or the amazing tools that are available.

Jack_goodfellow said...

grate letter, good to know there's people like you who don't take stuff for granted and are willing to challenge the status quo

mr. whitty said...

It is is great that you guys at Serotek do such a great job when it comes to accessibility! My name is Steve, and I know what is like to have trouble with accessibility because I am blind myself. That is why we need to make our voice heard when it comes to the issue of being able to have access to everything on the WEB.

Christopher said...

Thanks for publishing this. It's time that people such as macbrake weekly, and other web people knew that accessibility benefits everyone, not just a few.

Anonymous said...

Great post Mike! More and more these days I am having to put up with the inaccessibility of certain things and it really angers me. This may be a rather unpopular statement to make, but I think that the ACB and NFB need to do more to promote accessibility. It's true that they have done some good things, but more needs to be done. One suggestion I have is that more and more software developers be included in sessions with users of the various screen readers and such present.

Gary Crow said...

nicely said. it's too bad something so obviously true has to be said, but it does, every time the issue pops up. thankss for your letter.

Carlos Alonso said...

I was very disappointed to hear the comment on the show, and I appreciate your response to it, indifference to accessibility is one thing, but Sara's comment was careless and irresponsible for someone with a media voice. I am glad you spoke up about this and wish more people in AT would.