Accessibility, a grumpy old man

Paul Boag

I am passionate about accessibility but recently I have begun to feel like accessibility issues are holding the whole sector back.

I don’t know if it is just me but the issue of web accessibility is really hacking me off at the moment. From WCAG 2.0 to AJAX and speech browsers, the subject of accessibility seems to be all doom and gloom. It’s beginning to feel like an old man constantly grumbling about the new trendy young kids on the block.

Anybody who reads this blog or listens to the boagworld podcast knows I am passionate about accessibility. I believe that website owners and designers have a moral obligation to make their sites as accessible as possible. However recently I have begun to feel like accessibility issues are holding the whole sector back.

First of all we find out that all the cool AJAX stuff flying about at the moment has serious problems when used in conjunction with speech browsers. Then last night I was interviewing Aral Balkan for an upcoming podcast and he was telling me about how exciting flash is these days. Although he was sharing some incredible stuff I couldn’t get that grumpy old man’s voice out of my head moaning about the associated cost of accessibility.

Then as if to add insult to injury we learn that the next generation of web accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are almost impossible to interpret and even harder to implement.

It almost makes you want to give up and go back to the bad old days where we all ignored accessibility. After all the WCAG 2.0 guidelines now kindly allow me to create a baseline for all the sites explaining that none of the cool stuff is accessible and still allowing me to be compliant!

In my opinion a lot of the problems revolve around deficiencies in user agents such as speech browsers. They are simply not sophisticated enough to deal with the new techniques and approaches that are emerging. Of course even if they were to improve the cost of upgrading would, for many, be prohibitive.

It’s an interesting dilemma. Should progress be held back because accessibility concerns? What do you think?