What’s *Your* Story?

Many times in the past I have been asked “How did you get into accessibility?”, and I often interpret this as “Why do you care about it so much? Do you know someone who’s affected?” Usually, I respond by clarifying that I did not start preaching about accessibility for my own selfish reasons (if selfish is the right word), but that I found out about it almost by accident. I realised that there was a general gap in people’s knowledge about it and it just seemed like the right thing to do to let people know what it was all about. This very site came about as the result of the various tools and wizards that I had created and scattered around the web to help people make their pages more accessible.

Today, as I sit at work pondering how to get other people in the organisation I work for as passionate (or at least half as passionate) abut this thing we know as web accessibility I’ve been thinking about what my drivers were for this again. I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that I am atypical, and that I cannot expect other people to be interested in it to the same level as I am. Or can I.

So, this post is a bit different - I would encourage you, dear reader, to comment on this post and tell me and all other readers:

  1. How did you get into web accessibility? Was it because you have a relative that is affected and you felt the need to spread the word, or did you do it simply because it seemed like a niche market that you could become an expert in? Go on, be honest. I’d really like to know where we got to where we are in this field.
  2. And if you have found yourself in a similar situation to me - feeling like you’re the guy at the bottom of a pit ranting about accessibility and trying to be heard - what did you do (or are still doing) to get other people as enthusiastic about the topic when they do not have personal reasons for doing so. Because let’s be honest, it’s not the most sexy or exciting topic on earth and many people would much rather be picking their toenails or pulling out belly-button fluff.

Really looking forward to reading people’s responses to this one.

[And before anyone suggests this, yes I have read the chapter about implementing accessibility in the enterprise in the Friends of Ed accessibility 'bible'].

Filed under: Uncategorized
Posted by Ian on Thursday, December 14, 2006

82 Comments

  1. So says JackP

    1. I’m a web designer for a Local Authority. About 5 years ago, we were aware as a team that we needed to do something-or-other to do with a set of guidelines called WCAG. As someone who has always been a firm believer in “equalities” I volunteered and looked into it. I attended seminars. I saw Bill Fine and Julie Howell speak. I was inspired… and there you go.

    2. Yes. Sometimes I’m very aware that I sound like the “you-can’t-do-that guy” who is someone I don’t want to be. I’d much rather everyone else also becomes inspired, but other than that, I’ll generally offer advice and assistance but not poke my nose in too much otherwise. But I’m still as passionate about it (and about other forms of “fairness” and equality as I ever have been.

    I’ve not read the Friends of Ed chapter, so any chance of summarising it?

    PS This is a good idea for a blog post actually, I may follow up in more detail myself later…

    Added December 14, 2006 at 11:15 am

  2. So says Laurence Veale

    Hi Ian,

    I come from a similar background to yourself. I worked as a developer for a Financial Services company in Ireland.

    I came to accessibility from the web standards perspective, it was simply the right thing to do.

    We had to deal with Dreamweaver tabled-based templates and apply them to all your pages, which often didn’t work, especially with a lot of Servlets and JSPs thrown into the mix.

    Then, you’d have to upload all these files to the web server, and in some cases recompile. Really nasty.

    Web standards for the most part, just made perfect sense and solved so many problems from an implementation point of view.

    Thereafter, accessibility was just a natural progression, it just made sense.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 11:16 am

  3. So says Robin

    I got into accessibility almost as a by-product of ‘best practise’ ways of building websites: CSS, content/style separation, etc. Of course, it helped that the clients at both my first job and my current position value accessibility highly (or at least value not having the worry of being sued via hitting double-AA).

    Regarding my colleagues, I really haven’t had any issues. Of course sometimes the designers grumble a little that their designs aren’t high enough contrast, but in general I’ve had very few problems. They’re not necessarily enthusiastic but they’re understanding about the level of quality we need to produce.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 11:29 am

  4. So says Noah Slater

    I have personally grown up with Dyslexia, ADHD and asperger’s syndrome.

    Additionally, my mother has multiple sclerosis, holds a Ph.D. in disability studies and teaches/lectures about disability issues.

    You could almost say that accessibility issues were an obvious area of research for me. It’s something that effects me directly and I have felt passionate about since childhood.

    I think that growing up with someone very educated about issues effecting disabled persons really helps instill passion, especially when you see things being done to impair individuals further.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 11:51 am

  5. So says Steve

    I guess I am what people think of as the stadard accessibility guy. I got into accessibility and feel so strongly about it since I have a disability. You are far from alone at the bottom of the pit, the University recently redeigned the website (with some veery high priced consultants) and it is only marginally accessible - when I asked for some accessibility changes I heard things like the following: I asked why the sjkip link was hidden and only visible if css was turned off, I was told that only blind people used them and that since they were blind they would not have css turned on. They also made the argument that since ie5 represented 2-4 percent nationally we could not improve accessibility or use standards compliant code. Keep up the good fight.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 12:54 pm

  6. So says John Faulds

    It started for me not long after I began taking an interest in standards-driven design in general. I kept seeing icons or links that said CSS, HTML, 508 & WAI on people’s sites.
    I set about learning about valid CSS & HTML first and in the process realised that the basics of accessibility weren’t that much further down the track.
    Hanging out on forums frequented by accessibility enthusiasts gradually opened me up to more ideas and it’s just kinda grown organically from there.
    While I do see it a plus for a web developer to have this sort of knowledge in terms of increased employment prospects, I mainly think that it’s just a natural extension of modern, standards-based web development. There’s so many factors you need to take into consideration when building a site and factors that relate to accessibility are just part of those.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 1:01 pm

  7. So says Karl

    I got into web accessibility purely because when I started out in web development I discovered A List Apart and from there Joe Clark’s book. It’s in my nature to “do the right thing” so that’s why I follow the best practices and specifications of this profession. As for point 2, well I no longer have to explain quite so much about the why but I do find myself repeating the phrase “Bobby isn’t accessibility” :p

    Added December 14, 2006 at 1:10 pm

  8. So says Mike Cherim

    My first look at web accessibility was with my cousin who with the help a pointer held with her teeth got around the Internet. The method wasn’t nearly as impressive to me as was the joy she got out of it. That part of it was enticing and contagious.

