jeshyr: Jeshyr - Dreamwidth Accessibility (Dreamwidth - Accessibility)
Ricky Buchanan ([personal profile] jeshyr) wrote in [site community profile] dw_accessibility2013-04-25 08:47 pm

Did you catch accessibility too?

[OK I have been meaning to post this for about a month and I keep putting it off on account of not having the right phrasing, but hey ... wrong phrasing will have to do]

My basic question is to those developers/volunteers/users of Dreamwidth who are NOT themselves users of accessibility technology...

I know that a bunch of folks here have become accessibility converts/evangelists. By which I mean that you're not just "doing accessibility" because Dreamwidth requires you to, but you're really understanding why it's necessary and important and often you're pointing this out to others in other contexts away from Dreamwidth too.

I know that a project can require people to "do" accessibility, but a project can't make people *care* about accessibility... and most projects that "do" accessibility at all are in the first category. So ... how did you come to care about accessibility, especially if Dreamwidth was involved??

I have been chatting to Liz Ellcessor who is writing a book about web accessibility specifically and wants to know about Dreamwidth's accessibility from the inside, but it's also just a thing I have been wondering about more generally too. Dreamwidth is known for "doing accessibility" well and part of that is that we have got a bunch of people fired up about it and that's a really hard thing to do!!

So how do you think you caught accessibility?
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[personal profile] kaberett 2013-04-25 11:11 am (UTC)(link)
For me? I suppose I got into it initially via social justice, and then as I started moving towards identifying as disabled and noticing more and more ways in which the world of the flesh was horribly inaccessible to me, I got more and more interested in making sure that people with different access needs than mine didn't get tripped up by 6" kerbs being left all over the shop at "home". So. Yes. Via analogy to my own experiences (I don't use assistive tech myself), largely, but also through Wanting To Make Sure Everyone Can Participate.

[personal profile] alexwlchan 2013-04-25 11:33 am (UTC)(link)
I don’t remember the details, because I’ve been vaguely “doing” it for several years now, but a few data points:

* Audiobooks/podfic. I listened to them a lot when I was a kid, and it vaguely reinforced the idea
* I read about it. Since I spend a fair amount of time reading stuff in the Apple community, and Apple tends to have pretty decent accessibility support in their software, people talk about it a lot. e.g. [1-3] It also tends to appear on OS X and iOS spec sheets, and so I’d read about it there. I had no idea what VoiceOver was, so I gave it a spin.
* Helping people to use it. Once I knew this stuff was there, I started pointing friends and family who benefited from it in a small way (such as setting up email for my grandparents so they could read it without glasses). I saw what a boon it was for them, and realised how much it could mean to somebody for whom this really was necessary, as opposed to merely an assistance.
* Dogfooding accessibility technologies. Every so often, I just switch on VoiceOver (or inverted colours, or something else) and use it that way. Helps me realise how different and how much better it might be for somebody who uses it full time. Plus it was useful when one of the buttons on my phone broke (working by the sea for two weeks, the spring essentially rusted solid), and I could continue to use it eventually unimpaired.

I guess those are some of the things that got me interested and caring about it? Probably others, but memory doesn’t serve.

