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NFB v. Target: Web Accessibility and business
August 27, 2008 7:29 PM   Subscribe

An important class action lawsuit was settled today when Target agreed to pay $6 million in damages to the plaintiffs (National Federation of the Blind, et al.) because these disabled users could not shop on the Target.com site. Here is a collection of legal mumbo jumbo materials.

The WCAG set authored by the W3C is barely used online (and 2.0 is controversial); Section 508 applies only to government-funded agencies and their websites; this class action lawsuit put to test the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, particularly Title III.

Some of the comments posted to various newspapers about the story were particularly enlightening: disabled people are lawsuit-happy whiny bastards; small business owners will be put out of business because making accessible sites is omg so expensive and hard; WWW usage is a privilege, not a right; and, naturally, arguments against the previously stated.

The ADA doesn't specify how online stores should be made accessible, though, so business will have to rely on WCAG and maybe even tips from Section 508.
posted by Ky (108 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't find the most important things I need to know about all class action lawsuits: am I a member of the settlement class, and if so, where can I apply for my $15 check?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:39 PM on August 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Profit damages? Why don't they just spend the money updating their site for the blind?
posted by Brian B. at 7:42 PM on August 27, 2008


This is an important subject and a valuable thing to know about. Using namecalling and snark in your post about it is probably the wrong way to announce it, though.
posted by ardgedee at 7:43 PM on August 27, 2008


I don't think it was so much "using" as paraphrasing.
posted by starman at 7:47 PM on August 27, 2008


Writing to WCAG and Section 508 isn't hard, although certain web platforms will throw up more obstacles than others. In general the only real constraint, aside from whether the web developer is reasonably up-to-date with modern HTML/CSS/etc, is whether there's enough time and budget to cover the extra testing and proofing necessary for compliance.

The Target lawsuit is important because of the new obligations imposed on web developers to work to standards that their clients do not necessarily understand or feel sympathetic to pay extra for.

It's going to be interesting to see if there's any shakeout in the industry, or if there's sudden hiring spree among major companies that administer their own websites, a'la the market explosion for Year 2k Compliance programmers at the end of the last decade.
posted by ardgedee at 7:51 PM on August 27, 2008


Wow. Scary and interesting.

Scary in that there's really no defined set of rules or guidelines, defined by the government, a non-government web site should meet in order to be considered accessible. Even if Target was to meet WCAG 1.0 guidelines it would still be possible to bring (and win!) such a lawsuit because of a lack of a government standard. Very scary.

Interesting in that 1) Target didn't take the case to trial, so there's still no government ruling on the ADA with regards to web sites and 2) this might spark some serious interest in web site accessibility. It'll be interesting to see how this impacts all the Flash-based and AJAX-based (think "web 2.0") web sites which are HORRIBLY inaccessible to blind users.

And worst of all, how do you judge between "bad" web sites and "inaccessible" web sites? I've seen some really horrible web sites that are utterly inaccessible to unimpaired users; could someone bring an ADA suit against such a web site?

Scary and interesting.
posted by ruthsarian at 7:52 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


am I a member of the settlement class, and if so, where can I apply for my $15 check?

I worked for Target during the time frame in question, and a few months ago I got a little mailer informing me about the suit. It said I don't have to do anything in order to claim my (certainly tiny) check. I only needed to notify them if I disagreed with the suit and didn't wish to identify as member of the settlement class.

Also, I realize you were joking.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:11 PM on August 27, 2008


Who's joking? If there's a $12 check out there that wants to be in my pocket, who am I to turn it away?

So yes, I'm still curious as to who is a member of the class for the suit, especially now that you mention you were eligible because you worked for Target, which doesn't seem to fit with who I thought the class was, which was disabled persons and/or anyone who used the Target.com website during a particular time period.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:16 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


The WCAG set authored by the W3C is barely used online (and 2.0 is controversial);

WCAG 1 IS used online. I don't know where you get that idea. It's not great, but it's a standard.

And HOW is 2.0 controversial? Explain. You can't just toss that out there.

Scary in that there's really no defined set of rules or guidelines, defined by the government, a non-government web site should meet in order to be considered accessible.

No, there's not, and that's part of the problem with the ADA -- it's 18 years old and doesn't take online stores into account because they didn't exist in 1990. However, the standards out there (508, WAI, WCAG) provide a pretty good framework for how the Target web site should function for people with visual disabilities.

It'll be interesting to see how this impacts all the Flash-based and AJAX-based (think "web 2.0") web sites which are HORRIBLY inaccessible to blind users.

That's actually something we're discussing in my part of the world -- accessibility in Web 2.0. Thing is, between accessible Flash and HIJAX you can mitigate most of the issues. The problem is that I run into way too many 23 year old Flash developers who look at you blankly when you say accessibility. And they're doing most of the Flash work out there because they can work for beer and pizza. Ditto AJAX.

And worst of all, how do you judge between "bad" web sites and "inaccessible" web sites? I've seen some really horrible web sites that are utterly inaccessible to unimpaired users; could someone bring an ADA suit against such a web site?

Potentially, yes, but the issue with Target was they were effectively telling blind users to go away. If Target had such a poorly designed site they were turning everyone off, they would be having money troubles long before the NFB could have sued.
posted by dw at 8:31 PM on August 27, 2008


One concern that's come up in the accessibility community is that Target is writing the standards for whether a site is accessible. And no one has seen these standards or knows whether they're stricter or looser than WCAG 1 or 2 -- or whether they share anything with those standards.

It's a bit of an indictment of the standards community that their standards are not being used here, but it's hard to say whether Target is writing their own because they want to set the playing field, didn't think WCAG worked, or whether they even knew about WCAG.
posted by dw at 8:38 PM on August 27, 2008


Frankly, and this will sound terribly insensitive, I'm sure, but I don't see how a company no longer has the right to refuse service, effectively, or to simply not spend money making something "compliant" for a percentage of the population that would not recoup those costs for them.

If I don't want to target the blind market and I don't care that the blind can't do business with me, who are you to force me to do business with anyone? Especially, and most importantly, when doing so COSTS me more money.

Are we next going to mandate that all sites need to be the same color scheme, lest users with color blindness no longer be able to navigate sufficiently?

I'm sorry, but I'm against anything that dictates how I conduct (otherwise legal, ethical) business online, but more importantly, I'm against anything that dictates the type of content and the manner in which I present said content. Should NBC be sued because blind people couldn't experience the Olympics like the rest of us?

This isn't a government or non-profit institution here; Target should be allowed to make their own business decisions.

If they were to decide to take DOWN the ENTIRE shopping site, would a "protected class" group of, say, agoraphobics-who-don't-leave-the-house-but-have-eyesight then sue them because they no longer make the same offerings available to them that others who have no fear of leaving the house have?

Ri-fucking-diculous and a slippery slope and something that has no place with how a private entity runs a virtual space.
posted by disillusioned at 8:42 PM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


The web guys can correct me, but a big thing I think that will 'bode' well for the future of accessibility designs is using a proper MVC framework, that consistently separates the data and controller from the actual interface presented to the user. Then it is a process of testing and generating multiple views as interfaces to the same basic underlying core mechanisms.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:44 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't see how a company no longer has the right to refuse service, effectively, or to simply not spend money making something "compliant" for a percentage of the population that would not recoup those costs for them.

Because it's the law.

would a "protected class" group of, say, agoraphobics-who-don't-leave-the-house-but-have-eyesight then sue them because they no longer make the same offerings available to them that others who have no fear of leaving the house have?

That's not a protected class, so need to worry about it.
posted by grouse at 8:56 PM on August 27, 2008


The issue isn't a lack of fancy new technologies or frameworks. MVC isn't going to do anything but let companies build bigger, fancier, and more complex web sites which are inaccessible to disabled users.

Blind users on the web -> text to speech technologies -> text only, no images, Flash, Javascript, AJAX, or any modern web technology

The only companies that have enough resources to build fully compliant, ADA websites aren't going to be dynamic, envelope-pushing web companies. They're going to be huge behemoth corporations that don't do anything useful on the internet.
posted by meowzilla at 9:02 PM on August 27, 2008


If I don't want to target the blind market and I don't care that the blind can't do business with me, who are you to force me to do business with anyone? Especially, and most importantly, when doing so COSTS me more money.

Sub in "Hispanic" for "blind" there and try that again.

US anti-discrimination laws include disabilities. ADA extended that and has improved access for people with disabilities to public and private sector institutions. They are the law.

Should NBC be sued because blind people couldn't experience the Olympics like the rest of us?

Personally, I would say yes. Descriptive audio is available, and the wider throughput of digital signals means they can carry the audio on one of the multiple audio channels.

Of course, descriptive audio is primarily for scripted shows, but given they already have closed captioning for live TV for years, it seems like they should be able to extend descriptive audio to live TV.
posted by dw at 9:11 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


not to mention the olympics have been pre recorded and they show highlights in the evening, so it wouldn't be too hard to provide descriptive audio since they have X hours of delay from the original broadcast.

Or just hire the good radio announcers for baseball games who actually make you want to just listen instead of watch the action, as it is sometimes more interesting than watching people sit in the bleachers. Then you know, you could listen to the olympics on the radio, or other major events.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:20 PM on August 27, 2008


meowzilla, flash sites can certainly be made accessible to the blind. it's more difficult than with html, but the accessibility features are well documented and almost never used.
posted by klanawa at 9:24 PM on August 27, 2008


dynamic, envelope-pushing web companies.