    When I started practicing web development for myself years later I didn’t think about it — I explored, but as I poked around the web and was exposed to the topic I remembered my cousin’s joy. It seemed like a natural fit.

    Additionally, it was an opportunity to get into an aspect of development that I didn’t see as mainstream yet; I wanted to specialize. It had a lot of potential in my mind, and I could wear a white hat doing it (this, to me, is an important aspect — when I do anything I like to do the right, responsible thing). And, boy, has it ever been rewarding: Standards, SEO… it’s all related to or stems from my work in the area of web accessibility. Very beneficial on many levels.

    Regarding #2: Yeah, sometimes. What I do is share what I learn and try myself to be accessible to others. It can be scary and the W3C doesn’t make it embraceable so someone has to. That’s the reason for Accessites (which used to be linked to from the footer here): To show web accessibility can fit into the mainstream. Seeing that, coupled with the inherent benefits of doing it, should draw others.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 2:59 pm

  9. So says Mathieu Bonnet

    I’ve always been an observer, and I’ve always thought about all kind of things, based on what I could perceive. Internet permitted me to access a lot of very diverse content, which further enhanced my critical skills.

    From there, I started basing my critics on comparison to ideals, which I developed, from all this thinking, and continue to develop.

    Accessibility, usability, and ergonomy, are simply part of these ideals.

    Mostly everything I have ever been confronted, from some random website, to my kitchen tap, to the ATM down the street, seriously lacked accessibility, usability, and ergonomy, and we all suffer, everyday, from these problems, among many others. I want these fields to greatly evolve, just as a lot of other domains, so I, and everyone else, might to be able to take it easy, in 10, 30, or 50 years (depending on the ratio between how fast, I, and others, can build absolute ideals for everything -while I’m really taking my time, the context being very tiring-, and the global worsening speed of today society).

    It does not have much to do with handicaps (I only wear “normal” glasses), except that I want everyone to be able to lead a better, more easy and quiet life (well, taking into account, everyone serious needs -by serious, I mean free from today society oppression), so *I* could lead a better, more easy, and quiet life (knowing that everyone is alright, and without anyone bothering me with problems ^_^;).

    That said, I did meet more handicapped people. For example, when I was a kid, one of my neighbours was deaf-mute, and it did mark me.

    I’m still 21 years old, and the easiest way to find a work, as I’ve been working, intensively, with computers for about eight years (and as I don’t like the school system -though I continue to study, through distance learning), was to become a webmaster. As I’m quite fond of accessibility, usability, ergonomy, and ideals in general, I decided, a few years ago, to specialize myself in these fields (though I have quite some general knowledge about webmastering, and computing).

    I did a three-month work placement, building a website for an association dedicated to blind people. I’m currently developing a complete CMS, oriented to accessibility, usability, and ergonomy, for my own website, and for my future projects. In a few months, I’ll start seriously find a job.

    (After a few years, depending on occasions -and probably when I’ll have a bachelor’s degree, in general computing-, I’ll try to find a work in general software development (though I might do this, on my free time), and then, in gaming and around virtual worlds :))

    As for trying to be heard, I’m used to criticize (and I love it), and as long as I can gain some stability, through working on my ideals, I don’t have much problems with it. Since a few years, laws are evolving in favor of accessibility, so I guess I won’t have much problem continuing to build this stability (and notably if we consider that a lot of people, even in the field of accessibility and usability, don’t have such a global view on the matter -which might not be anormal, considering the complexity of today technologies (bugs, compatibility problems, etc.), and the fact all this, is quite a recent matter).

    You shouldn’t think too much, specifically, about accessibility (and usability). These problems are only part of the global situation of today society. If people don’t want to hear about it, don’t bother too much, as things won’t change until everything else changes (meaning when we’ll create a completely new society, and idealistic society, without trying to reuse rotten foundations, as done today, to try to solve problems, by adding yet another layer of stinky mud, which worsen the situation, more than anything), so let’s take our time.

    As more and more people get to know the laws about accessibility, they’ll figure it out by themselves, and we are here to help them, when they need it (and they will need it, “thanks” to people being highly specialized -though seldom really competent, but this is yet another matter-, because of today educational and professional systems, and “thanks” to the complexity of the field, because of bugs and incompatibilities everywhere (and not just from Microsoft, though they sure are, happily, leading the way), and because of the current state of computer software and hardware systems).

    PS: Accessibility and usability are sexy and exciting topics. It’s about ideals and perfection. It is sexy. If you are not hearing it enough, you should start creating a bunch of imaginary friends. They make life a bit more fun ^_^; (and I do have many of them).

    Added December 14, 2006 at 5:52 pm

  10. So says Virginia DeBolt

    Two threads combined to build my interest in accessibility. The first was that I was teaching web design classes, and was determined (as you are, Ian) to help learners to do things according to best practices and standards. I wanted to develop good skills and habits in students. The second factor was that I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the knowbility.org AIR (Accessible Internet Rally) events that are held in conjuntion with SXSW Interactive each year. That meant I attended Knowbility training before working with a team to design a site for an AIR event. I did this in two different years and the training was outstanding. Now I regard accessibility to be as much as part of the process of creating web pages as writing HTML. I don’t treat it as optional or extra.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 7:22 pm

  11. So says Stacie

    I worked for the Federal Government as a web design. Hungry, and bored, I was interested in designing any and all that I could. A co-worker trained me with Section 508 and we grew from there. I have a disabled relative, but I didn’t feel compeled to design for her. However, I did hear about a focus group where a blind participant cried because he could finally navigate the site. I was hooked.

