WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: multimedia accessibility a specialist skillset?


From: John E. Brandt
Date: Dec 14, 2006 12:16PM

I just attended a statewide IT conference and sat in on three sessions
related to "Usability" and Web 2.0. In nearly all the cases presented,
accessibility was not even mentioned other than to note it was a subset of
Usability. I was frankly a bit horrified when two women presenters talked
about all the new gadgets out there to soup-up your website...and then they
mumbled something about needing to create an HTML option for accessibility
purposes. When I called them to task on this, they danced around and gave
all of those "stupid" answers like, "You need to know your clientele..."
Then they basically admitted they knew next to nothing about making this
"stuff" accessible, but "we have a colleague who will be here later..."

Throughout the day in several presentations from different people, including
Eric Miller who led the Semantic Web Initiative at W3C, folks kept saying
things like "bad programming," or "lazy coding" causes this or that to
happen. The implication was that "usability" means "good coding" and "hard

Clearly, human nature is to find the path to least resistance, and
accessibility presents challenges and the "hard work" that many developers
avoid. Some are even adamant that we shouldn't even bother with this
marginal community (Actual Quote: "How many blind people are there
anyway?"). It helps me to understand why the community of people with
disabilities and advocates for this community have had to work hard to
create laws and rules.

In all my workshops, I always warn people about what has happened elsewhere
and it is "just a matter of time" before this will be the law of the land
(e.g., "the Target.com case"). With their heads in the sand and deadlines to
meet, they continue to cut corners.

So, I guess my answer to your question: "Can anyone foresee a time when
accessibility, even for rich media, will be considered standards based
design and not a specialist activity?" - not unless it becomes law. If it is
left to be optional. It will always be optional.

Just my opinion...


John E. Brandt
Augusta, Maine USA

-----Original Message-----
[mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of wendy constantine
Sent: Tuesday, December 12, 2006 11:40 PM
Subject: [WebAIM] multimedia accessibility a specialist skillset?

Is the development of accessible rich media including flash, video and audio
appropriately considered a specialist skillset? I've been conducting
research for a thesis in multimedia accessibility for online museum
education, and I am increasingly frustrated by the reasons developers give
for not making an accessible digital product.

The reason I expected to hear is that clients don't require it. Cost, time,
tools and knowledge are the other common barriers, in that order.

If one approaches accessibility from a universal design perspective, meaning
conceiving of the design of the product to meet the needs of various
audiences, the time and cost of accessibility can be minimized, in my
perspective. I have yet to find a developer that will second that notion,

As for tools, captioning tools for video and even flash video are freely
available. The availability of a transcript (audio/video descriptions aside)
would be the main barrier to producing captions cost effectively. And there
are tools to help with just that.
Captioning long segments of video can be time-consuming, yet I would have to
question the reasoning behind delivering long segments of video over the

If anyone has examples of tools and/or services for captioning, please do
suggest them. I would very much like to present some solutions to these
common barriers.

Flash has also come a long way in providing accessibility built into the
development process. It won't think for you, but Flash can enable
accessibility today in ways most developers do not realize. As Bob Reagan
has so eloquently said, it is more a failure of the imagination than of the

Can anyone foresee a time when accessibility, even for rich media, will be
considered standards based design and not a specialist activity?

Thanks for your input!
Wendy Constantine