I, for one, would welcome the loss of dynamic, envelope-pushing web companies, since that mostly seems to be a euphemism for technical and usability illiterates cramming unsubale shit all over the place like a gang of amphetemine-fuelled poo-flinging monkeys.

Or maybe that's just my experience.

I mean, consider: without the ability to cram Flash and Silverlight and ActiveX controls over everything there'd be no Metafilter!

Oh. Wait.
posted by rodgerd at 9:26 PM on August 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


I work in the (big, corporate) web design field, and I've been trying to get my clients to take accessibility seriously for years. It's just one of those things that nobody wants to spend the money or take the time to do. Maybe this will change that, but I'm a little skeptical. I don't know if six million dollars is enough of a deterrent.

Because let's be real for a minute: ensuring accessibility compliance is work. Extra work, if you haven't been doing it.

At my job, a small group of us who thought that accessibility was important in its own right sat down to try to answer this question for our senior leadership:

How much more would we have to charge our clients for our services if everything we produced was Section 508 compliant? How about Triple-A compliant?

The answer, while a little fuzzy, was roughly highish-single-digits to lowish-double-digits percentage additional cost. Add in our profit margin and it's serious money. So out senior leadership (rightly, from their business perspective, I'd say) said no way. They couldn't justify trying to charge our clients that much more money for a benefit that few people could see, with just the vague threat of the then-pending Target suit. In our presentation, we even threw in the side benefit that doing more accessibility stuff right gives the added bonus of being good for SEO. That wasn't enough.

We factored in training on accessibility for all current employees (creative teams, tech teams, account teams, QA teams, etc.) and even showed how that initial investment would plateau over time. But then there's the additional effort of producing work that was fully compliant, and the substantial additional effort of QA for all the new compliance checks, and additional setups for QA. Those don't plateau nearly as much. There's the HTML vs. Flash question to account for - a whole new set of reasons to choose one over the other. How do screen readers handle dynamic DOM scripting? And so on. It's a big deal.

Not that I don't think it's a worthwhile thing to do. I do. But six million dollars doesn't get the attention of the big players, I don't think. Maybe if there are several of these settlements.
posted by dammitjim at 9:27 PM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


If I don't want to target the blind market and I don't care that the blind can't do business with me, who are you to force me to do business with anyone?

The government?

Sometimes there isn't a completely fair solution. Your "right" to refuse disabled people service because it costs you money to make your business accessible interferes with disabled people's "right" to live independent, productive lives.

I know which I think is more important.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:30 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't see how a company no longer has the right to refuse service, effectively, or to simply not spend money making something "compliant" for a percentage of the population that would not recoup those costs for them.

"Because it's the law."

That's not an answer. Defending the reasoning behind a law by saying "because it's the law" is pretty lazy. There are plenty of outdated laws on the books that are technically applicable, but which have no real bearing on anything (many sex laws for example) - and laws that are applied can be altered according to present needs (speed limit laws, for example). Segregation was "the law" once upon a time. Marijuana and same-sex marriages are both illegal at present, but one would hope that the arguments made for keeping them illegal go beyond a simple "because it's the law."

Personally, I agree with disillusioned.
posted by slumberfiend at 9:31 PM on August 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


disillusioned, do you also snark about curb cuts and handicapped-accessible bathrooms? How dare those ADA-pushing bureaucrats tell you how to build your public areas and private buildings? Why, it's as if basic standards of business were regulated in this country, to avoid unjust discrimination against protected classes, or something...

Actually, a much better analogy than curb cuts would be the prevalence of closed captioning on TV shows -- most people don't even realize that the signal is being transmitted, but for the Deaf, it's a big frikkin' deal. If you build a website with a modicum of good sense and attention to UI, following WCAG 1 and/or Section 508 really isn't that hard, and a sighted user would never even know you built in accessible features. We're talking about fairly simple things like identifying the row and column headers for your tables (and only using tables for actual tabular content, not page layout!), avoiding any fast flickering of images or text that might trigger epilepsy (goodbye, <blink> tag!), using labels on your form elements, etc. The exact agreed-upon standards may be vague, but there are decent guidelines out there, and it's not like people are being asked to re-invent the wheel here. Heck, programs like JAWS and Fangs (a Firefox plugin that emulates a screenreader) are already free.

But the really nice thing about this Target ruling is that for web developers like me, it means that, were I still working in the bowels of a big corporation, I would have yet another reason to stand my geeky ground against my non-tech-savvy bosses and insist on certain features (strict separation of content and presentation layers, labeling elements, etc.), rather than warching pages get rushed out in a hurry by some temp with a cracked version of Dreamweaver churning out spacer gif's (ugh!) because they literally don't see the difference and would rather things be done quickly than correctly. So really, this ruling gives people like me more cover to do our jobs well.

(Also, a lot of the Section 508 standards have the beneficial side effect of making your page more accessible to search engines too, and thus increasing your natural search rank.)

For the record, MetaFilter doesn't quite pass this automated check for Section 508 compliance.

/web geek who had a legally blind college roommate and whose husband has two legally blind-from-birth paternal grandparents
posted by Asparagirl at 9:31 PM on August 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


If I don't want to target the blind market and I don't care that the blind can't do business with me, who are you to force me to do business with anyone? Especially, and most importantly, when doing so COSTS me more money.

I don't know about where you live, but around here a business owner has to have a ramp to get into the business, the aisles have to be navigable in a wheelchair, and if there are public toilets there has to be a wheelchair-accessible toilet. Maybe there are other stipulations I can't think of right now. If it's a book store, for example, the business owner can't say that he doesn't want to do it because he isn't interested in selling books to people in wheelchairs or hiring people in wheelchairs.

Now say that book store is Amazon and we're talking about blind customers and employees...
posted by pracowity at 9:35 PM on August 27, 2008


If you build a website with a modicum of good sense and attention to UI, following WCAG 1 and/or Section 508 really isn't that hard

This is true for any individual web designer, especially one that wants to care about this subject, but less true for a web design organization, especially a large one, with profit targets and margins to worry about.
posted by dammitjim at 9:43 PM on August 27, 2008


Defending the reasoning behind a law by saying "because it's the law" is pretty lazy.

I wasn't defending the reasoning behind the law, I was explaining the factual change. The reason the company no longer has the right to deny service to the disabled is because the law has changed.
posted by grouse at 9:43 PM on August 27, 2008


>> If I don't want to target the blind market and I don't care that the blind can't do business with me, who are you to force me to do business with anyone? Especially, and most importantly, when doing so COSTS me more money.

> Sub in "Hispanic" for "blind" there and try that again.

The reason those scenarios are different is due to the costs associated with both. If I choose to bar Hispanics from my business I'm doing so purely for racist reasons. It's not as if serving Hispanics costs additional facilities, time, money, etc.

When we're talking about serving the disabled, there are additional costs involved. Target's website wasn't inaccessible to the blind out of bigotry towards those that can't see, it was inaccessible because the costs in doing so were deemed prohibitive.

I get that disabled people have a "'right' to live independent, productive lives", but I don't think that right should entail the government restricting mine. The problem here is that we continue to apply physical world situations to the web, which is distinctly not so.

The logic behind the ADA seems to be that without the ADA, there would not be enough economic incentive for businesses to cater to the disabled, so no one would serve them. I disagree with the reasoning behind this as a whole, but I think it fails especially on the web. In the physical world, people are restricted by their proximity to places. Online, this is not the case. I would think there are more than enough disabled people that someone would serve them.
posted by christonabike at 9:52 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I also think blind people should get discounts because the money that Target allocates for their visual marketing is lost on them, why should they pay higher prices for cool looking signs they'll never see. We should also consider deaf people and their right to get enjoyment out of music, they should sue the music industry for bringing entertainment to only the hearing folk. What about the "disably poor" and their right to internet, they should sue Target for even having a website and discriminating against those less fortunate who can't afford a computer. People with anti anxiety disorders should sue Target for being so damn crowded. I should sue Target for being so awesome that I got there like three times a week and buy something when I don't even need it. I bet all the blind African kids are pissed that they have to phone order that new copy of Madden 08.
posted by BrnP84 at 9:53 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


This whole thing isn't even about blind people and their rights, it's about blind people wanting to get paid. Yea they totally should have the right to online shop at Target, whatever that's a pretty reasonable request but why should they get 6 million dollars just because they can't. I have a friend in a wheel chair who can't even get into her PHD dept building b/c there's no elevator, yea she's pissed but she's not suing anyone. Our fav bar is up a flight of stairs, wtf?! I don't know the laws or whatever but these places have a certain amount of time to make the necessary changes. If this was my business I'd be more than happy to make the site changes but fuck if I'm paying them 6 million for what is less than a minor inconvience, next time they have to have someone carry them into their school than they can start bitching.
posted by BrnP84 at 10:14 PM on August 27, 2008


And worst of all, how do you judge between "bad" web sites and "inaccessible" web sites?

To the group of testers whose job it is to make sure that a website works in different browsers, add some people (web developers or not) who test it using Braille displays and/or screen readers like JAWS.

And disillusioned, the issue of accessibility extends beyond the problem of blind people being able to shop online at Target. A very tech-savvy blind friend of mine was unable to use one of the major job-search websites without assistance because of the way the site's designed.

People in general do more things online than shop and watch porn. They bank, pay bills, keep in touch with other people, post comments on MetaFilter . . . What if you couldn't do half of that because of fixable problems with the websites' design?
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 10:14 PM on August 27, 2008


> The reason those scenarios are different is due to the costs associated with both. If I choose to bar Hispanics from my business I'm doing so purely for racist reasons. It's not as if serving Hispanics costs additional facilities, time, money, etc.

