Helping others understand web accessibility

When I hold workshops for people who want to learn more about web standards and accessibility, I often notice that the attendants really have tried to improve their accessibility knowledge. But they get overwhelmed when they go to the official documentation from the W3C and try to understand it.

Mike Cherim brings this up in Making Web Accessibility Accessible, an article that is over a year old but still just as relevant. He notes that accessibility is harder to get into than it should be for several reasons, one of which being that the documentation (WCAG 1.0) is hard to understand. And it doesn't look like things will get much easier when WCAG 2.0 is released and becomes the norm.

In addition to the documentation problem, Mike also mentions the unhelpful attitude held by some people who seem like they don't want to help the less experienced, the misguided or the misinformed, and instead choose to criticise them. I see it too sometimes, and I have probably been guilty of doing that myself. But I really try to help where I can by sharing what I've learned about web accessibility so far. And I'm still learning, so I really appreciate when other people share their knowledge.

Over the years I've spent countless hours writing articles, responding to email and comments, and participating on discussion forums. No matter how much I would like to, there is no time for me to do more unless I quit my dayjob. And since my dayjob is how I pay the mortgage, well, that's not very likely. Writing articles takes lots of time, for me anyway.

Going back to Mike's article, he suggests a few things to think about when you talk about accessibility with other people who work in the fields of web design and development:

  • Be a translator: Learn the specs and translate them into English.
  • Be willing to give back: If somebody asks for your help, try to find time to respond.
  • Accessibility is happy: Give accessibility a smiling face.
  • Encourage don't admonish: When somebody makes progress, acknowledge that instead of criticising what they do wrong.

Good suggestions, Mike. I will try to get better at each of them. For instance, I guess I could be a little less grumpy sometimes when I come across bad examples or implementations. But not always... ;-).

Posted on February 5, 2008 in Accessibility