Apps

Poll: Is accessibility a consideration when you code?

Many developers write pages that are not as usable by a disabled person as they could be. Take this TechRepublic poll to let us know whether accessibility is a factor when you're coding applications.

In the HTML 5 Working Group, there is a massive amount of discussion around accessibility concerns and features. We have discussed that the vast majority of HTML authors completely ignore the existing options in HTML 4 to make Web pages accessible for disabled users. But if you ask any developer, I'm sure they will tell you that accessibility is a concern.

It's true that some applications simply cannot be made accessible for disabled users. For example, a blind person will never be able to play a first person shooter game.

So, behind the screen of an anonymous poll here on TechRepublic, let's find out how many of you actively work to put accessibility into your applications.

J.Ja

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

31 comments
anngenita
anngenita

Most developers are influenced by client demand & or what his/ her community deems important. So it isn't a hard and fast rule. For Instance, when I mention accessibility to most of my clients; they show little concern for the development.

tavogardo
tavogardo

Since I work for a non-profit organization that portrays itself as full of services for people with disabilities, it is of the utmost importance that the work that I do be as much section 508 compliant as possible. That being said, several sites I maintain are not due to budgetary issues. Nor, unfortunately, is the budget currently available to insure continued adherence on the already compliant sites.

Justin James
Justin James

That's rather sad to hear, to be honest. I hope things straighten out so they can correct the situation! J.Ja

santeewelding
santeewelding

For all this. I, too, must approach, earnestly design for, and execute successfully for the "challenged" in so many ways. I would have approached you at the Gathering. But, you had a set to your face that said, "Do not approach." Let us hope you are not challenged.

Thomas Moser
Thomas Moser

My pages are all accessible and pass both the W3C HTML and CSS validators. I use existing pages which do not pass validation as a selling point to get customers to switch from their existing devlopers to our company. We provide only valid and accessible pages. In fact all our pages work fine with CSS and Scripting disabled and are tested using Chrome, Opera, IE, Firefox, Opera and Lynx. It isn't that hard.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I worked all over the software industry from MS doing server software and database software, and end-user to shrink-wrap and back as a QA guy for many, many years. Testing this and noting that it was missing lead my QA reports often, to the disaproval of many because of its PR aspect. Let's all ignore it and it will go away, if no one mentions it we won't have to deal with it. Like the emperor's clothes if no one said anything it was ignored. I had many a QA report come up missing when the disabled word came up. EVERY company either viewed access for the disabled as an after thought or it wasn't even on their radar. If you ever found an issue that cost money and dealt with the disabled access (in those companies that even cared a little) the disabled lost.

Justin James
Justin James

Given the things I've been reading on the HTML 5 working group mailing list, and having seen in person, either the readers here are the most conciencous group of developers out there, they do not truly understand what it means to make an application accessible, or they are not telling the truth. I hope it's the first, but I suspect that it is the second. Accessibility is *so* much more than just using the alt attribute, and every week I learn something new about it. In fact, from what I can tell, the amount of effort needed to make an application (especially Web applications) truly accessible could represent 10% - 25% of the overall effort spent on the project. That is not a great ratio, without a legal mandate to do it, as far as the decision makers are concerned. J.Ja

techrepublic.com.com
techrepublic.com.com

I have to design my apps for accessibility as we wall under both federal and state regulations for accessibility. If you design from the beginning for accessibility, it really isn't THAT hard. It's all about standards, following the guidelines, testing and Progressive Enhancement: http://is.gd/2oqw8. Grab the FAE firefox extension (http://firefox.cita.uiuc.edu/ or if you dont like firefox, you can have the site test pages for you: http://fae.cita.illinois.edu/) and run reports as you design. Follow the summaries. In this day and age, with the tools (most of which are free) we have at our disposal, the online guides, etc. not coding your site for ADA is just laziness/ignorance.