Really? How about internationalization? You know, supporting foreign languages. A lot of businesses (hey look, amazon in spanish!), it is not magically free. But I am guess Amazon has some pretty good nerds working in their design offices to allow them to change the views of any part of the website at any time.

A lot of this boils down to good design practices.

> This is true for any individual web designer, especially one that wants to care about this subject, but less true for a web design organization, especially a large one, with profit targets and margins to worry about.

Separating the design and navigation from the content is a good idea. It also frees you up to be able to change design and navigation faster at a later date, without having to rework the content (if you did it right the first time, a change in design should not break the content, if it does, you did not design your controller properly re: MVC). I would assume larger web design firms would be all over this, because again, you can re implement the same controller in multiple instances without having to redo it time and time again, and you can now have the value add of "not getting sued like Target" to your customers. Which means you sell the customer a site, and then when they want to rebuild and rebrand it in a year, you can bill them your usual rate, but 90% of the work is already done. Hell, if you keep your controller up to date, you can even swap that out to include all the fancy wiz bang features of the moment, but it is still minimal work compared to a ground up site redesign they would be expecting you to bill them for.

Of course, if you aren't implementing such design practices now, you will have to start playing a weird hodge podge of catchup as dynamic views for content change even more radically, as mobile web browsing leaves the forgiving hands of fellow nerds and reaches the masses. Investing in a practice that lets you generate a mobile page, internationalized pages, screen reader and vision impaired versions, as the result of generating your 'standard view' would allow you to bill more with not so much more work.

Of course, I am from the lazy 'if you've done it for a third time, you can automate it' school of thought.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:18 PM on August 27, 2008


When we're talking about serving the disabled, there are additional costs involved. Target's website wasn't inaccessible to the blind out of bigotry towards those that can't see, it was inaccessible because the costs in doing so were deemed prohibitive.

When we're talking about serving the disabled, there are additional costs involved. Target's stairs into the building weren't inaccessible to the wheelchair users out of bigotry towards those that can't walk up stairs, it was inaccessible because the costs in doing so were deemed prohibitive.

See how stupid you sound?
posted by Talez at 10:25 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


This whole thing isn't even about blind people and their rights, it's about blind people wanting to get paid.

Wow. I wasn't going to jump into this because these ADA "why the fuck do I have to care about disabled people" discussions have happened here before to predictable ends, but then you had to collide that tired argument with not understanding the point behind punitive damages. Which is extra ironic because, as dammitjim pointed out upthread, 6 million dollars is chump change to the large corporations that are precisely the ones the laws is meant to force into compliance, and won't actually make anyone take notice.

I'm not religious anymore, but shit, I keep remembering something about how we treat the least amoung us.
posted by danny the boy at 10:34 PM on August 27, 2008


This whole thing isn't even about blind people and their rights, it's about blind people wanting to get paid.

I didn't think there was anyone here that was this fucking stupid but I guess it's a big place.
posted by puke & cry at 10:38 PM on August 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


Doesn't Target already have a live-human, blind-compatible, readily-accessible telephone service? Why isn't that an acceptable alternative to a website? It's not like they have to print their catalogs in Braille; how come the web is considered "not allowed to discriminate"?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:47 PM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


When we're talking about serving the disabled, there are additional costs involved. Target's website wasn't inaccessible to the blind out of bigotry towards those that can't see, it was inaccessible because the costs in doing so were deemed prohibitive.

This line of reasoning is bunk, since under it ANY accommodation that costs money could be "prohibitive." For example, special education, which IS prohibitively expensive for school districts and generally (under)funded by the federal government.

The issues with the Target form were pretty reasonable. They couldn't use a form in order to order a prescription refill online because they'd failed to make it readable to a screen reader. The cost of fixing that was much, much less than $6M.

I get that disabled people have a "'right' to live independent, productive lives", but I don't think that right should entail the government restricting mine.

How the hell is the government restricting you? Most of the basic advice we give for web accessibility -- well-formed code, use HTML correctly, aim for semantics, use the accessibility hooks that are already there, use the accessibility functions in Dreamweaver and other apps -- are things you wouldn't even notice unless you're looking hard enough. And some of them, e.g. well-formed HTML, actually make your web surfing life EASIER by ensuring a (relatively) uniform experience across browsers.

So much of the bitching I hear from people is ignorance. They think "reasonable accommodation" means taxpayer-funded hoverchairs for the disabled when all you need to satisfy it is a curb cut. It's bigotry. But, you see, they're not bigoted, they just don't think the disabled "deserve" it. GMAFB.
posted by dw at 10:58 PM on August 27, 2008


I maintain and update a department website at a large state institution that has mandated that all online content be made 508 compliant by a certain date (there's a timeline with benchmarks for the different types of content). Because we're government-related/funded, I've been aware of and working on this since long before the Target lawsuit was filed, and I've followed the case with interest.

As previously stated (most eloquently by Asparagirl), making websites accessible for people with disabilities is (or should be) transparent to other users, and has hidden advantages like being more standards-compliant. Oh, and it really isn't all that hard, and that's coming from someone who's by no means a code geek. There are people out there who have already thought of just about everything in this realm, so if you don't already have a solution at your fingertips, Google is your friend.

Ultimately, web designers ought to be thinking about UNIVERSAL design, not just accessibility for one segment of the population or another, no matter the size of the demographic. Just because something looks pretty (or the designer THINKS it looks pretty, or Flashy, or cool, or whatever) doesn't mean you should do it or that it's a good idea.
posted by yiftach at 11:05 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is true for any individual web designer, especially one that wants to care about this subject, but less true for a web design organization, especially a large one, with profit targets and margins to worry about.

It's funny -- the people I know who are big in the accessibility community work as:
-- freelance/independent accessibility consultants
-- web devs/designers in Fortune 1000 companies
-- web devs/designers in medium-sized regional firms
-- web devs/designers in universities
-- web devs/designers in bleeding-edge startups
-- web devs/designers in small design firms or one-person shops

Notice a group missing there? Large design/development firms.

But I also notice that these large firms are also waving their hands saying they can't afford web standards. Seems like "can't afford accessibility" and "can't afford to grok tableless design" go hand-in-hand.
posted by dw at 11:09 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


So..what are web compliance standards for the blind?

Really: Have up until Target blind people been able to navigate a store's site, get product descriptions, and price, check out, give payment and shipping info through other companies and Target just dropped the ball on this? Meaning: do other retailers have a system where mouse-and-monitor interface isn't needed? I'm crazy curious here.

BTW, I just tried navigating the NFB site with my eyes closed--no luck. A little help/backstory here?
posted by sourwookie at 11:17 PM on August 27, 2008


Damn, I just tried navigating the NFB site with Universal Access (OS X 10.4.9) on. No success--must practice I suppose.
posted by sourwookie at 11:18 PM on August 27, 2008


would a "protected class" group of, say, agoraphobics-who-don't-leave-the-house-but-have-eyesight then sue them because they no longer make the same offerings available to them that others who have no fear of leaving the house have?
That's not a protected class, so need to worry about it.


I don't think it's at all clear that such a person wouldn't be disabled (and therefore a member of a protected class) for purposes of the ADA. That said, I don't think ADA provides any relief for our hypothetical agoraphobic person.

Modifications to accommodate disabled people only have to be "reasonable" and steps to avoid excluding disabled people don't need to be taken if they impose an "undue burden." Furthermore, such accommodations don't need to be made if they "fundamentally alter the nature" of the service.

I can't think of anything that can be realistically done to make a retail store accessible to our hypothetical disabled person, if they refuse even to leave the house, so I don't think there's an ADA problem.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:19 PM on August 27, 2008


Doesn't Target already have a live-human, blind-compatible, readily-accessible telephone service? Why isn't that an acceptable alternative to a website?

Because Target was telling people they had to put their refills in through this system. They were dissuading people from calling.

And as well, if every call to the pharmacy is a toll call while the user next door can use the website for free to do the identical function, is that fair?

It's not like they have to print their catalogs in Braille

Yup, and you know why they don't? Because with an accessible website, a blind user's screen reader helps them navigate their online catalog, saving them the cost of having their catalogs "translated" into Braille. (Target doesn't have a catalog, of course, but accessible websites for retailers mean they can now serve disabled customers without having to go through the costs they would have incurred otherwise. In a sense, the web has now allowed them to serve disabled customers when they wouldn't have been able to before, at least not as effectively.)
posted by dw at 11:20 PM on August 27, 2008


Do you have a screen reader installed, sourwookie? Trying to navigate a web site with your eyes closed and no screen reader is like trying to navigate the city with your eyes closed and no cane or seeing-eye dog.
posted by grouse at 11:21 PM on August 27, 2008


Man, I need a primer in web compliance for the blind because there is a lot of heavy discussion happening upthread an I'm still clueless in the starting gate.
posted by sourwookie at 11:22 PM on August 27, 2008



Do you have a screen reader installed, sourwookie? Trying to navigate a web site with your eyes closed and no screen reader is like trying to navigate the city with your eyes closed and no cane or seeing-eye dog.


No, I was trying it with the Voice Over feature.
posted by sourwookie at 11:24 PM on August 27, 2008


Yup, and you know why they don't? Because with an accessible website, a blind user's screen reader helps them navigate their online catalog, saving them the cost of having their catalogs "translated" into Braille.

I was unaware that pre-internet, catalogs were translated. Good thing the internets came along, then, or Target would still have the overhead cost of providing those translated catalogs!

