When I was 5 years old, I kept a pet caterpillar. One day I was watching this caterpillar walking along a twig in its plastic box, when it stopped. Arched its back. And split in two.
Dozens of white, sticky maggots wriggled and writhed their way out of its now rigid, lifeless body. Horrified, I grabbed the box and took it to the kitchen sink, where I tried desperately to wash away the evil that had burst into my previously innocent life.
But the evil revealed itself to be tenacious, the maggots clinging to the edges of the sink against the force of the water. And though eventually they succumbed, until this day nothing has quite removed the stain they left on my world.
Pete Love’s articles
Consider any of the medieval castles dotted around Britain. None of them were designed with disabled access in mind – mainly because most of them were meant to be impenetrable fortresses, and also because back then disability awareness was, well, somewhat limited.
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Your comments on the use of the word “impairment” as opposed to “disabilities” and “loss” is really interesting. I agree that the specific terms that are used to describe conditions influences people’s perception of them, and I have to say I sometimes find it hard to gauge what terms are the least problematic to use.
You say “Based on your argument, if we build a ramp beside stairs, we’ve designed the building incorrectly. Obviously this isn’t the case..”
Actually it is the case. If you build both a ramp and stairs, you are unnecessarily dividing people into groups that can use stairs and those that can’t, not to mention constructing two means to the same end, where one (the stairs) has no significant benefits to its users over the other. I’d say that was the very essence of bad design. Why not build just a ramp that everyone can use?
Actually the standards for building accessible websites have moved on since 1998. There has been continual debate around accessibility since then, and the WCAG 2 guidelines published in late 2008 are a definite step forward.
You’re right that the code produced by many WYSIWYG editors is semantically flawed, but these days some, such as CK Editor, are much better in this respect.
@ Florent V.
Thanks for your comments. I think you’re right – there are some WCAG 2 guidelines that benefit users with very specific conditions, and they have to be implemented consciously with those users in mind. I don’t think that this necessarily goes against the principle of ‘universal’ or ‘inclusive’ design though, as most of these guidelines can be implemented without any adverse effect on other users. A visible ‘skip navigation’ link for example is primarily of benefit to users who navigate via the keyboard rather than a mouse, but its presence on the page has no adverse effects for mouse users.
But of course, addressing all of these specific issues is time consuming, and requires considerable expertise and insight. Sometimes (in fact most times) time and budget restrictions don’t allow us to be as thorough as we’d like to be, in which case we have to be pragmatic and prioritise those condition-specific guidelines that we implement, based on our knowledge of our target audience.
Thanks for your comments. I totally agree that providing an ‘accessible’ version of a site is an indication of bad design. A properly designed site shouldn’t need an alternative version.
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I get what you are saying. Design sites that work well for all users without having to double up on functionality, access points etc..
I must say that your page title is severely flawed. While you may find it witty with the heading you have, it actually contradicts your article.
More work and emphasis needs to be given to the accessible website development world.
You’re right in saying good planning, structure, text-links, contrast etc… are a great way to start. But if you think that’s the end of it, try surfing the web blindfolded for a few days.