Speaking on Web Accessibility

June 18, 2008

Topics: Accessibility, Blogging.

Giving a talk is an interesting experience. In this case, with a time limit of 15 minutes, the biggest challenge was figuring out what I had time to cover. With a subject like web accessibility, I firmly believe that every aspect is critical — anything I leave out is something that somebody needs to know.

But it’s 15 minutes. You can’t really be effective if you try and cover the entire scope of a subject in 15 minutes.

The first challenge is figuring out the audience. In this case, I was speaking to a group of internet marketing professionals and site owners. For the most part, no programmers, no interface developers — not even people who necessarily have any direct access to the code of their sites. What can you teach them which they’ll be able to apply and understand immediately?

I’ve already given the speech, so I’m not trying to solicit suggestions for this particular event. However, I’m curious to know what you think are the most key issues.

For your reference, I covered three general areas:

  • Navigation which can be used by non-visual, non-mouse using groups.
  • Content which can be read sensibly by text-aware devices
  • On-page navigation which can make the page easier to navigate

I completely ignored HTML validation, web standards, accessibility guidelines, and anything about following technical specifications. For this audience, this didn’t strike me as an actionable conversation. Instead, I focused on practical investigations of site problems: whether the site can be used with a mouse; whether the site makes it’s content available to screen readers (or search engines); and whether standard methods have been employed which will enable disabled users to quickly and easily get around the page.

So I’m curious: what would you have talked about?

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8 Comments to “Speaking on Web Accessibility”

  1. I think you made the right decision to focus on the practical side of things, I’m sure that the people appreciated your approach!

  2. It’s amazing the difference having 45 minutes can make! Running through the moray of abbreviations and correlative issues would be well worthwhile — and is certainly something to keep in mind for longer opportunities.

    @naud jf: There isn’t much to the presentation, but I will get it up shortly! I’ll mention it in my blog when it’s available.

    Thanks!

  3. hi,

    I would have talked about browsing with a keyboard only (those select box based on the “onchange” event without “ok” button…), explained that image that contains information can only be understood by blind people if they have an alternative text, that google bots are blind too, that we should never convey information with color only ( hillary clinton donation form is a perfect example of what we should not do to indicate required fields), that javascript is a language that uses lots of CPU. That makes it use lots of power, and subsequently lots of battery. As a result, 50% of mobile phones have javascript disabled. That in western countries, part of aged people is growing very fast…

    I am curious to see your presentation support. I am doing same kind of speeches (but with much more time, 45 minutes) for my client. Can you send it to me ?

    THANX !!

  4. When I recently did a presentation on web accessibility, I did a veeery broad overview of all the different acronyms and abbreviations. I find that the various regulations and guidelines are not well understood, so I tried to simply establish some shared vocabulary. Granted, I also had 45 min!

    In retrospect, I’ve said I would bring up videos of people using screen readers, to show people (to some extent) how users of assistive technologies interact with what we give them.. to give it more of a personal view.

  5. Mobile is the big question everybody always follows up on — it’s a good lead in to other limitation-related web site interactions. I wouldn’t mind doing an entire session on mobile devices and accessibility! They have some very nice compatibilities.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jack!

  6. Of course, that could have just meant that I wasn’t very clear… 😉

    Thanks for stopping by, Jane! I definitely enjoyed your talk and company, as well. Too bad you missed out on dinner afterwards — but I hope your family dinner party went well!

  7. Your talk was great Joe. That was clearly demonstrated by the fact that over 50% of the questions in the Q & A were directed to you. The content you provided was valuable and people wanted to learn more.

    It was fun to be your co-panelist. I hope we can do it next year at Search Engine Strategies Toronto.

  8. I would have taken a similar approach to you:

    what problems would someone who couldn’t see the screen encounter?
    what problems would someone who couldn’t use a mouse encounter?
    what if you were on dial-up?
    what if you were on a mobile?

    etc