“Do We Need To Change the Web Accessibility Game Plan” (inspired by this blog entry) was the title of a panel session I moderated this week at the CSUN conference. The panel consisted of Sandi Wassmer, John Foliot, and Jennison Asuncion. When I proposed and organized the panel, I did not anticipate being outnumbered by three Canadians, nor did I anticipate the amazing discussion and energy that would result. It was nerve-racking to manage the passionate conversation, especially in front of so many of my highly respected mentors and peers.
As the session began, we established a #gameplan hashtag. My Twitter stream exploded with over 300 tweets during and shortly after the hour-long panel. Below are many of the tweets (some have been trimmed) that capture just a few of the thoughts and messages of the conversation.
joshueoconnor: I didn’t know there was a gameplan, maybe discuss what it is before we discuss changing it?
CharJTF: Most of us think that web #a11y will be better in 5 years. (We’re hopeful.)
kelsmith: “We have their attention, it’s now a matter of conveying the message appropriately.” @Jennison
IanPouncey: Accessibility is at an all time high when it comes to awareness
LeonieWatson: We’ve progressed from the “why?” of accessibility, to the “how?”.
LeonieWatson: Our accessibility challenge is trying to keep up with the latest cool innovations.
kelsmith: Importance of keeping #a11y in front of innovation curve – need some way to bind that to commercialization plans.
GlendaWH: Talking about web accessibility as inclusive gains more buy in. Should we rephrase it as “web inclusivity” to increase awareness?
joshueoconnor: It’s important to change the way a11y is perceived by showing positive benefits. Making it easier to do will help.
joshueoconnor: On the spec level #a11y is hard to do. Small coteries of ‘expert opinion’, coupled with bad science doesn’t help
IanPouncey: Everyone involved in web development needs to understand their role in accessibility.
blurrry: How do we get accessibility to be included into the usability courses in college curriculum?
BitPlayer: “Right thing to do” works until the budget or time are short.
dboudreau: I feel we’ve already started changing our #gameplan by infiltrating other larger conferences that initially didn’t care about #a11y
rlambert27: The “how” must also be driven by #educating the designers/coders to integrate #a11y at the start of projects, not an afterthought
kelsmith: doesn’t even use the word “accessibility” anymore to clients. I prefer “barrier-free” or “inclusive.”
joshueoconnor: #a11y going from a semantic famine to a feast with HTML5/ARIA etc but UIs have 2 be easy to author not more complex.
Nethermind: When talking to marketers, connect to them using their brand promise, sell inclusivity.
dboudreau: I hate the idea of stopping using “accessibility” for other terms, like we had to be ashamed of it for some reason
Christiane: Oh no, he said the c-word – certification.
rlambert27: I don’t think the #a11y image has a problem, I think the people relate #a11y to more costs which isn’t true when done properly!
dboudreau: It’s our job to shed some positive light on it. It’s simple. Our problem is we’re passionate & passion scares people.
dboudreau: What if our problem was those a11y advocates that are way too dogmatic and not pragmatic enough?
IanPouncey: Accessibility needs to be communicated to non-specialists in a clear and united way to avoid confusion.
joshueoconnor: #a11y is often just a by product of good design (both w code and UI). Good design principles is the 101
Nethermind: “What is good enough? Good enough is when we don’t leave anyone behind.”
yenra: I cringe when software vendors use our disagreement as an excuse to do nothing.
SteveBuell: accessibility is often defined as “available” Need to redef as platform/ability agnostic.
scenariogirl: I would argue any Usability Expert without Accessibility expertise is not a Usability “Expert”
IanPouncey: Why isn’t ‘accessibility’ not a profession in the same way that ‘usability’ is?
jbailey: Do those who advocate network security get asked for white papers?
dboudreau: @jbailey No, but security is based on fear. a11y can be based on fear too, when it comes to lawsuits. Not our most positive option.
kelsmith: Accessibility is not independent of UX, nor a subset. Accessibility *is* UX.
yenra: Lawyer in audience: “the Law has an image problem. But it’s a civil right. We should not shy away!”
IanPouncey: Accessibility is a civil right, the legal system is how civil rights are protected. Is the legal approach effective?
jbailey: Legal consequences are frequently considered a calculated risk.
LeonieWatson: We need to educate, regulate and legislate for #a11y.
v: You can sell #a11y all day in a #gameplan, but if business needs of Web products are not addressed then advocacy stays in vacuums.
yenra: European audience member: physical space #a11y strong in U.S. (really good), Web should be as strong.
kelsmith: agrees with @Jennison – we need to graduate technologists and UX folks who have base #a11y chops.
goodwitch: laws are a very different motivator than #humanrights. Laws are cold, #a11y as a human right is intrinsically motivating
dboudreau: I really don’t get the problem. We have a different speech, based on who we speak to. Pragmatism is key.
yenra: 1 day we won’t need an #a11y expert in isolation but rather simply seek a developer who as a norm knows #a11y
Nethermind: Know your #a11y research empirically – Jim Tobias
yenra: “Let’s model on the environmental movement which is still a movement but has professions & disciplines & sciences too”
SteveBuell: A bit disappionted no call for #harmonization among all players in #a11y #gameplan #csun11 descended into #advocacy not #solutions
dboudreau: @SteveBuell At this stage we were still in the process of looking at our own collective belly button. We need to take a step back.
SteveBuell: @dboudreau I’ll be brutally honest. I don’t think we should hire people who lack #a11y knowledge.
dboudreau: @SteveBuell Sure but what can you do? If #a11y was a hiring requirement then we’d have a serious issue – not enough skilled people
And one particular tweet that I think sums up the panel discussion, the infiltration of a newer, younger audience to CSUN, and our efforts at changing the web accessibility game plan…
jbailey: One theme of #csun11 is transition. The old guard is meeting the new. And the future looks very bright indeed!
One thing that was established in the conversation was that while we are making great effort, much more needs to be done – we do need to change the web accessibility game plan. So I invite you to continue the discussion below and elsewhere. I do ask, however, that we focus not on the problems, but on solutions and ways we can make the field of web accessibility more effective and mainstream.