Cal Evans, a PHP luminary, is interviewing me today for his Voices of the ElePHPant podcast. We will be discussing among other things, how the GAAD event was. As I’m writing some notes about it, I thought it time to discuss reaction to the event and what’s next.
- As expected, developers and designers have told me how eye-opening it was to see what it means to surf the net in a whole different way than they’re used to. Which is, of course, the whole point of GAAD.
- There were loads of articles and blog posts on #GAAD. I gave up reading them all after clicking on link after link after link on a Google search. That, in and of itself, is overwhelming and beyond expectation.
- Despite all that clicking, I almost missed this (too) humble post by my friend, Tim Wright, who in fact helped make the Boston event happen. An important read, but what the whole event really boils down to is this quote:Going into last night, I knew a lot about accessibility because it’s been a focal point of my career for years. But there is a huge difference between reading a blog post about Web accessibility and watching a visually impaired person go through 20 minutes of struggling to reach the main content of a Web site you would normally find in under a second if you could see.
- While the event was happening, a couple of people asked why #GAAD has to be an annual event. It should be monthly. My initial reaction to this was exasperation. People are probably unaware that the event took a lot out of my partner in crime, @Jennison and I. We’re just two busy people, trying to start a grassroots movement. But as Victor started presenting his talk, I changed my mind. I realized that even once a month isn’t enough. It inspired me to take this to another level.
Where to from here?
Although GAAD is an important day, one day a year isn’t enough to make the kind of difference we need. Accessibility needs to be at the forefront of developers’ and designers’ minds. And the only way to achieve this is to have them aware of it on a daily basis. This is my new “mission”.
You can’t achieve your goals if you don’t define them, so here are the goals:
- Front end developers need to include screen readers as part of their accessibility *toolset. Just like they open IE to make sure the site looks good, they need to open a screen reader. And for that to happen, an expensive proprietary tool cannot be the best device for people to use. Nothing against JAWS, but browser makers need to do a better job in fulfilling this need. Google is developing a free tool from what I hear, and that is awesome. Let’s inspire the open source community to make this happen. We need hardcore, core developers to begin some projects.
(FYI, Jennison pointed out to me in reviewing this post, that there are free toolbars like http://wave.webaim.org that help identify accessibility issues.)
- To inspire developers and designers, we need to expose them to the situation. Here is how to achieve that. A. Let’s create a YouTube channel devoted to… B. 5 minute videos, made by members of the accessibility community (YOU), every time a major new website is launched or updated. For example, if Google makes a change to gmail, do screen capture video and spend about 5 minutes showing the repercussions of the changes. C. Find local dev and design meetups and ask them to have the first speaker show one of those 5 minute videos before their talk. To get started, every single meetup I run from here on out, will begin with such a video. We’ll probably tape a little #gaad intro before the video to explain the purpose of it in a succinct manner.
It’s not “just” semantics
Another positive development that came out of GAAD, was the realization that the Semantic Web community and the Accessibility community are natural allies that should be working together (but aren’t, yet!). For those who are unaware, I’m pretty involved in the Semantic Web. A co-organizer of LASemWeb and 2-time member of the advisory board of Semtech.
Eric Franzon wrote an excellent article about GAAD on SemanticWeb.com that explains it pretty well. To boil it down, at TED, Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, made an impassioned pitch for bringing to life the second part of Tim’s vision for the web. Getting computers to talk to other computers. This isn’t a trivial problem to solve. Many don’t even see the point. It seems like the Semweb community was looking for a good use case. Well now you have it. If a computer can understand a web page, then a screen reader can share that device with people who need to use a different type of browser to surf the web.
Conferences and more
So Jennison and I are mulling the idea of a joint TED talk. To discuss how GAAD came about. And how we can join Tim’s call for linked data now along with Global Accessibility Now.
Additionally, it looks likely that there will be a GAAD discussion at Semtech. I’m also on the advisory board of Zendcon and Kevin Schroeder has said that they would consider a talk on this topic. And one of the best speakers I know, Brian Sletten, is adding an accessibility talk to his repertoire.