Justin James
Justin James

For better or for worse, technologies like AJAX are here to stay... and they often make accessibility that much more difficult, if not impossible! You are right, if you design from the beginning for accessibility, it doesn't have to be hard (assuming that you are well educated on how to do it). But in doing so, you are implicitly accepting a lot of functional limits (again, AJAX immediately comes to mind) that a lot of developers or management teams are not willing to accept. J.Ja

lorraine.wales
lorraine.wales

How many people can actually tell you what accissiblity includes? Probably not many. I automatically add these things in the process of creating a site: Alt and title on all images Title on all links Ability to change the text size Text only version We also have a contract with a screen reader company. I just add the tags into the html where I want them the read the page. So the 'accessiblity bar' has: Home, Text Only, Read Page, Print, Change Text Size, Site Map It is always placed at the top, so that if someone is using a screen reader, it hits the accessiblity bar first and they don't have to go through the whole page to get to it. The accessiblity bar items also all have access keys. All menus are accessible using the keyboard only. These can be accounted for right at the beginning of any project and don't actually need to increase your workload if it is something you automatically do. Is this enough for accessiblity? Not sure. I can say I think about it, but do I do enough? I don't account for those who don't enable javascript. Last year we also had a change screen size option for 800x600 and 1024x768 but we have dropped that now with a redesign. Doing the basic stuff adds very little actual time to development, beyond that you are then going into adding features and that may be where most people either won't have the time, knowledge, or budget.

ebrown1927
ebrown1927

I make sure that all my pages are accessible even for the blind who maybe using a reader. And as I have gotten older I find there are some pages I would like to read but the page is such low contrast it is impossible to read. I leave those sites in a hurry, even if I could have used their information. They do not care enough to make their site easily visible even for the those who are just beginning to have visual problems let alone the many males, and the few females who are color blind. It is very little trouble to use high contrast printing and colors that the color blind can easily interpert as black and white when you need people to read your information and it will soon become second nature to do so. If you have information that you want as many people as possible to read then make it easy to do so. Not to do that in my opinion is counterproductive. I never use many bells and whistles as they become boring very quickly. Ed Brown

guitardave8077
guitardave8077

I do a lot of "back-office" site development and at least one of my company's users is color-blind. This requires me to use high contrast and very few fonts using reds or purples - and never dark or black backgrounds.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I was constantly going behind him fixing patch cables o crossover cable he had made. I even had little cards made for both standards. I never really said anything since we were friends. He told me a few years later he was color blind, which finally explained it.

jos
jos

Yes, I do. And it is so easy, just check your page with Opera!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Aside from the bonus balls from doing it, we have a legislative requirement to do so.

StephenInScotland
StephenInScotland

In the UK it is a legal requirement but Micorsoft don't make it easy. All you people who said yes - do you use AJAX or anything similar? It stops screen readers working as there is no true postback. MS should develop some slick way of degrading .Net sites to help the visually impared.

mattohare
mattohare

To me it's not a feature, but a philosophy. I'm setting my site up so that it already takes on vision imparement. Also I'm aware that motor impairment may mean not depending too much on keyboard or mouse, but a good mix of both. Web platform is a bit mouse focused, but I do my best to minimise those issues too.

Justin James
Justin James

I have a feeling that most developers either are not aware of accessibility issues when they develop applications, or there just isn't the time to add it in. In addition, there are very few resources for learning about accessibility. If you aren't putting accesibility into your applications, why not? What could be done to get you to do it? J.Ja

atutor
atutor

Absolutely, everything we develop has an accessibility component built into from the beginning. Having done it for years, it has become a natural part of our development processes, and beyond the initial learning period, adds next to no additional costs to a development project. ATutor is an example. It is a Learning Management System designed to be accessible to everyone, regardless if you are a student, instructor, or an administrator. It is a model for accessible Web application. http://www.atutor.ca AChecker is another (http://www.achecker.ca), designed for those who don't know a lot about Web accessibility. It evaluates Web content for compliance with various international accessibility guidelines. Fluid is another (http://www.fluidproject.org) designing a set of UI components for web developers, building accessibility into dynamic UI components that have traditionally been inaccessible to people with disability's (like drag-and-drop components, and dynamically collapsible menus).

jck
jck

Windows Forms handles it all through the OS for me, so I don't have to worry. As for web programming...well...maybe someday.

captxunderpants
captxunderpants

I don't know what is meant by accessibility. What could I do with a web page that could possibly help someone who can't walk or is blind? Or is it bigger fonts for people with poor site? I don't get it. Just curious, not trying to be difficult or a smart ass. I guess our company doesn't bother, I've never heard it discussed.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

not always set. Hot keys and short cuts (e.g Esc to cancel a modal dialog) Killer one often missed Tab order. Then there's being able to degrade gracefully to lower resolution displays such as 640x480 or 800x600. Things like colour blindness when doing graphics. Keeping to standards so accessibility tools like the magnifying glass and speech recognition work. When you see a form that only works full screen and with a particular font size , you often wonder how far people have their head up their arse for a non-disabled user...