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[personal profile] automaticdoor 2013-04-25 11:34 am (UTC)(link)
For me, it's a lot like [profile] kabarett said: I'm committed to social justice and to Wanting Everyone To Be In On Things, so why wouldn't I? I'm fairly neuroatypical and consider myself part of the disability rights community, most of my best friends have physical and/or psychiatric disabilities... it just seems like it's a natural fit. My closest friend in close proximity to me uses a wheelchair and we're blocked from doing a lot of things together because of accessibility issues, so the analogy, as [profile] kabarett said, is pretty clear. Further, I also get severe migraines and have trouble with color distinguishing and audio processing at times, so though I don't use adaptive tech, I do like to make sure things are web-accessible in other ways.
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[personal profile] ninetydegrees 2013-04-25 12:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I think it's not that I didn't care before, it's that I had a different perspective because I didn't know what accessibility was really about. What I've slowly come to realize, thanks to Dreamwidth, is that accessibility goes hand-in-hand with usability even though they're on different levels (necessity vs comfort). Thinking about both as a cohesive unit benefits everybody in the long term and is a much better approach, and probably an easier one too even though it seems like it adds initial constraints. I feel like you (general you) miss a lot of opportunities to make things easier for a lot of people when you make accessibility a separate issue which only concerns a specific minority of users. This goes for non-Internet things too. I hope I'm making sense.
Edited 2013-04-25 13:02 (UTC)
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[personal profile] pauamma 2013-04-25 02:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Accessibility and usability are one and the same, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not sure what either entail for people who want or need it, and I'm not willing to decide for others whether a given feature they're asking for is something they want or something they need.
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[personal profile] alianora 2013-04-25 03:05 pm (UTC)(link)
I teach special education, and I fell in love with assistive technology, which made me conscious of the problems with accessibility. I have this comm and others like it, friended or on rss feed or whatever I can, to remind myself what I can do and when I need to speak up about it.
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[personal profile] brownbetty 2013-04-25 04:28 pm (UTC)(link)
To the extent that I have 'caught' it and understand and practice it, it is because to me it is a usability issue. Not in the sense that I believe usability should be extended to the widest possible segment of users (although I do) but because I tend to hack on things, and the more accessible a thing is, the more it is hackable. When you separate the semantic markup from the frippery, you are making it more hackable, in addition to making it more usable.

I mean, I would hopefully also be thoughtful and not put in a seizure inducing gif, but that is always my second "oh wait. crap." When I am really practising accessibility as a primary concern, it is because to me the accessible structure is more beautiful/hackable to me.

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[personal profile] jesse_the_k 2013-04-25 09:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Self-involved is not a bad thing when it can tickle a coder's fancy *grin*
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[personal profile] metawidget 2013-04-25 05:42 pm (UTC)(link)
I think I caught it from the spec and from reading about accessibility in techy media some time ago (A List Apart comes to mind). I got the idea into my head that the W3C specs defined "doing it right" in part as "accessible," and equated or at least correlated "machine-indexable and searchable" with "accessible" and "logically structured" with "accessible" and the rest was history.

That, and I was slow in getting a big-bandwidth connection, so alt tags and avoiding trendy animated junk made my life better for quite a while, too.
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[personal profile] wychwood 2013-04-25 06:29 pm (UTC)(link)
I think a combination of getting involved with online social justice communities and discussions, and my mother becoming disabled. As a generally able-bodied person, there is nothing like trying to move around public spaces with someone who is mobility impaired to make you notice things you never saw before. And I think it's really important to make technology accessible to everyone (because technology is important! and really powerful!), and this is a place where I can maybe help with that.
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[personal profile] azurelunatic 2013-04-25 06:51 pm (UTC)(link)
The first inklings of it for me came with my time in the LiveJournal [ profile] suggestions community. In social media sites with strong display settings, there is a perpetual debate about whose display settings should win out: the settings of the person creating the content, who may have a design aesthetic that goes beyond the text, images, other embeds, and semantic formatting, to include font, layout, and color choices -- or the person reading it, whose display choices may involve accessibility needs.

The customizable friends page set the stage for it; since the friends page was customizable to the needs of the reader, I believe that my feeling that non-semantic markup (embedded font face, size, font color, and background color choices) hardcoded in an entry was rude to the reader -- was representative of sentiments held by large parts of the Support team. This was because the Support team got the "my friend's entry is unreadable and/or breaking my friends page" requests rather often. The solution was of course that the friend could and should fix it; if the friend wanted a global change of font, the friend should adjust their journal style, not adjust the text in each entry. And of course there were always the people for whom their display preferences were not just strongly preferred, but in fact necessary for them to meaningfully take in and understand what was written at all.