And as well, if every call to the pharmacy is a toll call while the user next door can use the website for free to do the identical function, is that fair?

If you're not within local calling distance, you're so far out in the sticks that the Target pharmacy is the nearest "local" pharmacy. Many things are going to be more costly for you, regardless your sightedness.

Does Target offer 1-800 shopping service? If not, shouldn't they be required to, so that the blind who don't have net access can still remotely access the store?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:31 PM on August 27, 2008


As a sighted person it seems tactile would be the way to go. Surely there is more benefit to a phone keypad? Right?
posted by sourwookie at 11:34 PM on August 27, 2008


There was a Freakonomics column earlier this year in the New York Times about how the Americans With Disabilities Act could have ended up hurting disabled people:

"Acemoglu and Angrist found that when the A.D.A. was enacted in 1992, it led to a sharp drop in the employment of disabled workers. How could this be? Employers, concerned that they wouldn’t be able to discipline or fire disabled workers who happened to be incompetent, apparently avoided hiring them in the first place."
posted by dgaicun at 11:34 PM on August 27, 2008


Ugh. Is there a class-action suit against the iPhone in the works? Maybe against car manufacturers next?
posted by sourwookie at 11:35 PM on August 27, 2008


That's not an answer. Defending the reasoning behind a law by saying "because it's the law" is pretty lazy.

Fine.

It's not only the law, it's law that has been repeatedly upheld in court, is framed within core American beliefs in "all men are created equal" and "equal protection under the law," and has a long history of Civil Rights struggles that led to those laws being created, to the point that people who discriminate on the basis of disability would be seen as backwards, dim, and unworthy of custom as those who discriminate on the basis of race or sex.

You can frame it through natural law or religious ethics, but this is what we believe in as Americans. To believe otherwise is to embrace a belief in "some are more equal than others."
posted by dw at 11:41 PM on August 27, 2008


if every call to the pharmacy is a toll call while the user next door can use the website for free to do the identical function, is that fair?

Why would you use a pharmacy that's that far away? I can't think of too many places in the US where you'd have to drive out of your area code to find a pharmacy.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:43 PM on August 27, 2008


how come the web is considered "not allowed to discriminate"?

On the internet, no-one knows you're a dog disabled.

Hadn't thought of it that much before, but I imagine that the internet/www is one place where disabled people can be on a level playing field... if that's not a wholy inappropriate metaphor.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 11:53 PM on August 27, 2008


Equal protection doesn't strike me as the right way to think about the ADA. It seems to mean more that the laws themselves can't be discriminatory, not that the government must enact laws banning private discrimination. I think this is a significant distinction.

As for analogizing discrimination against the disabled to racial or sex-based discrimination, it's complicated. Some discrimination against the disabled is no doubt due simply to irrational animus, but some is also simple cost avoidance. People don't typically think of banning racial discrimination in hiring as imposing a pecuniary cost on employers, but accommodating disabled people really does cost money.

Maybe you think it's worth the cost, and maybe you're right, but the difference is there. A person might discriminate against the disabled even though they don't really think one thing or another about disabled people--they just want to spend the money on something else. I don't feel this comes up in the race and sex contexts, really.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:55 PM on August 27, 2008


I was unaware that pre-internet, catalogs were translated. Good thing the internets came along, then, or Target would still have the overhead cost of providing those translated catalogs!

Cut your goddamn sarcasm. The Internet has meant greater accessibility in many different ways for many different people.

If you're not within local calling distance, you're so far out in the sticks that the Target pharmacy is the nearest "local" pharmacy.

What if your insurance plan will pay for Target, but not for the more local corner pharmacy? After all, one of the key arguments Planned Parenthood has used against letting pharmacists refuse to dispense Plan B in Washington state is that if the local pharmacist won't, a rural patient may need to drive 20-30-40-50 miles to another town to get it dispensed, and that would be an undue burden. It's a similar problem.

Does Target offer 1-800 shopping service?

No, they're a big box retailer. Never have.

If not, shouldn't they be required to, so that the blind who don't have net access can still remotely access the store?

Why would they be "required" to, when a much more reasonable cost would be to make all their retail outlets, including their online outlet, accessible? Phone-based customer service is expensive; why do you think companies outsource it to India or push their customers online to deal with issues?

The issue here is whether a retail website is just like a retail brick-and-mortar location with regards to accessibility. The settlement effectively says it is.
posted by dw at 12:00 AM on August 28, 2008


dw: And HOW is 2.0 controversial? Explain.

For example, here's an article on A List Apart:

To Hell with WCAG 2

One of the things I think we're all forgetting here is that we're all content creators, simply due to the fact that MeFi lets us post with HTML. So we can all personally fulfill our duty to further web accessibility, it doesn't have to be left to big corporations or web design teams. Yay! Remember, every time you skip the accessibility code an angel strangles a puppy. A one-legged puppy. Never, ever avoid doing this stuff just because it's annoying, inconvenient, or time-consuming, otherwise it proves that you hate disabled people.
posted by XMLicious at 12:03 AM on August 28, 2008 [16 favorites]


For example, here's an article on A List Apart:

To Hell with WCAG 2


Of course, that was two years ago, and WCAG 2 has been re-written a couple times since then. It actually kinda makes sense now, if you know how to read this stuff.

Remember, every time you skip the accessibility code an angel strangles a puppy. A one-legged puppy.

Actually, no. Nothing happens. It's just put on your tally so that one day, when you're blind from diabetes, have a loss of motor skills from arthritis/Parkinson's/chronic masturbation, or only capable of operating the web through a straw thanks to a run-in with angry disabled activists, and you bitch because you can't get into your favorite porn site, a little pop-up box will come on the screen saying karma is a bitch. And the ability to close the blinking, flashing pop-up? Inaccessible.
posted by dw at 12:15 AM on August 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


When we're talking about serving the disabled, there are additional costs involved.

When we're talking about protecting the employees from harmful chemicals and substances in the workplace, there are additional costs involved. When we're talking about ensuring that women don't lose their jobs when they take maternity leave, there are additional costs involved. When we're talking about training employees and releasing employees to avoid problems of harassment in the workplace, there are additional costs involved.

At some point you recognize, however, that these are the costs of doing business, and you absorb them into your budget and stop grousing about the costs because they are the right things to do.
posted by Dreama at 12:17 AM on August 28, 2008 [9 favorites]


At some point you recognize, however, that these are the costs of doing business, and you absorb them into your budget and stop grousing about the costs because they are the right things to do.

I don't care about that. My point was simply that the analogy between discrimination against disabled people and discrimination based on race or gender is imperfect.

Someone who refuses to serve blacks is just a racist. Someone who didn't outfit their store with a ramp may hate disabled people, or they may not have thought about it, or they may have thought about it but concluded that they probably wouldn't have any disabled customers anyway and it wasn't worth the cost, or number of other things.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:21 AM on August 28, 2008


...a little pop-up box will come on the screen saying karma is a bitch.

So wait, dw - why is it that you aren't using WCAG-compliant code in your own comments, when you're intimately familiar with all this stuff? Do you not fear the "karma is a bitch" popup that can't be closed, or are you exempted from it because you stridently defend class-action lawsuits like this one? Or is it perhaps that the situation isn't as extreme as you make it out to be, and practicality does intrude into this issue?

Web accessibility is important, but my point is that there's a hell of alot of hyporisy and hyperbole that goes on when it's discussed.
posted by XMLicious at 12:24 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


This lawsuit paid off big for me, since it scored me work from several large retail cosmetics brands not wanting to get sued.

In the midst of the drudgery of adding alt tag after alt tag, I wondered, "Do blind people really shop online for cosmetics?" Especially ironic was having to add alt attributes to color swatches.
posted by camcgee at 12:26 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


And finally 13.10 requires you to clearly identify and/or provide a way to skip over ASCII art. The definition of ASCII art includes all smilies.

I <3>
posted by benzenedream at 12:38 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the linked article on WCAG 2:


# Also at the highest level, you have to provide a way to find all of the following:

1. Definitions of idioms and “jargon”
2. Expansion of acronyms
3. Pronunciations of some words

# You also have to provide an alternate document if a reader with a “lower secondary education level” couldn’t understand your main document. (In fact, WCAG 2 repeatedly proposes maintaining separate accessible and inaccessible pages. In some cases, you don’t necessarily have to improve your inaccessible pages as long as you produce another page.)


I just... I mean... JESUS. Ignorant yokels are now an "accessibility"-protected class? This ridicules itself.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:55 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


# You also have to provide an alternate document if a reader with a “lower secondary education level” couldn’t understand your main document.

This may eliminate steampunk from the internets. :-(
posted by benzenedream at 1:25 AM on August 28, 2008


Asparagirl, I think that it comes down to the "privileged space" argument.

I think that something like ADA is necessary to ensure that disabled people have access to the basic necessities of life and the aforementioned "right to live independent, productive lives."

I don't think that extends to a space that, as BrnP84 mentioned, somewhat... untactfully, even the poor (read: other "unprotected" classes) don't have access to.

I think the distinction of a "protected" vs. "unprotected" class is an interesting one, but "equality" starts to play a very interesting card when you look at other things out of reach of "regularly abled" people.

I'm not saying that I hate blind people and they should be forced to stumble around, white-cane-free and with impossible to navigate stair-mazes.

What I'm suggesting is that it's unfair to ask companies to bear additional cost to accommodate a relatively small portion of the population when they've already made one avenue available. If we're going to make it required, the costs need to be tax-deductible, then, at the very least.