    To get other people hooked, I send out an email to my company Occassional Accessibility Tip in which I send out a tip/fact/info about accessibility. It’s not in your face last minute developing and people tend to listen more. I also try to approach accessibility from the person who may not have an up to date computer rather than a blind person using the computer. I had one manager who was completely against it - she wanted the site to be pretty and have cute things. Thank goodness she is gone!

    Added December 14, 2006 at 7:41 pm

  12. So says Deborah

    Was it because you have a relative that is affected and you felt the need to spread the word

    That you ask the question this way reinforces the general impression I’ve had about the accessibilty community: far too few of the members are disabled themselves, which is probably how we ended up with well-meant atrocities such as Access Keys.

    I’m a hands-free developer (and now, librarian) who codes exclusively with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I won’t code what I can’t use.

    Added December 14, 2006 at 9:19 pm

  13. So says Scott G

    1) I got into accessibility as part of the web standards package. I learned how to code a site semantically and found it really exciting to turn the styles off and see how I site would break down, etc. Then as I read more books on css and javascript, the whole accessibility thing just seems to make sense. It’s just so easy to do most of the work as part of your initial development, then the fine tuning and problems with specifics of accessibility are just another interesting challenge.

    2) The way I sell Accessibility to my company is purely behind the maskings of Search Engine Optimisation(SEO). This is the buzzword de jour at my company, and I have reluctantly accepted that if I do SEO changes to a site I can also sneak in all accessibility issues as well (accessibility = good SEO, etc) and improve that area of my sites with no resistance.

    I would love if everyone actually got excited about accessibility or recognised it’s importance… but that’s not really going to happen.

    Added December 15, 2006 at 1:49 am

  14. [...] Over at Accessify, Ian’s asked folks to tell the story of how they got into accessibility. Like Ian, I get asked this one a lot, so here’s my story. [...]

    Added December 15, 2006 at 7:46 am

  15. So says Martin Kliehm

    I first learned about accessibility when it became a proposal in the late nineties, when I was already using all the power of CSS2 that was available in Netscape 4. Keeping sites accessible seemed just like the right thing to do. The information is there on the web, it could be easily available to everybody, so why be so chauvinistic to exclude people from that information and build barriers?

    But perhaps it’s just another naive or romantic idea living next door to the idea that a world wide direct distribution channel through the web would be a chance for poor countries. So for me it’s an issue of idealism, political correctness, although I must admit that I’m rather myopic and have a bleary idea how it would feel to see even less when I don’t wear glasses or contact lenses. Have you ever tried to work on a computer screen without your glasses?

    I convinced my bosses that accessibility is good for QA, and my co-workers were convinced because standards compliant websites are much easier to maintain. Even our customers realized the clear structure of the code, their higher ranking in search engines, or smaller file sizes. But that’s just a side effect, like device independence. We have yet to convince one of our corporate customers to build a truly accessible website. They still argue “that’s not our target group”. In the meantime I blog about accessibility, I speak at barcamps and other geek meetings. Actually I often find myself speaking about accessibility with regular people when they ask me what kind of work I do. I think persistence and authenticity will eventually lead to success.

    Added December 15, 2006 at 11:00 am

  16. So says Robert Wellock

    I am affected though it wasn’t the reason why I read up on web accessibility.

    Around the year 2000 I read up upon WCAG and decided to produce a commercial website that was accessible. Though to be honest the browsers I had at my disposal weren’t great on features so it wasn’t really until 2002 that I got heavily involved in promoting web accessibility rather than dabbling.

    As for publicity stunts; I got my name published in the UK’s leading Computer Magazine several years back ‘04 and encouraged them to do an article on Web Accessibility. Other than that for the last 5-years I’ve used various techniques and even managed to get the local College to integrate more web accessibility into their courses.

    Added December 15, 2006 at 11:08 am

  17. So says Rosie Sherry

    I’m a software tester and testing for accessibility has now become a fundamental part of testing a web applications.

    I believe I have more interest in accessibility than most software testers and that may be down to the fact of working on projects that were trying to be accessible, but were really missing the point. The testing process was often tedious and it seemed that as long as a site had alt text it would pass accessibility.

    Things have moved on since en and I have continously been increasing my knowledge and understanding of accessibility. Perhaps a characteristic of a software tester - I am not afraid to say when something is just not right :)

    Added December 15, 2006 at 3:31 pm

  18. So says Niqui Merret

    I developed with CSS & standards compliant code for years without really thinking much about accessibility. I used automated tools many times to check my code compliance and went out of my way to make sites work across many different browsers (as a Mac user I was tired of sites not working).

    I also develop Flash sites.

    I was setting up an e-learning team nearly 2 years ago and when the topic of accessibility came about I dived in, trying to understand what it was all about and how to make it work. I then met “the accessibility tester”. He was a nice guy. He ran a few automated tests and used a text-only browser. He failed us totally because of Flash elements. He was not disabled. He had never worked with disabled users. He was following guidelines but with no real understanding or experience. He told me Flash could not be accessible.

    So I spent time trying to understand disabled users and trying to work out if he was right. I believed him to begin with. I lost faith. I tried to understand how it could be fair to all users to have a text-based site because it was accessible.

    So I started to question what accessibility was all about.