So I came out of LJ Support with a vague feeling that for social media sites, the display preferences of the reader should triumph if there was a conflict (and of course the creator's display preferences should be honored when the creator is also the reader, or if the reader has not expressed any preference).

LiveJournal was of course started as a personal blogging site. But it's also a reasonably robust content management system, and thus people have used it for an array of amazing things. Roleplaying, of course, but also shops, a choose-your-own-adventure game, and (thank you, S2) Dre's infamous tic-tac-toe game. At one point Denise had a compilation of advice in her capacity as Support Manager that included the point that any change that removed a capability of the system had the likelihood of breaking at least one user's absolutely vital (to them) use of the service, because of the vast diversity of uses.

Around 2008, there were an immense number of little fixes that had gone unfixed for years at LiveJournal, to the point where I resented new features because they were using developer time that I felt would have been better allocated to fixing the things that people had been complaining about since 2003. LiveJournal had stopped accepting most external patches, so development was very constrained by the available labor of LiveJournal employees. Furthermore, the bug tracker went private, and it seemed like only problems with the existing code, and things that had been approved for labor, went into it. It felt like working in an office building that was 90% finished, but with rough, splintery boards and unsecured trip hazards -- and the construction budget was going to putting in a swimming pool while Support was running out of band-aids and had lost half their tweezers. So even accessibility-minded suggested changes sometimes made me cranky.

Dreamwidth grew out of LiveJournal. For me, at first, the difference was that LiveJournal was very bound by tradition: if it's been done that way forever, what justifies changing it? while Dreamwidth was open to change, and open to accommodating as many as practical of the really weird use cases that wouldn't break everything for everybody. The attitude to accepting bugs for development was less "no, we cannot accept this: we cannot allocate the development time" and more "yes, this change fits with our vision of the service; we don't know who will develop it or how fast, but we can include it in the plans."

It was that developmentally inclusive attitude, and the way that the little usability bugs that had been getting up everyone's collective noses for years were actually being fixed, that convinced me that a "how can we make this work" attitude for accepting user suggestions was vital.

The importer seemed to unlock a movement of content-driven design in a way that even the friends page had not. It seemed like [staff profile] mark was leading that once he'd got on board with the concept, and there was a switch from the idea that layouts should be something visually designed in Photoshop and then sliced up and attached to structural elements, to layouts being built by functional areas and then moved into an aesthetically pleasing order. LiveJournal's site schemes seemed to be built look-first, and then cramming all the elements into place to fit the look; Dreamwidth changed the name to "site skin" to better fit the idea of different colors and fonts being laid over the same bones sitewide.

Thus when various folks with strong accessibility needs showed up in #dw, having been attracted by the diversity statement, I was in an excellent frame of mind to help combine their needs and my understanding of the Dreamwidth gestalt. Their surprise at the warm welcome from #dw in contrast to other less accessible sites, and their stories of [community profile] accessibility_fail were compelling; these people were now my friends, and I was cranky on their behalf. [personal profile] lightgetsin's brief study on accessibility requests for random websites was eye-opening (pun intended). Internet social justice training includes the concept of robust ally action. Since I am able to use sites that are not accessible to other users, and I don't need the accommodations, it costs me very little in effort to ask for them when they are not there already. I don't notice them in any way as keenly as someone who actually needs them would, but exposure and research of my own has trained me better than my college classes did about what is likely to be accessible and what is not.
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[personal profile] azurelunatic 2013-04-29 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
I also wrote an essay a few years back which touches on accessibility on DW as I saw it then:
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[personal profile] carene_waterman 2013-04-25 10:17 pm (UTC)(link)
I still have a style=mine bookmarklet on my toolbar.

A long time ago, I started posting on LJ. I knew nothing about HTML, had only ever used forum sites, so I started reading up on how to format posts properly, and I hit the advice about em tags not i tags that everyone likely knows. That's the first exposure to any discussion of webaxe I recall. About the same time, I found that bookmarklet and said bye-bye to journals I couldn't read.