When developing sites, there's something I refer to called the 1% rule. If a feature that sounds incredibly cool to us, as developers, could be done, but the more we think about it, the harder the general populace would have to work to find and implement it, and in the end, only about 1% of the user base would gain any utility out of it, its costs probably FAR outweigh the advantage of the 1%'s utility gains.

Amazon does this a lot: they have TONS of features. They take a shotgun approach because they have the resources and can try dozens of things and because experimentation can lead to amazing, other, un-thought-of results. But not everyone is Amazon, and frankly, you probably don't use anywhere near all of the features on even a given product listing. Is there utility in it? Sure. For what percentage of their user base? Enough to make back the investment?

With experimental features, things aren't as cut and dry. There are externalities and other things that affect the net outcome of something like that.

But if you present a company with the option of building a "cutting edge" site that is not very screen-reader-friendly, onto which they'll need to build a "blind version", (think "low bandwidth," from back in the day) they could very well just not go as far with their degree of innovation to reduce the costs in having to "double up" the work.

Now this is a bit of a non-sequitur. It's unlikely that forcing compliance would cost so much that they'd opt instead for an entirely separate "blind edition." In fact, that's probably ridiculous. But remember that there are literally thousands of ways of accomplishing things, especially with web development.

And if you have coders who aren't schooled in the best ways of best practices, or if they needed to push some quick-and-dirty code out on the cheap, then the incremental costs for bringing a site into compliance becomes exhorbitant. And the reaction you'll get when asking some executives is simply "let them come to our stores, with their parking spaces and ramps." It sounds like a dick thing to say outright, but from a monetary standpoint, it makes little sense; the costs will likely not be recovered by the blind users who do end up using their site.

The issues with applying the ADA to something online is that there is no "web building code" and well there shouldn't be. I should be able to publish a website for my business as I see fit, and I shouldn't have a barrier to entry be a government regulation that requires it be screen-reader/508 compliant. This would stifle creativity and ingenuity on the web in a lot of ways and turn a lot of people off from even getting started.

What's worse, there are other ways to solve the problem. I think attacking it from a "build a better screenreader/mousetrap" is the way to go. Content can be expressed more intelligently, even if it's not all alt-tags. This would shift the costs more appropriately, and if we want to subsidize the costs for advanced, image-recognition based, smart-screenreaders to the taxpayer a bit, I'd be for that. Why? Because it'd cost significantly less to "fix" the reader problem than it would be to fix the content problem. And enforcing "content problem" rules gets you dangerously close to freedom of speech issues, frankly.

You're effectively telling me that I am NOT ALLOWED to publish a website for my business unless I also include additional content, at added cost to me, and unless I have learned the skills necessary to express that content in an approved way. This is a problem for me and a very slippery slope.

There's a better approach to this problem, once more: Let's focus on making MUCH better readers and not on stifling the thousands of small businesses scratching out a living or people trying their hand at all things web.
posted by disillusioned at 1:33 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


My father, as an electrical contractor, got to see the brick-and-mortar counterpart of this suit played out time and time again - fortunately usually from the fringes, since the general contractors were usually the ones more on the hook for ADA violations. But what I took away was that these lawsuits were frequent, unavoidable and chalked up as a cost of doing business.

Ask any paraplegic to describe their typical day, with particular attention to things they encounter that are inaccessible to them. You'll have forty potential lawsuits before noon. Duplicate this experiment with a blind person on the Internet. Same results.

$6 million is not a whole lot of money for the players in this. Almost certainly it was less than Target anticipated spending on lawyers to defend the suit, yet enough to satisfy the lawyers pressing the suit after taking out the aforementioned $15 checks that will get sent to the actual class members.

This news reflects business as usual in terms of class-action ADA litigation, and sheds absolutely no light on the actual question of what the law requires of online stores as far as accessibility. Even the impact based on the threat of similar lawsuits is going to be negligible, since the driving factor here is being the unlucky shmuck that got hit with this particular lawsuit (why not Wal-Mart?). If it's really easy to do, companies will patch up these accessibility holes. But there will be others. There is not any realistic expectation by anyone that all the holes will be plugged, and the Internet will work just as well for blind people as it does for the rest of us. This is what it would take for the threat of similar lawsuits to be mitigated.

I guess, after having put all that into words, I'm a little hard-pressed to actually conclude anything solid. I'm sure you can pick up on some frustration with things as they are, and it's there. I wouldn't want to embrace a libertarian the-blind-will-vote-with-their-dollars approach. But it really feels like the current setup, by hinting at some notion of utopian accessibility for everyone but refusing to provide much in terms of concrete expectations, serves a certain class of attorneys far better than it does either the disabled or business.
posted by Bokononist at 1:37 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yup, and you know why they don't? Because with an accessible website, a blind user's screen reader helps them navigate their online catalog, saving them the cost of having their catalogs "translated" into Braille.

So people who don't have computers or can't afford them, tough luck? Sears, for example, still has a print catalog. Why doesn't this law force them to print it in Braille, if their web site has to be accessible? If the government only made, say, voter registration forms available on the web for blind people (and not via paper/etc), no one would think that was acceptable. I'm not clear why this applies differently to the web.

Or, maybe the answer is all those companies printing catalogs that don't offer it in Braille are in fact in violation. Certainly Target isn't the only website that's not accessible.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:48 AM on August 28, 2008


The tools need to make this crap as easy and transparent as possible for developers, so that you can't create a non-compliant web page as long as you keep the compliance options checked and you put useful information in all the required fields.
posted by pracowity at 1:59 AM on August 28, 2008


@disillusioned, stop trying to cloak your bigotry under the false profession of practicality. Quite frankly it's an insult.

These web standards are in place because screen readers can only go so far and they need to have a standard way to present metadata and information so that a blind person can browse the web in a similar manner to a normal person.

A screen reader isn't going to be able to anaylze a picture and tell you what it is. An alt tag will. And it takes you all of 15 seconds to type one in. There is no question about where the bulk of this should lie and if you're an employer with more than 15 workers or trading interstate you have to include this as a cost of doing business.
posted by Talez at 2:00 AM on August 28, 2008


@Talez: That's the issue: No one wants to pay attention to the practicalities or costs involved. Saying "a screen reader isn't going to be able to analyze a picture" is bullshit. This is the future we're living in and what better way to ensure EVERY SINGLE WEBSITE is available than by focusing on building a better mousetrap, and solving the problem on the smaller side, instead of on the firehouse end.

Practicalities aside, no one has yet explained the difference between the protected class of the blind and the poor, who have NO access to a computer, let alone a fancy one with a screenreader. Forcing individuals or businesses to make something they make available for free, available in ways that cost them money or which they may have no interest, and further, in ways that may never, ever be utilized, is an enormous mistake.

And I've never been called a "blind-bigot" before; that's clever and new. But the way you describe "15 seconds" ignores the many, many additional costs associated with retrofitting a site to work that way. And the translation argument made above is perfectly valid: No one forces me to translate my website. If I don't want to target the market of Spanish speakers, I'm free to make that distinction. The "cost of business" bit is *incredibly* hard to sell to all of us under-15-employee companies who are barely scraping to get by and might have to prepare for an eventuality that will never occur and will never net us any income. There are plenty of these already in that I legally have to take out worker's comp; you ask too much of the small businessman (and even large corporations) and you'd be surprised the damage that can be done.

Instead, even if my location is handicap/blind/deaf accessible, I need to ensure that my website is also that way, in case someone blind hits it?

Using your computer and typing on Metafilter is a privilege you enjoy because you are wealthy enough to own a computer or capable enough and fortunate enough to live near a publicly accessible machine. There are millions of people (in fact, more than there are blind people) in America without broadband access on their computer. Broadband penetration does worst with African Americans and the poor. Should companies also be LEGALLY COMPELLED to *always* offer low-bandwidth alternatives?

What if they have no desire to go after the market of people who cannot afford broadband?

What if their content simply will not translate to non-broadband, as is the case with, say, YouTube?

Again, I hold steadfast that there are larger groups and classes with bigger accessibility issues on the internet. Further, I hold steadfast that the internet is a place with an incredibly low barrier to entry and that any government compulsion on non-government properties to produce a certain type of content, no matter how "trivial" you perceive the "15-second-alt-tag" to be, is a very slippery slope. With the exception of child pornography and clear & present, keep your hands off my website, period.

I'll choose if I want to make the website accessible, to blind people and hell, I'll choose if I want to make it accessible to fully-able-bodied persons. You can't (reasonably) build a place of business which NO one can enter, thus excluding EVERY group. If I build a website of that nature, am I at risk?

If I build a video game, how will I ensure that blind people are able to play the Flash game? Some capabilities come with the privilege of being able to see. And unfortunately, that disability may keep them from ever being realized by the blind. But it's not reasonable to ask anyone, in a virtual space, to ensure all content is "equally accessible" when some content, by its very nature, does not translate. And even if it does, it's a very slippery slope. And there's a better way to approach it.
posted by disillusioned at 2:34 AM on August 28, 2008


the aisles have to be navigable in a wheelchair,

Nothing gave me sympathy for people in wheelchairs like having a kid. Trying to get a pram around some places lost them my custom.

If I choose to bar Hispanics from my business I'm doing so purely for racist reasons. It's not as if serving Hispanics costs additional facilities, time, money, etc.

You might want to bone up on some history, there, sport. A large contributor to the colour bars in the pre-Civil Rights South was that whites who served blacks in an unapproved fashion most definitely would have occurred costs - a boycott, at least. You could be the least racist white shop owner in Mississippi in 1949, but I doubt very much you'd want to wear the cost of serving blacks with the same facilities as whites.

