after having an incredibly frustrating day I feel it is important to talk about why accessibility matters FOR EVERYONE. my frustrations had to do with dealing with inaccessible software finding things on websites that were inaccessible and people who just don’t care. Overall a day like today is completely demoralizing to an accessibility professional like myself.
Picture yourself in my shoes. You need to find the right item for the job. You know what the specs are you need but you have no idea which of the products meet those specs or how well they do at it. You now go to your favorite search engine and start typing in which widget do I need. You find a website that compares a whole pile of different widgets that seem to all have compatible specs but are structurally very different from one another. All the items on this web page at first glimpse seem to meet your requirements. Now you pick the one with the best price. But wait there are three prices for the same unit what differentiates them from one another. There are lots of pictures of the items but all these pictures are unlabeled graphics. After struggling with this particular website for about 20 minutes you use your ask a friend card. your friend now tells you that the picture links to a page that has a whole pile of other information about each item that is different than what the FrontPage said. Now we start over again.
After about three hours of searching for the right widget earlier today. I found a website that had a phone number I could call to get the information. Turns out all my time looking around I was missing one key factor the visual image of the item. Accessibility could have change this by giving a better description of those visual images. Putting information upfront about items would’ve helped me get more done. My next interaction was so much more basic and profound though.
I was given an application to try and complete a task I will need to do quite frequently.I was able to download the file for the application after about 20 minutes of exploring their website. After a five-minute installation process of unlabeled buttons checkboxes and all the rest I got the application installed. When I tried to run the application the only thing I could get my screen reader to say was push the red button to start. I gave up after another half hour of trying to find the damn red button.
The last failing of the day was the most disheartening. I sent off a letter describing the inaccessibility of an application a while ago. When I tried to read the response today the file itself with the response in it was a scanned image.
Things like this happen to people with disabilities on a daily basis. We encounter in accessible websites correspondence we can’t read and tools we just can’t use to do our jobs. In many countries there are legal requirements to make all these things accessible but sometimes even the people who write these laws do not obey them. Recently the US has taken a major step back in its implementation of accessibility laws by starting the process of rulemaking on web accessibility guidelines. If we don’t have these rules and people don’t obey them days like the one I’ve just had will constantly affect people with disabilities and disenfranchise them from the rest of the world.