Why Bother with Web Accessibility?



October 25, 2010

I'm happy to announce that the video of my presentation is now online. Thanks DBNStudios for recording it. I'd also like to thank @cobalt123, @Chris Devers, @Let Ideas Compete, @OlsenWeb, @crizzirc, @mcbeth, @liber, @leshoward, @willem velthoven, @nickhall, @Stefan, @cobalt123, @Kalense Kid, @Kalense Kid, @PhillipC, @United Nations Photo, @ChrisGoldNY, @Norma Desmond, @Sara G..., @Dan Kunitz, @Gabor Hojtsy, @Christolakis, @Don Solo, @cobalt123, @Rene Ehrhardt, @patrick h. lauke, @m.gifford, @, @NJLA: New Jersey Library Association licensing their images under a creative commons license so that I could use them in this presentation. Sadly, I was not organized enough to have them incorporated in the video presentation unfortunately.

This weekend I presented a session at Drupal Camp Montreal 2010 on Drupal 7 & Accessibility. I always get nervous around presentations, but this is an important issue in which I have invested a lot of time & effort in the last two years. I've blogged about the HTML5 slide presentation, but it's also interesting.

I had a few goals in doing this presentation and I'm not sure how well I did in covering them. I certainly did raise the issue of Accessibility in the Drupal community. Many people were aware that there are some accessibility enhancements in D7, but there were a few who were not familiar with the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or the WCAG 2.0 P.O.U.R. objectives.

Guidelines like WCAG are an indispensable part of improving accessibility, but they aren't the only means tool at our disposal and shouldn't be used in isolation. They are guidelines which can be used in conjunction with user feedback & expert advice.

I wanted to illustrate that accessibility issues aren't about them, but are really about us. I touched on how our abilities are temporary and not something that we can take for granted. I also asked folks to identify if they were colour blind, 8% of men are. There are other forms of invisible disability that we don't know, especially when working virtually. It's an issue we have responsibility to take seriously of for ourselves as well as others.

Many people are under the impression that Drupal 7 will fix all of their accessibility problems, so they just have to upgrade. This isn't accurate. Drupal 7 is a big step forwards, but it is a long way from being a silver bullet for accessibility issues. I do see it as a key part of an accessibility strategy. It's a strategy that we've tried to outline in more detail in the Accessibility Group's wiki page.

There is no quick fix to make your site universally accessible. I asserted that many accessibility efforts have failed because of a lack of collaboration on solutions. Now with Drupal 7 there is a base to more easily identify & fix accessibility bugs in contributed modules & themes. Also, there's a whole assortment of documentation, patches & links to draw on to find a solution.

I wanted to raise awareness about the international conventions for people with disabilities and Ontario / Quebec accessibility legislation that is being introduced. This will be affecting many Drupal sites over the next few years and it is good that people are aware that it is becoming law.

To view the slides use either Opera or Chrome for the best HTML5 experience Accessibility presentation at DrupalCamp Montreal.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.