    To me accessibility is about not discriminating against users because of disabilities. To make the content available to users without compromising the user experience. I started to look at different disabilities and tried to work out how Flash discriminated against users. I now spend time trying to find solutions to issues in Flash to create a better experience for users with different needs. I try to spread the word about making Flash more accessible. I believe that it can be. Developers and designers just need to be encouraged and educated.

    Sometimes as a Flash developer I feel discriminated against. There is a lack of tolerance; a lack of understanding. On a personal level I understand what it is like to be shut out of a community. I am shut out of the standards community because I use Flash.

    I would like to see us working together to try to end this discrimination and lack of tolerance.

    Added December 15, 2006 at 3:31 pm

  19. [...] I saw Kimberly’s story on how she got into Accessibility. Ian’s asking people to share their stories; here’s mine. [...]

    Added December 15, 2006 at 5:45 pm

  20. So says Richard Conyard

    For my part I was forced into accessibility rather than stumbled across it rather late into programming web apps.

    Unlike a lot of people I run into that care about web accessibility I’ve always been in and around that development side of sites (databases, web services and middle tier code). From when I started hacking around with code back in around 93 (memory is rather foggy), until about 2003 it was all about functioning code. With the interfaces to the web apps being secondary to having them work and having them “look” right. The phrase “it works on my machine”, was known to have passed my lips.

    Tail end of 2002 I followed a friend of mine (Gavin Massey - posts on the forum, has done the occasional talk), to a new company. Where in the 6 months or so that we hadn’t been working together he’d been bitten by the accessibility and standards bug. His new role was project management, mine in development. Over the first 3 or 4 months I gave him so much grief about doing what I perceived to be the loads of extra work required for accessibility and standards compliance it was untrue (and I don’t know how he managed to hang onto the bug), on more than one occasion with late running projects there were stand up arguments.

    Then it clicked. I must admit to tying together standards compliance, separation and accessibility into one lump (however adoption normally happens with these 3 at the same time for us oldies), but suddenly what he was trying to achieve with the way we approached tasks made sense. It was all about doing it right and making sure the end result was a quality job. By thinking about these at the start of a project rather than at the end project times actually shrunk rather than grew and last minute changes evolved from being the hair pulling screaming chaos into mild curses and shrugs and finally into (by pushing W3 standards adoption further back into our applications), bits we both expect and can cater for quickly.

    What I thought was days worth of work when I was forced upon this road now fall into minutes and hours. What I thought was a pointless exercise has not only proved valuable marketing and opened up new clients, but also delivers them and us additional return on investment with easier / more considered sites (because of accessibility), comes increased conversions, and for us we end up spending less time supporting applications since they are more intuitive.

    In some ways I wish I had a time machine, if I knew what I know now all that time ago I would have saved myself a lot of heartache and strife. I guess I can only thank Gavin for keeping on persevering until I finally “got” it. If for no other reason that is why I’ll continue to push internally and externally for more accessible sites. A somewhat selfish motive compared to some others here, but a different take regardless.

    Added December 18, 2006 at 2:14 pm

  21. So says dotjay

    My interest in accessibility is with computers in general (Human-Computer Interaction), but I work with the Web and have done since I was about 16.

    How did I end up being passionate about Web accessibility? Oddly, it all stems from my love of music. At university, I had the good fortune of having lecturers and supervisors who were passionate about music technology and its application to areas such as music therapy. There’s some very interesting research out there in HCI that takes inspiration from the complex interactions with musical instruments that I find fascinating. This all led on to me working with the Drake Music Project on custom music software, which the charity use in their workshops with disabled musicians.

    When I left uni and started freelancing (building websites), accessibility was an obvious thing to me - I guess it had become an integral part of things for me. And yes, it also seemed like a nice little niche to which I could really apply myself. I started researching Web accessibility and quickly found Accessify and Accessify Forum. I read Joe Clark’s book and went on from there.

    I can sympathise with the frustrations of trying to get others interested in accessibility, but I can’t say that I come up against problems on a day-to-day basis. Working mostly as a freelancer, the people I work with at least get what accessibility is about and why it’s a good thing to take into account. Dealing directly with website owners can be an interesting experience, but I’ve been lucky enough to find clients who either come to me with accessibility already in mind or quickly grasp the advantages in terms of social responsibility and/or the savings and other benefits that come from the technological considerations of Web accessibility.

    Added December 19, 2006 at 12:26 am

  22. So says Coupé Jérôme

    I am a Belgian webdesigner. My interest in accessibility started back in 2001 when I was working for a small web agency in Belgium. That company was originally part of the Euroaccessibility project, in which I participated.

    I discovered the work of the W3C (WCAG 1.0) which i followed since then and met wonderful people like Charles McCathienevile and Lisa Seeman. Since then, accessibility has been a part of my daily job as a webdesigner / coder, just like webstandards are.

    I quited the private sector a year ago to work full time for the International Polar Foundation and to teach web technologies. Since then, I am following the work of the accessibility community, including this excellent website.

    I cannot say I am an expert but I try my best to spread the word at my own level and to take care of accessibility issues in my daily work (which is not always easy).

    Added December 19, 2006 at 11:35 am

  23. So says Mag Leahy

    I am a front end web developer in London.

    1. I care about accessibility as it adds integrity to my job which otherwise is just doing a job for the mighty buck. By caring about accessibility I know I am making a choice to try to make someone’s life better. That makes me feel good - selfish! We moan about so many stupid, silly, not-worth-mentionning things, and there are people out there who have such a daily challenge just to do the simple things. They evoke great admiration in me with their can-do attitude, if what I do at work helps - that’s just awesome.