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

There are a number of possible disabilities that we routinely miss designing for. A sight-limited person can't see your fancy sales video (although they can hear it) nor can they see that fancy graphic. However, equipment exists that can translate text into words. So while a sight-limited person can't see that fancy, dancy script picture you've put into your site, they can hear the description you've put on the picture or the sales copy you've written on your site. A hearing-limited can't hear your fancy video or audio (although they can see it). So unless you've got it in clear text somewhere that sales script you worked so hard on isn't going to work too well. And since 15% of the market is now considered disabled at one level or another and the numbers are increasing -- that's a big chunk of the market you are ignoring! Although I've concentrated on web marketing in my reply, the same considerations apply to non-web software and hardware. Glen Ford, PMP http://www.TrainingNOW.ca http://apps.LearningCreators.com/blog

Ex0h
Ex0h

I'm one of those developers that keeps work and home separate a little too successfully. My mother's disabled, and my father was part of the UK's MS Society at a regional level (now downgraded to local because it was too much) I got into the whole thing doing a website for them - wanted to know what was behind the WYSIWYG interface they used for the job.. And yet.. Accessibility still doesn't count as part of my core development process. It always ends up being a retrofit part of any website/system I develop.

QAonCall
QAonCall

I LIKE to do really cool stuff in my web designs. I do not like doing my models, my analysis work, my requirements to design tracing etc etc etc. Most of this is what I would call slacker programming. We do not (companies and people) spend the time and money to do the proper analysis. My suggestion would be more shaped as follows: How formal are your web development standards and processes. If your organization is very mature, and very formal, you probably address the need (if it exists, and typically you would know that). The fact that poeple responded in the affirmative to that option would tend to support that (or they just 'know') ;) As a professional software tester, consultant and SDLC process engineer I can tell you many organization focus on it extensively, while others see it as not adding value (dropping a segment of the market!)

Jaqui
Jaqui

http://www.un.org/disabilities/index.asp a UN agreement hat REQUIRES accessibility to be done. it is now international LAW that websites be accessible.

mail
mail

I usually remind clients that if disabled people can't use the site easily, then neither will Google - the King of Disabled users. In which case they might was well print the pages out and keep them in a box to show passers-by for all the good their web site will do them ;) I don't find that keeping accessibility in mind while I'm coding adds much to a project's time, whereas going back afterwards to make a site DDA-compliant is much more of a pain. If you break up the behaviour, presentation and content, and make sure the content is styled semantically, you're pretty much most of the way to WAI-A already, anyway. It's then whether you want to shoot for AA or AAA.

gharlow
gharlow

I am assuming is what we are talking about blind people or people with limited vision when we refer to people with disabilities in the context of software. From a web standpoint, it is my understanding a simple HTML v1 design with basic links and machine readable text fits the bill, since images, css etc would be useless and the text can be easily scaled and will flow. I cannot see it would be expensive or time consuming to make web content available to the vision impaired at all. I doubt most of us give it much thought when we are in the middle of a project though, and there is never enough money or time built in to begin with...

kmoore
kmoore

Blind? How blind? Dyslectic (like I am)? How dyslectic? How about Parkinson's disease with hands that shake? Any good programmer knows that if we design and program for the exceptions, the result is always very convoluted. We can be like the UK and require everything for everyone. Then, we would be like the PGA that had a Supreme Court ruling that they had to allow go carts on the tour. We need to do everything we can to make programs easy to use. We also need to balance costs with usefulness.

Justin James
Justin James

... is that the features in various pieces of software are not well known or understood. For example, in HTML there are a large number of tags and attributes that can be used to provide metainformation to help disabled users (by the way, "disabled users" *primarily* means "vision impaired", but there are plenty of other disabilities which can make it hard to use a computer too). But those features are never discussed in Web design books, other than the alt attribute. And in the places where they *are* discussed, their meaning are really, really vague. The summary attribute for the table tag is a good example. The HTML 4 specification is fairly unclear about exactly what kind of data should go in there to really help users out. HTML isn't the only problem area, of course. But desktop apps using standard desktop widgets are already pretty accessible because the OS natively knows how to work with them and usability software/hardware. J.Ja

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