And then DW came along and did things like persistent style=mine, and the navbar that wasn't persistent or responsive (and broke my old narrow monitor display), but actually knew that was a bug, and I realized that I matter. I as a user, my needs and wants matter. DW even has a policy that says I matter.

DW also had a community of folks involved in Feminists with Disabilities or accessibility activism in general and people who talked openly about where they are on the spectrum of all sorts of ability axes all the time.

And then I started learning more about HTML and CSS at a time when the Responsive Design idea was blooming. I never learned any way but fluid and responsive.

And if all device users matter--the ideal behind responsive design--then all users matter. I found the principles of usability in design and that's when the really big click happened for me. Because at the same time I was experiencing growing problems using a lot of websites due to the same gradual loss of visual acuity all sighted people will experience as they age. Then came some recurring tendinitis...

I started reading about usability, responsive design, accessibility, and the more webaxe or a11y folks you read, the more you find. The more it also resonates with anyone who's ever learned any critical feminist or race theory.

And I came to the conclusion that it shouldn't be about people with named disabled identities vs. a normative mass of others, with "catering" to the former considered an enhancement you get to after you deploy.

It should be about how all of us are on a spectrum of abilities and if all of us matter, then all of us should be considered by designers and developers at the wouldn't it be great to make a site that does X stage.

I understand why accessibility gets promoted over usability in order to clearly state goals, prioritize developer time, serve absolute necessities like screen reader users first, get crappy sites to fix things, hell, just to use a word people have a context for. I get that.

But at the end of the day, I still think if you design for usability, for all users, you build in accessibility by default. And it should be by default. It shouldn't be a special add-on you get to after you've lovingly perfected your branded colour scheme and your pixel-perfect layout.

It's like how you can't make your group diverse, you have to make a group that diverse people want to join.

So, the tl;dr is:

* I started doing a bit of very basic coding.
* I stumbled upon some basic accessibility advice.
* I saw DW doing even higher-level accessibility in a matter of fact way.
* I learned more about accessibility in a general theoretical way.
* I was learning more advanced coding.
* My needs changed. Selfishness as the great motivator!!!
* I stumbled upon usability theory.
* My mind linked the chain: social justice - responsive design - accessibility - usability - all users matter - all people matter.
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[personal profile] mundens 2013-04-25 11:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Not that I've done much on Dreamwidth for a while, but I've been pushing accessibility in all my professional web design capacities, since before the original RFC on accessibility came out, purely because I know too many people whom it affects.

Even simple things like careful color choices in design to allow for various forms of colour-blindness, to allowing easy increase of font size for the vision-impaired, are easily forgotten but also easy to do, and can be the difference between a customer buying your product or not.

Also, from a professional standards point of view, the skills and understanding needed to make a web design work properly in, say, a voice-reader, are the same skills and understanding required to make it work in any other form of "non-standard" interface, so someone who practices good accessibility technique in web design is likely to also be capable of handling a shift to a different new interface, like ,initially, mobile phones, and then touch sensitive pads, and now, Google Glasses and voice activation.

So while it's a good thing for those that need it, and knowing people who need it is a good enough reason to do it, what really makes me keen about it is that it makes you think about your design working with multiple different types of interface, and thus to structure your code cleanly. Such things are only going to get more important as ubiquitous computing becomes the norm.
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[personal profile] marahmarie 2013-04-28 06:14 am (UTC)(link)
But at the end of the day, I still think if you design for usability, for all users, you build in accessibility by default.