    2. In the beginning I was the one going on alone, now times are chaging where it is easier to sell accessibility due to other benifits like SEO for example. Luckily I work with some great companies who care deeply about accessibility like the BBC.

    I wish there was “The Case” so the law would be the driving force behind people doing the right thing with accessible websites as the fear of having to pay out a whole load of cash is a great motivator.

    Added December 21, 2006 at 1:49 pm

  24. So says Adrian Higginbotham

    I got in to Web accessibility because in about 1997 I got my first internet connection and started exploring the Web. I quite quickly found that simply because I was using a screenreader tehre were some sites I couldn’t use. I started complaining a bit but most companies didn’t understand what I was talking about because I didn’t speak developer language, they couldn’t translate my issues in to something that was tangible to the backroom techs. So then I started to do a bit of hand coding for myself and some of the causes became apparent. from that point on I made it my business to try and understand the dev process so that I could talk to coders in language they could understand including not least my institutional webmaster at that time a certain Patrick Lauke. I’m no longer working on the coalface but in a more removed area of standards application so I try to do the same, and keep my hand in with a bit of user testing here and there. As web technologies progress the self taught hand coding experience and associating language is starting to get a bit stretched mind.

    Added January 10, 2007 at 2:00 pm

  25. So says Austin

    Like a few above I was coding valid html / css for a few years before the whole accessibility bandwagon appeared. The only reason being that I am the type of person to do things properly.

    IMO if the thing is done properly in the first place the accessibility is (almost) a by-product.

    It also gives some good banter with designers, and because it is a “hot topic” at the moment means you can get paid healthily for something that in my eyes is fundamental to what I do.

    As a contractor I get to work with all sorts of horrendous code BUT do get to “educate” designers & developers which is a good thing. The word is spreading and the majority of clients now want at least some level of accessibility in a site.

    Added January 16, 2007 at 11:23 am

  26. So says Markus Öhler

    I came to accessibility because I was involved in a European Union project (you can see the outcome at http://www.visiteurope.com) and Accessibility was one of the requirements. As my responsibility was more the application logic & CMS then the HTML generation I looked at the WCAG briefly - no love at first sight, besides ocasionally asking the developers if we comply nothing changed.

    Much later a discussion on search engine optimisation started and after being confronted with a list of guidelines I had the feeling that i’ve seen it before … it turned out to be a subset of the accessibility guidelines. These days I’m doing much more work with HTML, CSS and related technologies. I read a lot about best practices and new developments like Microformats, Semantic HTML, … and on whatever project I work the WCAG are always worth following them - not only disabled users, but all kind of users, including machines profit a lot from this approach.

    Ironically, the compliance to the accessibility guidelines was never checked on the initial project.

    Added January 22, 2007 at 12:48 pm

  27. So says Blair Millen

    I got into accessibility by default. As I taught myself all about web design via sites like A List Apart, I began to read more and more about how to do things the right way - the accessible way. I discovered groups like The Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS) and Accessify (the forum) and took things from there.

    Added February 23, 2007 at 11:52 am

  28. So says Joe Dolson

    I guess you could say I was bred into it…my mother has been an accessibility advocate for many years, and I was raised with a conscientiousness about impairments and being considerate of them. When I started to get into web development after college, it wasn’t long before I realized the accessibility was an important aspect and it became the main focus of my learning process.

    Keeping people excited about accessibility as a practice or a cause can be a major challenge. In my experience, most people are either inherently interested in the subject and there’s no debate over whether it’s important or they adamantly refuse to care - failing to understand how significant the issue is for people with disabilities.

    There don’t seem to be a lot of people on the fence.

    Added February 27, 2007 at 8:22 pm

  29. So says pauldwaite

    One of our clients at work requested we look into whether their set met the WCAGs, and lo, I started on the path.

    Added February 27, 2007 at 8:47 pm

  30. So says Jermayn Parker

    1) Studying at University and the web courses were old and outdated and I already knew what they were teaching, so I found something I did not know about and it was this accessibility thing. I have never looked back :)

    2) I got my ‘foot in the door’ with my knowledge in this area but it also has been a curse with my web team member jelouse and catty over my knowledge and skill. Reminds me off the saying in the Spider man movie. “With great power comes great responsibility”…..

    Added February 28, 2007 at 4:00 am

  31. So says Siegfried

    In the beginning it was pure technical curiosity. Those days i often stumbled over pages where i either had problems or could not use at all. They where f.ex. designed for IE only, and i used netscape, or later Konqueror. I thought not beeing able to use these pages was my fault. While learning how to build accessible pages i learned that it was not my fault.
    During the quite long learning process i found that a technical as well as esthetical optimum is closely related to simplicity. Really good pages have a straight-forward and konsistent technical structure and a simple layout.
    I’m now 50 years old and already beginning to have difficulties in reading small text. So more and more it becomes vital for me to find well designed pages. My own pages are a proof that it is not necessary to have font sizes fixed to some pixel size. The complete, quite simple, layout adapts to the users needs. I think, that should be the goal for design: Make it usable for the users, not using it as a demonstration platform for the designer to show his enormous knowledge.
    I’m still learning how to do it, and it’s still interesting beeing on the way.

    Added February 28, 2007 at 7:50 am

  32. So says Reine Larsson

    When it comes to the web, I’m still an idealist. I want it to be a great sea of information exchange for everyone on the planet, regardless of nationality/location/disabilities. This is something I have been preaching since I discovered the early web in 1994. The web has made communication, cooperation and daily life a lot easier for millions of people in just a decade of time. I’m not disabled in any way, but I see only benefits from using web standards. Since it is people who use the web, we should make it accessible to people.

