When I first started to use the Internet, everything was text. We used Archie and Gopher, crawling through Usenet lists, with most everything in text format. When the WWW gained popularity with Netscape and visual browsing, this was just a new way of getting information for me. It made sense, and seemed easy.
These days, using the WWW is something many of us do without a second thought, browsing on mobile devices as well as large computer screens. Many of us have become used to transacting business and using software as a tool throughout much of our lives. However, that’s not easy for many people, including lots of those with some sort of disability. To them, much of the content available seems disjointed and disconnected.
Not too long ago the US Supreme Court let a ruling stand that notes the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to online content. Plenty of web developers and designers might decry the additional work they may have to undertake to comply, and certainly lots of companies would rather not spend any resources, or few, in this area. However, this is something that has started to matter more to me over time.
I’m getting older. At 50+, my eyes and ears don’t work that well. I find myself struggling at times to consume the information on a screen. More than once I’ve gotten annoyed with the text on the screen and tried to zoom in, only to have everything get larger, requiring me to scroll left and right to read something. What happened to the reflow of text on the WWW when we zoom in?
There are ways to change font sizes, and I find myself taking advantage of them more and more. However, there are many people with disabilities that are harder to overcome and they expect that websites and apps have accessibility features. I’ve seen no shortage of complaints that too many software designers are highly connected, physically capable 20 and 30 year olds, who design for themselves, not for a wider audience with varying needs.
I am trying to do better. I don’t want perfect to be the enemy of good, and I know that some of the content on SQLServerCentral isn’t as accessible as it could be. When I find things pointed out, I work to change them, and I also am trying to do better with images and media content to be more compliant. As I’ve grown older, I appreciate more and more that my work gets used by many people, and the way they interact with the computer isn’t the same as mine. Accommodating them just seems like the right thing to try to do.