And, frankly, if it costs business more, well, quite frankly, so what? They'll pass the cost on to non-disabled me, and we have a society where we look after the less fortunate. It's called civilisation, try it some time.

(And, frankly, getting a web site working in Jaws is mostly a matter of not using HTML like a fuckwit. Anything that encourages people to not use HTML like a fuckwit is fine by me.)
posted by rodgerd at 3:46 AM on August 28, 2008


The thing with catering to people with problems now is that you're probably also catering to your future self and friends and family. We aren't dying as easily anymore of quick and convenient heart attacks and car accidents and so on, but we aren't curing the things that erode our abilities to get through everyday life. Get universal access safeguards enforced now and it's more likely that things will be easier for you and your caretakers (spouse? children?) when you -- surprise! -- lose your ability to read a regular page or type several commands or drive to the supermarket or hobble up a few steps or remember your address or...

And this "slippery slope" argument is a fallacy here (and elsewhere). A "slippery slope" is an inevitable progression from B to Z to Hell once you have taken that first and foolish step from A to B. Such progressions don't exist in real life because the step from A to B turns out not to be actually equivalent to the steps from B to C to D, and because motion in one direction is always countered by other forces (such as cost and cost-effectiveness and common sense) dragging you in other directions, so that little or no scary downhill we're-all-gonna-die! momentum in any direction is possible. The geography of life is not snakes and ladders.
posted by pracowity at 4:18 AM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


As someone who works in the web space, it's frustrating to see the comments that suggest that producing accessible websites is trivial. Part of the problem is that the term "website" covers a huge range of complexity. At the simple end of that range, I'd agree that it's probably not too hard to add the alt tags, etc., to make your collection of ten static pages accessible. On the other end, however, are "sites" that are really more like desktop applications.

(Let's not turn this into an argument about the appropriateness of AJAX/JS/FLASH/etc.; there are certainly plenty of examples of where these technologies are used gratuitously, but there are plenty of legitimate applications as well.)

I'm curious about what desktop application vendors do to provide accessible interfaces. For some, like a basic word processor, I can imagine that it wouldn't be too hard to screen-read the various interface elements and have them be usable by a blind person. But what about something like Photoshop? How can you possibly describe the histogram inspector in such a way that you could manipulate it without being able to see it?

The user population of the application I work on demands/expects us to use some more complex UI elements (drag-and-drop, for example) to make things easy for them. They see these features elsewhere, and it's difficult to argue that we shouldn't use them because they're not accessible by blind people. At some point, it makes more sense to stop trying to make our primary interface accessible, and to build and maintain an alternate UI for disabled people. For a small software development group, this is certainly not a trivial amount of work.

I'm not arguing against providing accessible interfaces. I think there's a clear legal and moral imperative for doing so. It's just not always as easy or cheap as some in this thread have implied.
posted by sriracha at 5:08 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


But what about something like Photoshop?

I would have thought the number of blind Photoshop users is zero. But then again, maybe Photoshop has blind users who make sure their organization's graphics are all designed for people who can't see graphics (see here, for example). I bet there is (or could be) a subset of Photoshop functions that are very useful to blind users involved in editing and reviewing docs. Maybe that subset would be a good candidate for a semi-separate UI to a reviewing tool.

For a small software development group, this is certainly not a trivial amount of work.

True. Maybe that's where a blind computing group could help.

Also, there might be some answers over there.
posted by pracowity at 5:40 AM on August 28, 2008


...what a joke! People just want a peice of someone elses pie more and more now.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of sites that are not set-up for the impared.

Get real.....
posted by TeachTheDead at 5:51 AM on August 28, 2008


DW said "One concern that's come up in the accessibility community is that Target is writing the standards for whether a site is accessible. And no one has seen these standards or knows whether they're stricter or looser than WCAG 1 or 2 -- or whether they share anything with those standards."

The "Target Online Assistive Technology Guidelines" look to me to be written by Jim Thatcher, who's helping the National Federation of the Blind. (The slightly odd way of coding destinations for within-page links looks like his method.)

They seem to be a cut-down version of other standards that focus on issues that affect visual impairments (so nothing I could see about transcripts of audio, for example -- or maybe that's because Target do no audio). They require good headings, good link text, all the usual stuff, but allow tables for layout. Nothing dreadful, nothing groundbreaking.

The real tragedy is that businesses might now start to code for the automated monitoring robot they will use, and screenreaders as if the blind are the only disability community, and as if coding for machines were the same as coding for people.

I've written more about how this is very blind-focussed at http://my.opera.com/ODIN/blog/two-cheers-for-the-target-nfb-accessility-settlement (self-link)

(Disclaimer: I worked with Jim Thatcher on a book about accessibility).
posted by Pericles at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


XMLicious ranted about WCAG standards:

Really, sincerely, so what? Every single one of the examples you mentioned (with the exception of the ASCII-art requirement - and anyone who includes ASCII art on a commercial website is a buffoon) I have been teaching in professional web development classes for the last six years.

This isn't rocket science. You do the job once, you do it right the first time, and it's not a problem. But then it's a lot easier for web developers, or architects, or anyone who should keep accessibility in mind in their designs and development, to say "Aaaah, I don't want to have to re-develop my work" rather than the truth, which is "I wasn't competent in doing my job in the first place."
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 7:12 AM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


If we're going to make it required, the costs need to be tax-deductible, then, at the very least.

They are, of course.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:13 AM on August 28, 2008


So wait, dw - why is it that you aren't using WCAG-compliant code in your own comments, when you're intimately familiar with all this stuff?

In what sense is it not compliant?

Do you not fear the "karma is a bitch" popup that can't be closed, or are you exempted from it because you stridently defend class-action lawsuits like this one?

No, the box won't be closed because you opted out of accessibility because you think it's not important and just filled with "hyporisy" and "hyperbole."

Why don't you unplug your mouse today and try using your computer?
posted by dw at 7:15 AM on August 28, 2008


I just... I mean... JESUS. Ignorant yokels are now an "accessibility"-protected class? This ridicules itself.

For fuck's sake... we already do that now on ballots. Many states require a 8th grade reading level for the text of ballot questions. You probably didn't even notice that.

And one of the crucial questions you'd need to answer before you tried satisfying this requirement is whether you'd need to. Here's a quote from the Intent section of this particular criterion, 3.1.5:
Difficult or complex text may be appropriate for most members of the intended audience (that is, most of the people for whom the content has been created). But there are people with disabilities, including reading disabilities, even among highly educated users with specialized knowledge of the subject matter. It may be possible to accommodate these users by making the text more readable. If the text cannot be made more readable, then supplemental content is needed. Supplemental content is required when text demands reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level—that is, more than nine years of school. Such text presents severe obstacles to people with reading disabilities and is considered difficult even for people without disabilities who have completed upper secondary education.
Most sites can meet this criterion with clear, readable writing. But the first question that would need to be asked would be what the audience of the site is. A scientific journal probably doesn't need to provide a "simple English" version of papers therein. A government website, though, whose audience is its entire citizenry, probably would.
posted by dw at 7:37 AM on August 28, 2008


So people who don't have computers or can't afford them, tough luck?

If people don't have computers, they can't use the online store, anyway.

But having an online store, in the long term, can provide accessibility to the computer-using disabled much more cheaply than traditional methods of providing accessibility through brick-and-mortar stores.

But it's just another store. And that store needs to be accessible.
posted by dw at 7:41 AM on August 28, 2008


This news reflects business as usual in terms of class-action ADA litigation, and sheds absolutely no light on the actual question of what the law requires of online stores as far as accessibility.

And we know this is a problem -- ADA does not at this time, in the letter of the law, extend to online merchants. But the fact a judge cleared this case to go to trial sets precedent. Target could have pursued this all the way to the Supreme Court if they wanted to, and the court probably would have ruled in their favor. But it would have been expensive and damaging to their reputation.

Getting ADA explicitly extended to online stores is something that will happen, eventually. But as is, there's now precedent, and we'll see how it plays out.

I guess, after having put all that into words, I'm a little hard-pressed to actually conclude anything solid. I'm sure you can pick up on some frustration with things as they are, and it's there. I wouldn't want to embrace a libertarian the-blind-will-vote-with-their-dollars approach. But it really feels like the current setup, by hinting at some notion of utopian accessibility for everyone but refusing to provide much in terms of concrete expectations, serves a certain class of attorneys far better than it does either the disabled or business.

Yeah, that's the situation we find ourselves in. There are firms who run around looking stores without curb cuts, and they make no apologies for it. I have trouble finding an effective alternative, though. If these scummy firms weren't doing the suing, governments would be. Or you'd have boatloads of small suits by the disabled -- if they could afford the legal fees.
posted by dw at 7:58 AM on August 28, 2008


They seem to be a cut-down version of other standards that focus on issues that affect visual impairments (so nothing I could see about transcripts of audio, for example -- or maybe that's because Target do no audio). They require good headings, good link text, all the usual stuff, but allow tables for layout. Nothing dreadful, nothing groundbreaking.

Yeah, it's Diet WCAG. I don't think that's necessarily bad. It reads a lot clearer than the early iterations of WCAG 2....

It looks like Jim did some picking and choosing between A/AA/AAA standards. But it doesn't seem to be all about visual impairments.
posted by dw at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2008


Bora Horza Gobuchul: XMLicious ranted about WCAG standards

What do you mean I "ranted"? I was certainly being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I intended that to be an informative post and its content is primarily a list of some of the guidelines that could be applied within MeFi comments. I actually do try to put title attributes into links when I remember to (which isn't that often.)

