Monthly Archives: December 2007

Christmas Cheer

The silly season is upon us. Most of us have succumbed to that distinct feeling of panic in the air, which gradually intensified as, like lemmings we rushed towards Christmas celebrations. Every year I tell myself I won’t get caught up in the mad rush, and every year I fail dismally.

The thing that really annoys me is that there is always so much to do before Christmas, yet, Christmas over, I have some time to relax, enjoy and treat myself, and nothing interesting is open. How dare other people take a holiday at the same time as me!

Every year Christmas is more commercialised. Saccharine so called carols blast from every shop. Fake snow is everywhere, and I struggle to find any reference to the real origins of our biggest festival.

We all eat and drink too much, overspend on our credit cards and spend the next month or so regretting both.

We rush around trying to get all our work finished before the holidays, even though most of it will wait till next year. And I really miss all the regular programmes on National Radio not to mention, and yes will I ‘fess up – I miss Shortland St!

But before I am accused of having a severe case of ‘bah humbug’ I can tell you that our pohutukawa is blossoming. I have just heard a beautiful concert of mediaeval Christmas music, and feeling a bit sad that I won’t see quite a few of my family members at Christmas.

And during the holiday season there will be a picnic in the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, and maybe a ferry ride to Days Bay. Novels will be read and music listened to. Wellington is peaceful over the holiday season and we will relax, with time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next.

I wish everyone a peace and joy at Christmas, a safe and restful break, and a happy and successful New Year.

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Rise up and protest against inaccessible information

Rise is the new print publication from Ministry of Social Development. It is also available on their web site. I don’t know what it is about as I can’t read it, and I suspect lots of other people won’t be able to either. I can say it is probably one of the ugliest publications I have ever seen, and I have seen a fair few. It’s probably a designer’s dream but it’s a reader’s nightmare. I think you would almost need to have 2020 vision to read it, or at the very least a good pair of reading specs. I tried it on a colleague who is within the range of so called normal sight and he struggled.

It is not entirely clear to me who the audience is. It is described as MSD’s flagship publication, and I would like to read one or two of the articles, but the headings in particular are an abomination. Some are large but in a strange distorted font. Others are tiny and grey on white. Body type is too small and again is grey. What IS it with grey?

The web isn’t much better. We tried the pdf and found some visual elements didn’t show and others flashed alarmingly. The possible cause was a version issue, The Rise document is in version seven of the Adobe Acrobat and the machine we viewed it on had version five of the reader.

We then tried the Word document. It was a bit more readable. However there was no contents page with handy hyperlinks, the images were very large and the lines of the body text too long and justified, which does not read well on the screen, and there are no page numbers. This is definitely not an equivalent document, not even to the original print one.

There are probably reasons for all of this relating to publication processes, but as the reader the message I get is that only some audiences are important. Others don’t matter.

It is really time that large organisations with dollars to spend on communications start to take their audiences seriously, and have proper planned and integrated processes to get their messages across. And readers shouldn’t put up with it any more.

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Filed under Information Accessibility

High contrast site? Low access

Colour contrast is really important to me, and lots of other people with partial sight. I don’t use any enlarging software – Firefox works well enough, even if some sites break, which they often do. Sadly most web site designers and builders simply don’t get it.

So here I go, harping on about it again.
was recommended as a useful site for access info. Well maybe… If we want our sites and the information they contain to be credible then we have to walk the talk. Here’s an example of a site where they just don’t quite get it.


The site is generally grey text on a white background, which actually meets the accessibility standard for colour contrast. But wait there’s more. The site attempts to helpfully offer a high contrast option which fails miserably on almost all counts, passing just one colour blindness test. The measurement tool I use is from Vision Australia, based on the W3C standard, and gives accurate, trustworthy and reliable results in my experience.

You really gotta wonder!

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Web Accessibility

NZ wins international disability award

New Zealand has been awarded the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award.

It was great to celebrate the International Day of Disabled People on Dec 3 with the added celebration of an event like this. Sadly, the celebrations were not as exuberant as they might have been as we remembered the life and tragic death of Emma Agnew. Instead of celebrating, the Deaf community was in mourning as they watched her broadcast funeral service around New Zealand.

Emma’s death certainly got more air time in the media than the award did. It is a terrible irony that more New Zealanders have now probably heard of NZ Sign Language, our third national language, than they would have in any other way. It is an outcome that no one would wish for.

Disability media are few and far between in New Zealand and I miss the lack of intelligent, knowledgeable and hard-edged discussion on disability issues in the mainstream media, although coverage is slowly improving in tone, if not in scope. The disability world is changing fast. I am beginning to feel like a walking historical artefact!

Some of the changes and developments have been, in no particular order or importance:

Long may the positive change continue, and I hope that change includes safer streets and communities for our sons and daughters.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights