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Derek Featherstone – Accessibility 2.0, Where do we go from here?

where are we right now

Checklist syndrome – Section 508, WCAG, IBM Web Accessibility. These lead to a mindset of compliance over anything else. Accessibility is not just a technical endeavour or a quality assurance process. In reality accessibility is about removing barriers; it is personal.

Derek demonstrates a ‘typical’ search bar – mentions that it is the most difficult one he has ever worked with. Contains search input, pre-populated with Search Terms, Go button, Advanced Search button and Quick Links select box. Discusses the potential problems caused by using JavaScript to remove default text in text input boxes – don’t remove text unless it is the default text; this confuses everyone, not just assistive device users.

Compares asking What is the biggest failing in accessibility? with asking What is the meaning of life?; both result in an endless stream of different answers.

New ways of accessing web based content are creating new problems in accessibility.

What if screenreaders recognized microformats – plays audio demo of JAWs providing a page outline review containing 4 events and 3 contacts along with the normal header count and link count.

Where can interaction designers go for inspiration? Gamers? Gamers have insane keyboards with a plethora of extra keys and key bindings.

Notifying assistive device users of notable change is very difficult and needs to be addressed. Campfire provides an audible ping to notify browser users of missed messages.

Derek shows a rippled, dark pathway that leads through a cafeteria; real-world examples of providing high contrast to guide people.

Discusses his addiction to his BlackBerry mobile device – People make fun of me ‘cause I sleep with my BlackBerry

Research in Motion have filed a patent to make an accessible version of the BlackBerry. Includes the ability to have user defined accessibility features – screen magnification (controlled by thumbwheel); audio interface for announcing icons, contacts etc out loud. Adding touch-screen for the dexterity impaired; will include on-screen keyboard.

There is a lack of understanding of the needs of people with cognitive disabilities.

Derek shows screen capture of using BaseCamp with a voice-controlled browser. Shows the problems with accessing checkboxes which can be solved by refreshing the page. Whose fault is the problem?

Demonstration using a voice controlled mouse. This is obviously difficult, imprecise and highly frustrating.

Web 2.0 is all the web sites out there that get their value from the actions of their users

Can Web 2.0 help?

Tagging – tag movies that are accessible. Tag quicktime files, flash videos etc rather than just tagging a page. Tagging a page is just pointing at a URL and assigning keywords, why not directly tag a resource?

Expands upon Kelly’s True Gravatar concept from keynote – global XFN profile, rather than entering it again and again (connections.webdirections.org, flickr contacts, linkedIn, etc). Why not let people define their own accesskeys in a globally available profile; what about letting them define styling preferences in the same way? (eg: 1 column vs. 3 column).

Proposes advanced configuration in browsers – if you’re always bumping up the font size on a particular site, why shouldn’t the browser just make it the default for that site?

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this was a masterfully curated event … a brilliant day that educated, entertained, and rekindled some old connections

Ash Donaldson Service & Behaviour Design Director, Tobias
Portrait of Ash Donaldson