I kind of expected people to respond "oh, yeah, we could try to do that more" or to explain why the rules that apply to Target.com or disillusioned's web site don't apply to them personally when they're commenting on MeFi.

dw: In what sense is it not compliant?

I'm kind of skeptical that you actually need me to explain this, but sure, I'll bite. Just to go through the list of four criteria I put there up above, you've used a whole bunch of acronyms without marking them up with the expanded text, you don't appear to use "title" attributes on your links, and you don't structurally mark up your quotes with <q> tags (which I haven't done myself, either, before this post, but I think I'll try to in the future.)

Why don't you unplug your mouse today and try using your computer?

How about you take some of these rules that you are snottily pushing on other people with a superior attitude and follow them yourself? And how about you stop pretending as if practical considerations never come into conflict with the pursuit of web accessibility, since they clearly do in your own case under the right conditions?

As I said above, accessibility is important but it's silly and hypocritical to pretend that it's effortless and there's never any reason not to do it.

And by the way, making fun of the way I misspelled "hypocrisy" above - you could have been talking to someone with dyslexia, y'know. I think that kind of carelessness is clear evidence that you believe "some are more equal than others" when it comes to dyslexics and non-dyslexics.
posted by XMLicious at 8:23 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to work customer support for an ecommerce company specializing in downloadable software distribution. We were the only store on the internet where people could buy some very popular products so customers really had no other choice but had to come to us. One day I got a call from a blind guy saying he couldn't figure out our order form at all. Supposedly the html of the order form was coded all funny and what I saw as text was nowhere near where the text box would be, and when you tabbed from one text box to the next it would take you to the third before taking you to the second. For fraud prevention reasons we weren't allowed to take phone orders (checking IP addresses against credit card billing countries, etc, etc...) so I spent about an hour on the phone with him trying to get his order to go through; telling him what was asked in each box and where sequentially each box was down on the page.... Eventually it was closing time and we were nowhere. I really felt for the guy so placed the order over the phone for him even though it was against the rules. Subsequently I notified our team in charge of the order form that this issue needed to be addressed. I don't think it ever was, but the issue was brought to their attention. Months later another blind user called and asked for me. It turns out the first guy I helped had put my name and extension down on some forum somewhere, and that I was the person to talk to for customer support issues for blind users. I got another call or two from blind users over the next year or so I worked for the company.

I haven't dug into the details of this case, but at first blush I'm happy with it. I don't think blind users are asking for much, just code your pages in a standard way so they can figure out what they're "looking" at. It doesn't have to be viewable AT ALL to the sighted user, and is no more difficult really than making your code pretty for someone else to read rather than difficult for someone else to read.
posted by pwb503 at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


But I also notice that these large firms are also waving their hands saying they can't afford web standards. Seems like "can't afford accessibility" and "can't afford to grok tableless design" go hand-in-hand.

That.

You know, rather than go round-and-round about whether building websites to be basically accessible is really such an undue burden on a web designer -- and I assure you that it isn't -- I decided to take a look at the actual code being argued over in the Target case. Here's a list of the final agreed-upon changes to Target's site (.XLS file). It's a really short list, mostly things like adding the ability to "Skip Links in Global Header" and "Insert Title Attributes When Multiple Checkboxes Exist in Same Section" and adding "Headings in Homepage Left Nav" (instead of merely larger <p> text -- which was unsemantic, too!). Those are not just easy to implement with a little mark-up clean-up and a little CSS wrangling, they're trivially easy to implement. The pulling links out of the SWF (presumably by grabbing then from an XML file instead, or else merely adding alternate copies of the links in a hidden CSS class) is a tad trickier, but we're only talking about two links, both of them apparently crucial to operating the page. The tag order issues are an easy fix, as are making the alt tags of images a bit more descriptive. Target's site presumably has a CMS; they can just pull that text right from the database.

The whole list could be done in three days worth of coding and Q/A testing, tops. They are all fair, non-nitpicky requests, to enable basic readability and usability. A sighted user of the page will not even notice that they're there --- they probably won't even increase page load time by more than a fraction of a millisecond. And the slight improvements coincidentally will increase the page's ranking in search engines!

Undue burden, my ass.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:38 AM on August 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


A sighted user of the page will not even notice that they're there

Since I'm a keyboard user, I assure you I would notice. Only in a good way though.
posted by grouse at 9:41 AM on August 28, 2008


Ha, true. I use the standard mouse/keyboard duo to browse the web, and I often run into tabindex issues -- especially when filling out forms that alternate between text input boxes and selectable dropdown lists -- that bug the hell out of me too.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:02 AM on August 28, 2008


Just out of curiosity, I took a look through the current WCAG 2.0 Working Draft (it isn't an approved standard yet) for the criteria I listed above and they all still seem to be there.btw dw, I wasn't criticizing WCAG 2.0 with that link earlier, it's just that there has been a lot of controversy about it and you seemed to be acting as if there hasn't been any. I would agree that the current WD is much, much better than it has been in years past.

A side note - I noticed while browsing the HTML 5 WD that <i> and <b> haven't been deprecated, but rather are re-defined as semantic markup. WTF?
posted by XMLicious at 10:36 AM on August 28, 2008


pwb503, that's impressive customer service and a noble effort on your part.
posted by XMLicious at 10:43 AM on August 28, 2008


btw dw, I wasn't criticizing WCAG 2.0 with that link earlier, it's just that there has been a lot of controversy about it and you seemed to be acting as if there hasn't been any.

No, I wasn't.

My problem was there's been so much controversy you can't just have a throwaway line in a post like that without some explanation as to WHAT the controversy was and WHY the controversies exist.

And the point on Joe Clark's article was that it was written in 2006 and addressed an earlier working draft. We've had multiple working drafts, multiple blog dramas, and multiple resignations since then. And at this point we're up to a candidate version, which is still causing its share of hair-pulling (though things have become quieter -- I think a lot of the contentious folk have moved their poo-flinging ways over to the HTML 5 battle.)

The controversies over WCAG 2.0 probably will merit their own post if or when it ever becomes a standard. I still have my doubts it'll be a standard any time soon, though.

I'd love to discuss this more with you, but you've also misrepresented what I've said all over the place here, so I think you don't want to actually have a discussion, only to argue against a fundamentalist strawman that doesn't exist, or worse still, tar me as some sort of fundamentalist accessibility nazi.

(BTW, you don't have to spell out acronyms more than once on a page if there's no likelihood of confusion. Thus, I can use BTW because you already defined it for me. And using abbr or acronym comes after G97 on your list of options under 3.1.4 -- you can just spell out the acronym the first time you use it.)
posted by dw at 11:14 AM on August 28, 2008


The pulling links out of the SWF (presumably by grabbing then from an XML file instead, or else merely adding alternate copies of the links in a hidden CSS class) is a tad trickier, but we're only talking about two links, both of them apparently crucial to operating the page.

It seems like they have a number of Flash-related problems, though, which implies a need for the developers to be educated in accessible Flash development.

The whole list could be done in three days worth of coding and Q/A testing, tops.

I'd disagree with that assessment. About half of what's here are easy, obvious technical fixes. Skip nav stuff? That's probably an hour, tops, to put it in the CMS and Q/A. I think your three day assessment is correct for those, and they would mean a huge jump in accessibility.

The other half, though, belie deeper issues with not only how things function technically but also how content itself is created. "Descriptive Alt Tags," for instance, has "Work internally with Browse and Central Imaging to improve the quality of Alt Tag and Title Attribute descriptions." That implies educating the content creators -- and getting the imaging folk to accurately describe the images they're putting in the system.

The Flash stuff is worrisome as well. It's clear from this that there's never been any impetus for their Flash developers to learn accessible Flash.

Even then, though, I think you're looking at a month of work, including basic education for the content folk and a crash course for the Flash folk. Seems like their timeline is six months to bring everything into compliance; that seems reasonable with all their other business goals.

It would have been much cheaper for them to start with accessibility, though. The "undue burden" comes from their systems not being built with accessibility in mind, or adding in accessibility as part of an ongoing maintenance plan. Incremental, scheduled upgrades (improve keyboard navigation this quarter, improve tab-order the next quarter, retrofit the Flash for accessibility whenever you need to modify the code) could have saved them from being under a six month gun to come into compliance.
posted by dw at 11:30 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


pwb503, thanks for posting your story.

This is something that concerns me when these accessibility discussions come up. Plenty of commenters say, "People who can't use the website don't have to. They can (call / use the print version / come into the office in person)." But at the same time, there are shifts to make more services web-based (which can result in cutbacks of support for the non-web same services). Sometimes, people don't have any other choice.

I tried to carry out some simple HR tasks over the phone once and was told by my company that I need to use their HR website for that. If the website wasn't accessible for me to use (and lucky for me that I'm sighted and using the correct browser), what other option would I have?
posted by cadge at 12:18 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


> getting the imaging folk to accurately describe the images they're putting in the system.

This will not be as hard as you think, as any large reseller such as Target already has a tagged searchable asset system in place internally. They will just need to tell the webteam to have their image imports generate the alt text from the descriptive text that is already associated with each image in the database.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:30 PM on August 28, 2008


My problem was there's been so much controversy you can't just have a throwaway line in a post like that without some explanation as to WHAT the controversy was and WHY the controversies exist.

Hmm. Well, there probably was some misunderstanding on my part then. It seemed to me at the time that questioning that statement, without acknowledging that there had been controversy, was just as much a throwaway line. But in re-reading I'd be willing to say that you were sort of implicitly acknowledging the controversy with your wording. In any case, like I said, I only tossed the link out there to show that there definitely has been controversy, not in any specific criticism of WCAG 2.0.

I'd love to discuss this more with you, but you've also misrepresented what I've said all over the place here,

I don't think so - I haven't even remarked on what you've said that much. And it certainly appears that you have refused to concede that there's ever any reason at all to not implement accessibility measures, looking back at your responses to people who have been putting forward such reasons; I don't think that was a distortion.

Meanwhile, you've gone as far as to say that for others to have an opinion that places limits on their obligation to provide accessibility is to embrace a belief in 'some are more equal than others.' (Not to mention backwards, dim, and unworthy of custom and all the talk about American beliefs. That's the kind of thing I mean when I mention hyperbole.) You also claimed (at least implicitly) that I opted out of accessibility because [I] think it's not important, in direct contravention of my having stated explicitly that I think it's important.

So it seems to me that your claim that I'm setting up straw men, that hence I don't want to actually have a discussion, and so you're going to stop short of responding to me before you get to the reason why you don't use accessibility code in MeFi comments, is a dodge of that issue at least. I'm saying that practicality does set limits on the amount of effort that gets put into accessibility, it's obvious that's true, and I don't think it does any good for the cause, to avoid acknowledging or discussing that.

On another note, as someone who has extensive in both CMS software engineering and training CMS content editors, I agree with your assessment that the list Asparagirl provided would probably constitute a good deal more than three days, to deal thoroughly and reliably with everything on the list. Though without knowing more details about their IT situation and personnel it's hard to say for certain.
posted by XMLicious at 12:36 PM on August 28, 2008


dw, Target’s accessibility standards (let’s agree to use that word nonironically for the moment) were published by DRA Legal; they aren’t secret.
posted by joeclark at 2:11 PM on August 28, 2008


dw, Target’s accessibility standards (let’s agree to use that word nonironically for the moment) were published by DRA Legal; they aren’t secret.

At that point last night I hadn't seen them and I didn't know anyone else who had, but I've been able to see them since then (thanks to about half a dozen DID YOU SEE THE TARGET SETTLEMENT? e-mails).
posted by dw at 2:15 PM on August 28, 2008


DFN is already in HTML.
posted by joeclark at 2:35 PM on August 28, 2008


Oops, yeah, you're right.
posted by XMLicious at 2:47 PM on August 28, 2008


Metafilter: amphetemine-fuelled poo-flinging monkeys

five fresh fish writes "Doesn't Target already have a live-human, blind-compatible, readily-accessible telephone service? Why isn't that an acceptable alternative to a website? It's not like they have to print their catalogs in Braille; how come the web is considered 'not allowed to discriminate'?"

At least part of it is that the early web, warty as it was, was pretty accessible using a screen reader. Lots of people using the web were doing so with a text browser so designers were aware of that market.

I was doing quite a bit of support around 96-98 for blind users (like pwb503 I accidentally became the go to guy for screen reader support by handling the first call). For a lot of them the difference between the world and the world+web was like the difference between now and pre always on internet + cell phones for sighted people.

Then the "artists" + PHBs got together and started demanding web sites that were perfectly aligned like printed media and everything started going to crap. You'd get stuff like tables nested three deep for alignment and screen readers would spew garbage. And don't even get me started on shockwave. Things haven't got much better since. It seems like every second site has a gratuitous flash based navigation with nary a site map in site.

I really hope that a few of these cases actually get brought before a judge and serious penalties are applied so that building for accessibility becomes the default rather than something designers have to justify adding on.
posted by Mitheral at 9:36 PM on August 28, 2008


any time you use an abbreviation or an acronym, you need to wrap it in the corresponding or tag and add a "title" attribute containing the expanded text.

I just tried to do this with acronym on my new AskMe post, and MeFi stripped it out. Not my fault.
posted by grouse at 3:40 PM on August 29, 2008


Yeah, I was thinking of bringing that up. I've been using <abbr title=""> instead.

But unfortunately, the puppy still got strangled.
posted by XMLicious at 4:20 PM on August 29, 2008


DammitJim, two days later I still am not understanding your comment. As you explain it, your team considered accessibility this additional and extra and special thing, which you couldn’t sell to your bosses.

But does that not imply you’re a tables-and-font-tags shop? Do you not use CSS for layout? Vaguely sensible, if not valid, HTML, like headings, paragraphs, lists? Correctly-marked-up forms?

So what does that leave for basic accessibility? Writing alt texts? Are you saying you needed special permission to do that?

The fundaments of accessibility (508 or WCAG P1) map almost exactly onto contemporary Web practices, but are new, shocking, and weird to people who haven’t upgraded their skills since 1998. Doesn’t your company engage in contemporary Web practices?
posted by joeclark at 6:28 AM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish people here would stop repeating the nonsense about ABBR/ACRONYM. The way you’re explaining it isn’t how developers do it now. WCAG 1 was written nonsensically (what is the “first occurrence” of an abbreviation when you can enter the page anywhere?) and it is generally understood that: posted by joeclark at 6:33 AM on August 30, 2008


So it seems to me that your claim that I'm setting up straw men, that hence I don't want to actually have a discussion, and so you're going to stop short of responding to me before you get to the reason why you don't use accessibility code in MeFi comments, is a dodge of that issue at least.

Because, as you've discovered, MetaFilter isn't set up to allow WCAG 1/2 AAA.

And also, it's user-generated content, and even if I'm fully following the rules here, there's no guarantee anyone else will. And that can lead to confusion.

Heck, as joeclark reminds us, the standard doesn't always reflect the reality.

So I try to meet the A-level stuff when I can in comments. AAA is a great thing to strive for, but I think it's almost impossible to do in user-generated content.

I'm saying that practicality does set limits on the amount of effort that gets put into accessibility

When did I ever say otherwise?

The issue I have is when people say "oh, it's hard, we can't do it." But the A-level stuff, honestly, isn't that hard to do. The stuff Asparagirl was highlighting was mostly A-level. AA and AAA are much harder, yes, and AAA is a great thing to strive for, but if everyone just followed the A-level recommendations we'd be way ahead of where we are now.

And a lot of the excuses I'd heard from people suggest it's not about whether the work is difficult or not, it's about a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge of the requirements, and a lack of willingness to do it.

I spent a week arguing with one of my coders over how our in-house CMS handled alt attributes in images. I knew it was going to be a pain to implement -- new column in the DB, alter the UI, multiple users, multiple publishing targets. I also knew that it could be done, that it was a day's work and not the week the coder kept quoting me, and the payoff would justify the day of work. And in the end, I was right on the implementation time, though less arguing would have gotten it done earlier.

On another note, as someone who has extensive in both CMS software engineering and training CMS content editors

Then you'd also know that accessibility is something that affects which CMS gets bought. My large research university chose Plone over SharePoint for the campus-wide CMS, and one of the reasons given was the committee felt Plone had better support of accessibility than SharePoint. It was a surprise given how much money and effort Microsoft had thrown at the campus the last few years.

I still have no idea where you get your vision of me. Just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you can't do anything.
posted by dw at 9:54 AM on August 30, 2008


I wish people here would stop repeating the nonsense about ABBR/ACRONYM.

If you say it is nonsense insofar as creating accessible web pages, then I will defer to your superior experience. But nonsense or not, it's what's in the WCAG.
posted by grouse at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2008


joeclark: I wish people here would stop repeating the nonsense about ABBR/ACRONYM.

I'm with grouse on this. Props to your acumen and all, but this is simply what it says in the guidelines. From WCAG2 technique G102 under Tests -> Procedure:
For each abbreviation in the content, [emphasis mine]
  1. If the abbreviation has no expanded form, an explanation is provided.
  2. If the expanded form of the abbreviation is in a different language than the content, an explanation is provided.
  3. Otherwise, the expanded form is provided.
Certainly there are some exceptions mentioned in the rest of the text, but not all that many.

dw: I still have no idea where you get your vision of me. Just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you can't do anything.

I guess I must've gotten it from the same place you got yours of me. I haven't said anything like "Since I can't do everything, I can't do anything."

In fact, that sounds alot more like your cavils in regards to using more of these techniques here on MeFi. It seems like you're saying that simply because the rest of the site wouldn't be as compliant as your comments, that's a valid excuse to refrain from the techniques we've been discussing here.

I hope it's clear by now that I am very well acquainted with coding for accessibility. I do it myself. I try to ensure that my projects have an accessibility audit stage, even if it isn't required by the client. And I'm an advocate of it, I urge other people to do it. I just think that persuasion is by far the best way to promote it, with a minimum of the righteousness and castigation you've been voicing.

I mean, talking about karmic reincarnation as a disabled person? You're literally threatening me with hellfire there, being punished for sin in the afterlife, if I don't shape up and accede to your opinions on this topic. That attitude sure isn't going to bring over anyone who fiercely opposes these measures and it may well turn off people who are undecided or indifferent.
posted by XMLicious at 11:52 AM on August 30, 2008


XMLicious, I wasn’t talking about WCAG 2, which I haven’t read and don’t intend to.
posted by joeclark at 1:36 PM on August 30, 2008


Sorry, my bad. I mistook why you were mentioning WCAG 1.
posted by XMLicious at 1:44 PM on August 30, 2008


The <acronym> tag should be working now, testing:

WCAG
posted by XMLicious at 6:35 PM on September 5, 2008


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