At Web Directions North ’09, Derek Featherstone presented on “Real World Accessibility for AJAX and Web Apps”. I had first tried to hear Derek speak on this topic back in 2007, so I was eagerly signed up for the 4.5 hr workshop.
As Derek went through his presentation, I was surprised to see that several of his examples had a 2005 date on them. Still, many participants were unaware of certain techniques, and most had never heard of ARIA. Fortunately Derek was able to cover both introductory and intermediate information, but it struck me that many presentations on accessibility still need to cover the basics. While the information is “out there”, in many cases people are not seeking it out, for one reason or another.
When I was at LexisNexis, we had a yearly training budget, and many of us chose to enroll in various web accessibility training programs: I attended AccessU in 2007, and another co-worker attended WebAIM training in Utah. There are also several sessions being presented at South By Southwest that can help engage developers beyond the basics. These are fantastic events where you can have the opportunity to meet some of the most passionate and entrenched in the field, and an opportunity for those of us with a bit more experience to ask questions and engage with others. Yet it appears there is some barrier to entry into this (unintentionally) somewhat exclusive club.
I struggle with the fact that my passion for web accessibility is not shared with the masses. For the business folk, it may seem like “more work with less return”, for developers it may seem like “more tedious work”. Yet the notion of marking up elements to describe their roles, states and properties seems interesting to me: it is one step closer to the Semantic Web. And obviously, it’s more user-centered, to consider how *people* are interacting with what we create.
The information is available, and the folks within the web accessibility community are among the most generous with their time and knowledge I’ve met. If you’re not considering web accessibility in your design and development, why not?