    Added February 28, 2007 at 8:06 am

  33. So says George

    I worked in an agency for three years that championed accessibility and had a couple of serious gurus. My own interest stems from making the web available to all. This includes making sites usable to able-bodied users as well as accessible to those less able. It seems like common sense to me - we have this amazing tool so we should ensure everyone can use it.

    Added February 28, 2007 at 8:59 am

  34. So says Ivan

    It was about 5 years ago when I first came across the concept of accessibility and the WAI/WCAG.

    I was learning CSS based design as I was writing the front end to a new application for a company that dealt mainly with people (recruitment, selection etc). I wanted to use best practice and cater for everyone, it was especially important in this case due to discrimination law. Basically accessibility made sense for all users, especially disabled.

    Never really looked back now it makes sites so much nicer to use and you always get positive feedback when it has been implemented. It’s a real pleasure to work with disabled people and see that they can easily use an application.

    In terms of selling it to people I tend to mix it in with standards compliance topics, valid css based code can save money on bandwidth bills, is device independent, accessibility makes a site more usable for everyone, then start talking money. Disabled people have an estimated spending power of £40-£50 Billion a year which they could be missing out on. 1 in 4 people in the UK are disabled or close to someone who is. 1 in 5 disabled customers experience difficulties accessing services because of their disability.

    and so on…

    Added February 28, 2007 at 1:57 pm

  35. [...] Ian Lloyd asks when did I start considering accessibility. I am not a designer, so ironically it is easier for me to answer. My entry into Web programming was quite late, and one of the things I did when I started was to visit other sites. Loads of site, and try to apply my understanding to try and find faults with it. Whether it is the visual design, the information design and architecture, the programming or the performance. [...]

    Added February 28, 2007 at 1:58 pm

  36. So says Adrian Lee

    About 4/5 years ago, I was working as an IT Technician. I was also interested in web design, it was a hobby back then that I hoped to turn into a profession when I felt I knew more about it. I think it was possibly around the time I was getting into the web standards kind of thing, but that may have been a bit sooner.

    Anyway, as part of my IT Technician role, for a local gov Education Dept, I spent a lot of time out at schools, and generally supporting school equipment. One of my specific tasks was helping support some of the special equipment given to children with various impairements, physical/vision/hearing/learning. Several of these kids, and we’re talking mostly Primary school age (upto 11) depended on computers as a means of communication, or at least as a communication aid.

    One particular boy stood out. He was 10 years old, completely blind (can’t remember if he was born blind, of had jsut gone blind at a young age) and at what would’ve been described as one of the less well off schools in the town. I was putting some extra RAM in his machine so it could run some screen reading software better, and as I was sat next to him taking his machine apart, he was bright, responsive, and after a couple of questions asked if I was putting more RAM in. I was pretty stunned at his awareness.
    I also caught a bit of him actually using the screen reader, what was completely garbled to me, he used fine, and he was specifying things like tone changes and reading speeds for different things so he could differentiate between different types of things being read out. He also used it at home, so was pretty familiar with it.

    That more than anything made me think that wow, if this blind 10 year old can use a computer that well, we really should make an effort to support them properly, they’ve got enough problems as it is, without us making something as open and free as the internet harder to use.
    He seemed to know how to use a computer better then a lot of people I’ve known who haven’t had any real impairments, how dare we not consider people like him when we build web sites.

    Added March 1, 2007 at 5:40 pm

  37. So says Vicky Petersen

    During the day I work as a web designer/UID designer, but in the afternoons I teach visually impaired and blind children to swim. I have been teaching swimming for about 5 years now, and was made aware of accessiblity through sport. The more I taught and worked with the disabled community, the more I became aware of acessibility and the web. I ofen use the kids I teach to check my website for me :)

    Added March 2, 2007 at 12:57 pm

  38. So says Ara Pehlivanian

    I’m just a firm believer in doing things right, and I think that building broken sites (when you know the difference) is contemptible.

    Accessibility just comes with the territory, I mean, why should someone with a disability have any less right to access the content that’s available to me? I’m no better than them.

    (cross posted from 456 Berea Street)

    Added March 2, 2007 at 8:30 pm

  39. So says Mike Pearce

    I’ve been in development now for about 12 years, it just seemed like a natural progression, as people ideas, opinions and perception of the web changes, so do the standards people adhere to.

    Sometimes I feel like the guy who says “You can’t do that - it’s not accessible.”, but I’m fortunate that most of my colleagues will actually stick around to listen to *why* it isn’t accessible and what we can do about it.

    Added March 6, 2007 at 2:13 pm

  40. So says Ash

    Funny I read this post today, I got this exact same question yesterday at an interview. Accessibility to me applies to all areas in our day to day lives; buildings, cars, roads, homes - you name it. So, that being said, I believe its only natural/important for it flow into online media.

    I am a bit of an idealist and I believe that everyone needs to access information equally, no matter what the disability. I have personally seen and dealt with a blind student who used JAWS to work on his computer and it was truly an eye opener.

    Creativity, accessibility and usability can all go hand in hand, if companies, investors and individuals put a little heart into their products. Visualising only dollars at the end of the road isn’t exactly serving a fellow human.

    So, there you go, that’s my little philosophical view on when we should have accessible design all round.

    Added March 6, 2007 at 10:31 pm

  41. So says Lyn

    I’ve been working on websites for about 10 years now, and it has only been in the past 3 years that I’ve started to care about my work & making it accessible. I think it started of with one of my first jobs, and just trying to get colleagues to put in closing tags was a battle - “But it works fine without needing to close HTML tags”.

    It was trying to convince them that these practices really do matter (and beating my head against a brick wall), that I started to look outside the you need to make sure all images have alt text.

