May. 20th, 2010

deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Kill Accessibility, a blog post by Gary Barber, made me put me head down on my desk and take several deep breaths.

Barber makes some excellent points about some of the limitations of the accessibility movement. He talks about how accessibility shouldn't be an afterthought, but incorporated into good web design and universal design. He talks about how for many, "accessible" has come to mean "for people with visual impairments". He talks about the weakness of the way checklists are used, and about the low social value of improving your website's checklist.

So why does Barber lose me at the very beginning of his blog post? His first content heading: "We are not Assistive Technology users." I repeat that: "We are not Assistive Technology users." He goes on to say The old UX catch call is never truer here – we are not the users. The disparity between us and the people we are really working for, with accessibility, is sometimes just too great for us to even get a idea of what it is like, no matter how many videos of people using assitive technology we see.

Who is this "we" about whom you are speaking, Able-Bodied Man?

Last weekend I was in a room full of accessibility professionals, about half of whom had visible disabilities. The director of the WAI has a disability. There are people with disabilities on all of the web accessibility mailing lists I'm on. That's not even counting the other parts of the web development community I interact with, the parts that don't have any particular concern with accessibility and yet still have a multitude of developers with disabilities.

We are here. You just aren't talking to us. You just aren't listening.

Maybe the first step in the accessibility community is to recognize that some members of your own community are also the users, and to listen to us when we speak. I don't speak for all computer users with disabilities. I speak for exactly one: myself. But if you don't even know that we are here, each of us speaking for ourselves, you sure as hell are not going to be able to serve anyone in the community.
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