Monthly Archives: May 2012

Introducing Web Accessibility

Around 20% of people can’t access the information on your web site, and the other 80% could be having a much better experience.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day logo - orange globe on grey background

Today is the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
There is also a Facebook page.

Making sure your web site adheres to international standards (WCAG) and national  standards (NZ government) is a good start but won’t necessarily give you a truly accessible web site. Having an inclusive mindset towards accessibility and your users will also help.

Try a few simple things and take a little time to experience what a lack of accessibility means. Unplug your mouse, touchpad or trackpad and try navigating around your site.  Using the keyboard only (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar) navigate and interact with your own or your favourite websites and applications. You may discover a few problems you never thought about. Blind people and people with some physical impairments don’t use a mouse.

One accessibility problem I often encounter is poor contrast between text and background.  It is a very common problem on many web sites. No matter how much those of us with low vision enlarge the critical text or navigation poor contrast means it cannot be read. Some sites also create difficulty for people with colour blindness. Test the contrast on your own site using one of the testing tools available from Juicy Studio or Vision Australia.

Accessibility is not only about the technology or the design, important though they are. It is also about the content.  Analyse the language on your web site. How easily can it be understood by the average user?

Making web sites accessible to people who encounter particular barriers when using the Internet will mean a better user experience for everyone.

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Filed under Information Accessibility, Web Accessibility

Dismantling disableism – Three powerful tools

This is my contribution to Blogging Against Disableism Day.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of it about. Disableism diminishes both the disabled person and the perpetrator. It is a clumsy made up word to describe something particularly unlovely so it is appropriate that it is an ugly word.

Disableism diminishes both the disabled person
- and the perpetrator.

Wikipedia describes “disableism,” or “ableism” as it also calls it as “a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities.”  I am not going to describe it any further, in case I descend into what a good friend of mine describes as the “aint it awful” stuff.

Instead I want to identify three (non-violent) weapons which can be used against it.

1. Humour

A light heart and a witty one liner go a long way. It takes a bit of practice but there is plenty of help out there, especially on the Internet. One of my favourite sources of humour is Crippen, disabled UK cartoonist.  So much that happens to us is funny, sometimes only in hindsight, admittedly, but developing a robust and “out there” sense of humour can help enormously when the going gets tough. Mocking prejudice can be fun! Disability humour is part of disability culture.

2.  Be loud proud and passionate


Being “out” and proud as a disabled person is powerful. And when a bit of action is required there’s nothing like some good old fashioned activism with other like-minded people. There’s safety in numbers and solidarity with other disabled people is personally powerful and takes away the feeling that everything bad is centred on me. Every little thing contributes to change, and taking action is very satisfying, and can be fun. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs are useful tools. Know your rights, use them and learn from each other’s experience, A man who inspires me was brought up in an institution and began by leading action for better pay in a sheltered workshop. Now he is an international leader and has spoken at the UN.

3. Form strong alliances

Finding others who may not be disabled but who may share similar world views can be rewarding. Supporting each other on issues of mutual interest, forging strong and respectful relationships to create change may be hard work, but the results can really make a difference. Disabled people and the gay community teamed up in the early 90’s to make sure sexual orientation and disability in its widest sense were both included in the New Zealand Human Rights Act. Our hard work paid off and the new Act  was inclusive.

Call me Pollyanna, although I prefer a “cock-eyed optimist” as the song says – sorry about the pun, but if we don’t tackle disableism from a glass half full perspective it will just be too overwhelmingly hard.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Inclusion