    Luckily I’ve moved on from that organisation, and I’m happy to say that my new colleagues are very much into accessibility and I can learn from them, and at the same time have more meaningful discussions than “I found this website, last updated in 1999, which says that enclosing information in paragraph tags aren’t necessary.”

    Added March 6, 2007 at 11:36 pm

  42. So says John Brandt

    1. I can’t remember when I went from being a web site designer to an accessible web site designer; I think it was a slow transition.

    I have a background in special education and knew some folks who were looking for someone to do their website and it needed to be accessible. I learned from that experience and gradually saw it as a niche market.

    2. I have been telling people to look at where we’ve come in this country (USA) in terms of civil rights in 30 years and then to look at technology. I tell them it is just a matter of time before the laws will require compliance and if you are business you want to get ahead of that (e.g. Target.com discrimination lawsuit). If you are a designer/developer, this will be a hot field to be in. I also point to the future with the need for content to be completely portable and fluid and accessibility and standards-based design are just the logical way to go.

    Added March 7, 2007 at 1:30 am

  43. So says Tim

    I got into web accessibility “because it was there”. Traditional hardcopy publishers ignored it, governments preached empty rhetoric about it and I wanted to climb it because I could.

    Added March 7, 2007 at 11:20 am

  44. So says Brett Taylor

    I think I read an article about accessibility that forwarded onto Dive Into Accessibility, which when I read, made lots of sense and felt like it was the right thing to do, and it wasn’t very hard for me to adopt into my work ethic, so I did :)

    Added March 9, 2007 at 3:50 am

  45. So says BMW

    My first look at web accessibility was with my cousin who with the help a pointer held with her teeth got around the Internet. The method wasn’t nearly as impressive to me as was the joy she got out of it. That part of it was enticing and contagious.

    I have a background in special education and knew some folks who were looking for someone to do their website and it needed to be accessible. I learned from that experience and gradually saw it as a niche market.

    Added March 25, 2007 at 9:20 am

  46. So says motena

    I believe I have more interest in accessibility than most software testers and that may be down to the fact of working on projects that were trying to be accessible, but were really missing the point. The testing process was often tedious and it seemed that as long as a site had alt text it would pass accessibility.

    Added March 27, 2007 at 3:18 pm

  47. So says Jahreswagen

    About 4/5 years ago, I was working as an IT Technician. I was also interested in web design, it was a hobby back then that I hoped to turn into a profession when I felt I knew more about it. I think it was possibly around the time I was getting into the web standards kind of thing, but that may have been a bit sooner.

    Added March 29, 2007 at 4:55 pm

  48. So says Golf

    I am a bit of an idealist and I believe that everyone needs to access information equally, no matter what the disability. I have personally seen and dealt with a blind student who used JAWS to work on his computer and it was truly an eye opener.

    Added April 1, 2007 at 11:14 am

  49. So says Gebrauchtwagen

    Sometimes I feel like the guy who says “You can’t do that - it’s not accessible.”, but I’m fortunate that most of my colleagues will actually stick around to listen to *why* it isn’t accessible and what we can do about it.

    Added April 7, 2007 at 7:12 am

  50. So says Wiesmann

    I have a background in special education and knew some folks who were looking for someone to do their website and it needed to be accessible. I learned from that experience and gradually saw it as a niche market.

    Added April 11, 2007 at 8:14 am

  51. Accessibility - some years ago it had bees a foreign word for me! When I started to found my own label (to feature musical beginners, newcomers..) things changed and some friends started showing me to be accessible into the web! Putting in ideas, being creative, developping new tools and distribute your ideas into the web - all that is making my work rich and accessible! It also means that certain ideas are “rolling” round the world…..

    Added April 11, 2007 at 2:21 pm

  52. I have an interest in language, so have developed translation modules for some sites, it followed from there that I also assisted with a few government sites which required adhesion to specific protocol - i.e. accessibility. So, it is because I was offered a job.

    Added April 23, 2007 at 4:20 am

  53. So says Olbernhau

    I got into accessibility by default. First I ‘ve started with creating sites on my own, but it wasn’t quiet good. But gradually I learned the accessible way, thanks to other groups and people who hleped me.

    Added April 24, 2007 at 10:12 am

  54. So says Regenbekleidung

    have a background in special education and knew some folks who were looking for someone to do their website and it needed to be accessible.

    Added May 3, 2007 at 11:53 pm

  55. So says Schwimmbecken

    I got into web accessibility purely because when I started out in web development I discovered A List Apart and from there Joe Clark’s book

    Added May 6, 2007 at 7:29 pm

  56. [...] I saw Kimberly’s story on how she got into Accessibility. Ian’s asking people to share their stories; here’s mine. [...]

    Added May 16, 2007 at 9:13 am

  57. So says Blumen

    I have a background in special education and knew some folks who were looking for someone to do their website and it needed to be accessible. I learned from that experience and gradually saw it as a niche market.

    Added June 1, 2007 at 10:58 pm

  58. So says emlak

    I got into web accessibility purely because when I started out in web development I discovered A List Apart and from there Joe Clark’s book. It’s in my nature to “do the right thing” so that’s why I follow the best practices and specifications of this profession. As for point 2, well I no longer have to explain quite so much about the why but I do find myself repeating the phrase “Bobby isn’t accessibility”…

    Added July 16, 2007 at 8:05 pm

  59. So says Versandhäuser

    I had, actually, none ahnung from web accesibility. I came, actually, by chance by an Arbeits kollege dadrauf. I have dealt in the last 4 jahren intensely with it thus I have become rather fit. I find it very well you such a Blog has done and wishes you a lot occur. excused me because of my bad English many greets bye

    Added July 17, 2007 at 8:10 pm

  60. So says tercume

    When I started practicing web development for myself years later I didn’t think about it I explored, but as I poked around the web and was exposed to the topic I remembered my cousin’s joy. It seemed like a natural fit…

    Added July 18, 2007 at 7:31 pm

  61. So says Wellnesshotel

    I am a bit of an idealist and I believe that everyone needs to access information equally, no matter what the disability. I have personally seen and dealt with a blind student who used JAWS to work on his computer and it was truly an eye opener.

