In today’s guest post, Damien Patton shares a speech he recently gave at a college explaining why his company has chosen to embrace and push accessibility standards on the web:
I’m Damien Patton, founder and CEO of FindAnyFloor.com, the Web’s Flooring Authority. I am often asked why I created an information portal for the floor covering industry. My answer usually surprises everyone as it is not what people expect.
Last year, in the summer of 2007 I was lying in bed searching the internet for ideas for my next venture. For whatever reason I came upon WebMD.com. Those of you not familiar with WebMD, it is a FREE medical resource for consumers and physicians alike. Coming from both a high tech and floor covering industry background, it immediately dawned on me, Where is the WebMD of Flooring. I spent the next couple of months searching the internet with a team of professionals to discover what type of floor covering information was on the internet and how it was presented to consumers as well as floor industry professionals. It soon became clear that there was a large void of unbiased, free information, on the internet for flooring consumers and professionals in one central place. In order to find a lot of information, you have to go through dozens of sites and most of the time the sites contradict one another.
The idea for FindAnyFloor.com was born.
Although the above was the catalyst for the idea, it is certainly not what propelled us to who we are today, and this is where we surprise a lot of people. While researching this site I met a woman at a high tech trade show who was disabled through complications during birth, resulting in mobility and speech disabilities. She just so happened to be selling a book that she had written called “I’ll Do It Myself.” Not only did I buy the book, I went down stairs in the convention center and read it in one sitting. I may have missed a few of the trade show classes, but the book gave me one of the most valuable educations I ever received. I, like many people, had no idea the limitations the internet has with regard to people with disabilities. Those of us that are not disabled may take for granted that we are able to search most sites without issue, and at our own pace. Can you imagine if buildings no longer had handicapped facilities such as restrooms, ramps, elevators, & hand rails? I couldn’t either. But this is exactly what most of the internet is like for those with certain types of disabilities.
Imagine a world where you can’t read what’s on the web, you can’t hear the sounds from video files, you can’t navigate through menu’s to other parts of the site; you have just experienced what the majority of websites operate like to those with visual, hearing and mobility disabilities.
The US Government has a standard for their websites that they must be accessible to everyone. This standard is called 508. Although this standard doesn’t apply to non-government related commercial websites on the internet today, I feel strongly that more has to be done to make the internet accessible to all. This is why FindAnyFloor.com is committed to becoming 508 compliant by the end of 2008. It is our goal that others in the online flooring community will take note of the 60 million people in America alone that have some type of disability that may affect the way they use the internet.
From the floor covering industry we are planning to launch a large green living website that incorporates all types of eco friendly building materials as well as items used in everyday life. Our mission will be to create to the largest green site for consumers that will be accessible to all, again hoping that others in that industry will follow suit. It would be great if the concept of creating accessible websites became viral. In the next 5 five years, let’s hope we are looking at a whole new internet, one that is created for everyone and is accessible to everyone.
Glenda’s note: I love when people get the need for web accessibility! If things go according to plan, I will be meeting Damien and some of his team at BlogWorld today. And I’m looking forward to working with him to ensure FindAnyFloors.com and other projects are Section 508 compliant. (See, the trip to Vegas was a business trip!)
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