This, this, this exactly. And I'm probably, to an objective eye, still probably pretty bad at this in some respects. For example, I have a non-responsive layout on my personal DW that I simply refuse to give up. I sometimes forget to use ems or percentages instead of pixels in sizing fonts or certain otherwise expandable design elements, or to remember everything should scale on zoom. My color palettes probably need some contrast work. Point is, not that I know how to do accessibility/usability right all the time, or even notice what all is wrong with how I do things some of the time, but that since I've joined DW I have taken an increasing interest in both topics, so I'm willing to try. I've come to pretty much the same conclusion as you: in most respects, if your design is fully usable, it will also be far more accessible than if it was not. And that's 90% of anyone's coding/design battle for accessibility right there.
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[personal profile] vickita 2013-04-26 12:09 am (UTC)(link)
Multiple things. First, I'm the webmaster for a U.S. federal government scientific research facility, and we are required by law to be accessible. I take that very seriously; we are there for *all* of the citizens of the U.S., not just the ones who can explore our website without assistance.

Second, the husband of one of my best friends is blind; I know how challenging things are for him. (And I use them for advice and user testing a *lot*.)

Third, in my copious spare time I run websites for musicians and music venues. As it happens, a lot of blind people like music! Imagine that! And I feel very, very strongly about making sure that the websites that I run don't turn them away at the door.

And really, it's not that hard to build accessible sites. In many cases, it's just a matter of using good coding practices. I'm a better semantic coder because of concerns for accessibility than I probably would have been otherwise.
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[personal profile] shadowspar 2013-04-26 04:18 pm (UTC)(link)
When I shipped off to university as an undergraduate, money was pretty tight. We had a slow computer, a slow internet connection, and when it came to allocating what cash we had, upgrading either one never made it to the top of the priority list.

By the time Netscape 4 was released, the wait to render web pages on our machine seemed interminable. I'd heard of Lynx, decided to give it a try, and was immediately blown away by how OMFG FAST the web suddenly seemed -- even with our tired old computer and dodgy internet connection. Too, there was always a huge lineup for the Win95 computer labs at school, but the ones with terminals wired up to the school's Unix server were always empty.

This was a great setup on the whole, but some websites were godawfully, horribly broken. I learned about HTML and its idea of marking up the structure of a document, not its presentation -- the final call on how something is presented should be up to the client. It pissed me off to no end that certain sites wouldn't work on certain devices. There was no reason at all that a website should be totally unusable with a given browser, or a given mobile device, or what have you. And learning that these same interoperability issues were the ones that usually screwed over people who relied on accessibility software -- I mean, I could usually work around the brokenness of somebody's clueless website design, but for a lot of people, that wasn't an available option.

The web should be an accessibility paradise, because if text documents are put together in an interoperable way, a user's client can transform them in whatever way they need to access it. At the time, so many of the people who built websites seemed only to care about whatever "looked cool" on the bigscreen monitors connected to their high-end broadband-fed Windows machines. I remember scornful responses when someone raised concerns about compatibility or accessibility. The ignorance of this very élite group of people was causing folks not to be able to access the information that they needed to go about their lives. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.
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[personal profile] cesy 2013-04-27 03:19 pm (UTC)(link)
It was a gradual process for me, so it's hard to pin down what caused it. I'd been becoming gradually more aware of a lot of social justice issues for a while, and Dreamwidth's launch and accessibility discussions were timed well for me, coinciding with a bunch of other disability and feminism stuff and another round of Racefail rehashing, talking about intersectionality and then the launch of FWD.

The thing that tipped me over from "I should probably learn about this sometime" to actually learning, caring and teaching others, was probably when I grasped how accessibility is linked to usability - the idea of universal design, and that a more accessible site is better for everyone, not just complying with the Disability Discrimination Act.

[personal profile] swaldman 2013-04-27 04:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Hmm. I don't think I've ever been much of an evangelist for accessibility in the "for people who need it" way, although I certainly consider it a Good Idea. However, I've always very much believed that if you Do It Right, especially with respect to separating content and design, then a lot of stuff becomes easy - whether that's showing things differently for somebody with different needs, or changing a design in a few years time, or wanting to do something different with the content...

(Why yes, I do write printed documents in LaTeX sometimes, why d'you ask?)

That said, Doing It Right doesn't always automatically make things accessible, and while I don't put much effort into learning about accessibility needs myself, I'm usually very happy when people tell me "doing x would make things better" to do x.