Finest worksong

I had the great pleasure recently of giving a talk at the Universitat de Barcelona‘s Department of Library and Information Science (in Catalan). It was organised by Mireia Ribera, and attended by staff and students on the Masters of Digital Content Management course, and I’m very grateful to Mireia for the invitation to talk, and to visit such a beautiful city!

I’d been asked to give a perspective from the UK on developments in web accessibility over the years, and in putting together my talk, I ended up with a 10 year biography of web accessibility. I thought this was a nice, round figure, given that it’s almost 10 years to the day since version 1 of WCAG was published by the W3C on 5th May 1999; and nearly 10 years since I started working in this area as a researcher/consultant in the newly formed Digital Media Access Group.

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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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