    Added July 23, 2007 at 1:57 pm

  62. So says Sportfahrwerke

    I got into web accessibility purely because when I started out in web development I discovered A List Apart and from there Joe Clark’s book

    Added August 29, 2007 at 8:40 am

  63. I’m just a firm believer in doing things right, and I think that building broken sites (when you know the difference) is contemptible.

    Accessibility just comes with the territory, I mean, why should someone with a disability have any less right to access the content that’s available to me? I’m no better than them.

    Added September 1, 2007 at 4:15 pm

  64. So says Skischule

    I guess you could say I was bred into it…my mother has been an accessibility advocate for many years, and I was raised with a conscientiousness about impairments and being considerate of them. When I started to get into web development after college, it wasn’t long before I realized the accessibility was an important aspect and it became the main focus of my learning process.

    Keeping people excited about accessibility as a practice or a cause can be a major challenge. In my experience, most people are either inherently interested in the subject and there’s no debate over whether it’s important or they adamantly refuse to care - failing to understand how significant the issue is for people with disabilities.

    There don’t seem to be a lot of people on the fence.

    Added September 8, 2007 at 4:35 pm

  65. So says Kredi

    “I’m just a firm believer in doing things right, and I think that building broken sites (when you know the difference) is contemptible.

    Accessibility just comes with the territory, I mean, why should someone with a disability have any less right to access the content that’s available to me? I’m no better than them.” Quote

    I agree to you…

    Added September 18, 2007 at 9:19 am

  66. So says Wellnesshotel

    Sometimes I feel like the guy who says “You can’t do that - it’s not accessible.”, but I’m fortunate that most of my colleagues will actually stick around to listen to *why* it isn’t accessible and what we can do about it.

    Added September 22, 2007 at 11:15 am

  67. So says tercüme

    I got into web accessibility purely because when I started out in web development I discovered A List Apart and from there Joe Clark’s book. It’s in my nature to “do the right thing” so that’s why I follow the best practices and specifications of this profession

    Added October 8, 2007 at 2:00 pm

  68. So says Schwimmbecken

    I think that accessibility gets more and more important.
    Nevertheless I’ve got the feeling that many webdesigners just ignore the importance of accessibility, although there are so many small things that may improve websites a lot, I hope this will change in future even more…

    Added October 15, 2007 at 1:07 pm

  69. So says Stempel

    I am studying “e-Learning” at an Austrian University and web accessiblity has grown to a big issue over here - the first courses regarding this topic started about two years ago and the importance has grown more and more. We even made some practical tests where we could feel the situation of “handicapped” people while browsing and now whenever I start a project I have my own accessibility checklist I’ll follow from the beginning.

    Added October 15, 2007 at 1:37 pm

  70. So says resimler

    have a background in special education and knew some folks who were looking for someone to do their website and it needed to be accessible.

    Added October 29, 2007 at 11:28 am

  71. I got into web accessibility purely because when I started out in web development I discovered A List Apart and from there Joe Clark’s book.

    Added October 29, 2007 at 9:01 pm

  72. So says Cash

    Keeping people excited about accessibility as a practice or a cause can be a major challenge. In my experience, most people are either inherently interested in the subject and there’s no debate over whether it’s important or they adamantly refuse to care - failing to understand how significant the issue is for people with disabilities…

    Added November 14, 2007 at 1:39 am

  73. So says oyunlar

    I am studying “e-Learning” at an Austrian University and web accessiblity has grown to a big issue over here - the first courses regarding this topic started about two years ago and the importance has grown more and more. We even made some practical tests where we could feel the situation of “handicapped” people while browsing and now whenever I start a project I have my own accessibility checklist I’ll follow from the beginning.this is good idea

    Added November 15, 2007 at 10:57 pm

  74. So says kız oyunları

    I learned how to code a site semantically and found it really exciting to turn the styles off and see how I site would break down, etc. Then as I read more books on css and javascript, the whole accessibility thing just seems to make sense. It’s just so easy to do most of the work as part of your initial development, then the fine tuning and problems with specifics of accessibility are just another interesting challenge.this is a very good idea

    Added November 19, 2007 at 5:18 pm

  75. So says bozcaada

    For my part I was forced into accessibility rather than stumbled across it rather late into programming web apps.

    Added December 21, 2007 at 11:07 am

  76. So says DeLea

    Why should someone with a disability have any less right to access the content that’s available to me?

    Added February 16, 2008 at 2:11 pm

  77. So says toys

    I think that accessibility is not only beneficial for those who are impaired in some way but is actually beneficial for us all. I mean, it’s about creating a better world at the end of the day, isn’t it? That’s what excites me – the more we discover how to make the web more accessible, the more we actually move forward in bringing the web into everyone’s life; therefore, creating business opportunities, communication breakthrough’s etc. At the end of the day, the internet is showing us a brand new way of doing everything, making the idea of community important again : and, in my opinion, accessibility helps to create values that are beneficial for us all, and – not to be grand and idealistic about it – contributes towards making a better world.

    Added March 5, 2008 at 9:42 am

  78. So says portraits

    Mine is through serendipity. I did something and found out all about web accessibility by accident. And after several mistakes I learned all about it. Take it from something who was once laughed at because of her non-technical skills and guts to enter the techie world.

    Added November 17, 2008 at 11:37 am

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