Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Consider All Disabilities When Making Facebook Accessible

Filed under: Blog Accessibility — by at 4:16 pm on Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This morning the technological blog TechCrunch announced that Facebook is committed to making the social networking site accessible to individuals with visual impairments. Facebook with work with the American Federation for the Blind.

While I applaud Facebook’s commitment to making the extremely popular site accessible to those particular users, what sucks the chocolate chip of my cookie is that the web accessibility issues facing those with visual impairments get most of the public attention and media coverage. Look at most of the web accessibility lawsuits, for example:

— and the press coverage that followed. These lawsuits centered around vision access issues, and, oftentimes, were backed by associations for those who are bind. 

What about the rest of us with disabilities?

According to stats from the AFB, 21.2 million Americans have reported experiencing vision loss. Yet, According to the U.S. Department of Labour, more than 50 million Americans with disabilities. And that is only in the United States! Why are more than half of us ignored by the press when reporting on web accessibility initiatives?

Some obstacles that the rest of us with disabilities face on the web include:

  • Flickering or flashing designs can cause seizures in people with certain neurological disorders.
  • Without captioning, people with hearing impairments cannot appreciate multimedia content such as on-line newscasts, movies, and lectures.
  • For individuals with little or no hand control, using a mouse can be very difficult. Being required to "click" on a tiny area to access information can be an obstacle.
  • Inconsistent page layout and poor information design can be disorienting and confusing to any user, particularly to individuals with cognitive impairments
  • And the list continues.

Facebook, when retrofitting the site,  please consider all of us with disabilities so that we all may connect with family, friends and colleagues.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Bob Easton

April 8, 2009 @ 5:05 am

You are absolutely correct in asking, “what about the rest of us” Glenda.

There are a couple of answers about why remedies for the visually impaired are more prominent than for other disabilities.

1) Stronger / richer advocacy groups. All of those lawsuits mentioned were brought by deep-pockets advocacy groups, not by individuals. Even though they have the names of people on the suits, there’s an advocacy group behind each of the suits. For example, the NFB shopped around for a long time to create the Target suit. It didn’t matter who was the target (pun intended) of the suit. They just wanted a strong case they thought they could use to create new law. You see, the web and electronic media are not well covered in existing laws and these suits are attempts at modifying existing law via court decisions. I firmly believe that the right solution is to modernize the existing laws the correct way, through Congress, not the courts. Yet, Congress has failed repeatedly to modernize the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the meantime, the advocacy groups keep pressing, and the groups with the deepest legal funds are those for the blind.

2) Making web content accessible for the blind is often touted as the most difficult to accomplish. From that follows the very weak logic that if the most difficult is solved, the others are covered too. Consequently, a lot of focus was placed on “standard” remedies for the blind. They are well known and relatively easy to implement. So, they are likely to be the things first implemented and once done give the false security that everybody’s been taken care of. (That faulty logic at work.) As you quickly illustrate, that’s not the case. Remedies for the problems you list are not as well known, and more importantly (listen carefully), the remedies affect visual design. Many of the remedies would require visual layout and design changes that the “art directors” simply won’t tolerate. Since the “art directors” are never held personally responsible, they’ll easily ignore “those few people who can’t use computers anyway.” (Yes, I’ve heard this from more than one commercial web development art director.)

Sadly, I can’t offer a panacea. Maybe part of the answer is a CP advocacy group, or a deafness advocacy group, that is wealthy enough to create yet more lawsuits. Even though I disagree with forming new law via the courts, the suis do bring attention, and they also bring fear of future suits that cause some to become aware and make changes.

Comment by Ricky Buchanan

April 8, 2009 @ 6:49 am

Thank you thank you thank you thank you!

As somebody whose primary disability is not visual, it makes me want to scream when I see people thinking “screen reader friendly = accessible”. But feel like I have to try not to scream because at least they’re trying to do accessibility at some level which is more than most …

Speaking of which, I’m leading the accessibility team at the new Dreamwidth site. It’s still in closed beta but it’s similar to LiveJournal if you’re aware of that – a sort of cross between a blogging service and a social media service. Anyway, everybody’s commitment to accessibility – and accessibility for all types of disabilities, not just the visual – is awesome. Check out the Diversity Statement for an example of the ethos behind the project.

If you’d like more info about that, just let me know. 🙂

Comment by Douglas T

April 8, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

Somebody asked me why accessibility matters. I easily came up with 9 Reasons Why Accessibility Matters. Why can’t anyone seem to catch on to this?

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