Sweetness follows?

There have been reports in the UK press of plans to reduce the speed limit of traffic on rural roads from 60 to 50 miles per hour (96 to 80km/h). The main argument, of course, is to improve road safety, but there is also an argument that speed limits on their own do not necessarily lead to safer drivers:

  • a speed limit may imply that driving at, or just below, that limit automatically means ‘safe’.
  • a safe driving speed depends on context – weather, time, road condition, surrounding environment, visibility, to name but a few factors.

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How the west was won and where it got us

I read a blog post by web standards advocate Drew McLellan yesterday, the opening sentence of which alarmed me greatly:

As a web developer, there’s little I dislike more than building sites to be accessible.

That’s some confession. Now, cards on the table – I don’t know Drew, though I do appreciate his efforts in promoting web standards adoption. And I’m not here to suggest he is arguing against accessible design – on the contrary, from his blog it’s something that he feels obliged to do, so he does it:

So as much as I find it an unpleasant chore, I’m firmly committed to building sites that can be accessible as I can make them.

What I do take from the blog, though, is that this is an example borne of frustration that accessibility considerations are stifling innovation in web application design and development. As I’m not yet familiar with the technologies discussed in the blog, I’ll leave the details of the argument surrounding those technologies to others.  I will say that much of Drew’s ‘accessibility’ objections seem to focus on the avoidance of dependency on JavaScript – which, since publication of WCAG 2, is no longer considered a disability accessibility showstopper (in other words, the very use of JavaScript does not immediately exclude a particular group of users on account of a disability).

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Perfect Circle

One of the most frustrating yet fascinating challenges to achieving an optimally accessible Web is trying to complete a perfect circle. Three parts of that circle are covered by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative’s triumvirate of guidelines: conformant content (WCAG), created by conformant authoring tools (ATAG), and accessed using conformant user agents (UAAG). This approach has some practical flaws – not least in that there’s a missing part of the circle: conformant users.

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Sad Professors

As a web accessibility researcher and consultant, a significant part of my job involves finding out what’s going on in the field.

In order to do this, I should spend most of my time reading journal papers and attending academic conferences. These publications are peer-reviewed, and should be rigorous and high quality accounts of relevant investigations into how technology can be used to improve the experiences of disabled people. They’re usually the results of major funded research projects, lasting one or more years, and are indeed generally of high quality.

In academia, this is how the quality of our work is measured – the number of publications we achieve, and more importantly, the quality of the place we publish.

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World leader pretend?

Well, I succumbed! After resisting a blog for years, joining Twitter made me realise that I do actually have things to say on a fairly regular basis, things that other people just might be interested in reading.

Yep, I work in a university, where there is a culture of publishing information at conferences and peer-reviewed journal papers – not always the easiest (or quickest) way to share information. This means we sometimes neglect more direct (and to be honest, probably more effective) routes – such as blogs like this.

So this will be a place where I’ll let you know what I’m up to.  It will be a place where I’ll collect my thoughts and views on work related things – mainly in the area of web and software accessibility and usability,  inclusive design and interaction design…

…plus anything else that I’m inspired enough to have an opinion on!

Enjoy reading – and please feel free to comment.