Technology is the last, best hope for accessibility

Published: 13th March 2007

I've been feeling very angry lately.

It angers me when developers don't care about accessibility. It angers me more when developers pay lip-service to the idea without being prepared to do what's necessary to ensure that it happens. Server-side programmers who hide on the server and deny that the client-side matters; client-side programmers so obsessed with the latest cool thing, that they're quite happy to leave groups of people behind in the name of what's cutting-edge and sexy.

But technology is the last, best hope for accessibility. It's not like the physical world, where there are good, tangible reasons why some things can never be accessible. A person who's blind will never be able to drive a car manually; someone in a wheelchair will never be able to climb the steps of an ancient stone cathedral. Technology is not like the physical world — technology can take any shape. Technology is our slave, and we can make it do what we want. With technology there are no good reasons, only excuses.

Here in Australia it's hit home like never before. Here there are people who live thousands of kilometres from anything, and without technology some of these people have no contact with the rest of the world at all. For anyone who's isolated — such as by disability, geography, mental or physical illness, or the need to care for others — the internet is quite literally a life-line. Without that life-line, these people are completely fucked. And these people are us — these people are me and you.

I don't care how difficult it is to make web content accessible — that's our problem. And it isn't that difficult anyway. Sure, new developments always raise new challenges, and some of those challenges are extremely tough. So what? Are we gonna shrug and say we don't care? Are we going to take away the life-line that technology has given so many people, just as it's starting to show its real value, because it's too difficult, not sexy enough, not cool, flashy or fun enough to be bothered? Are we — in the words of Bob Dylan — going to turn our heads and pretend that we just don't see?

I'm not. And I have no patience for anyone who is. If you're not producing accessible content — if you're not prepared to try — then you have no business in this industry at all.


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