Gary Barber on Killing Accessibility

This is well worth the read, here are just a couple of gems from Gary Barber’s article titled Kill Accessibility:

The old UX catch call is never truer here – we are not the users. The disparity between us and the people we are really working for, with accessibility, is sometimes just too great for us to even get a idea of what it is like, no matter how many videos of people using assistive technology we see.

And this zinger:

In reality there is no socially inspired public relations value in accessibility. A business can be seen to get more value out of sponsoring a guide dog than making their web site accessible.

The rest of the article is well worth the read. (via @scenariogirl)

Accessibility Fail, Fail, Fail, Fail and a Win

After seeing a number of accessibility fails posted on the Fail Blog:

picture of stairs with an accessibility symbol on them

stairway entry with an accessibility sign on it

Impossibly steep ramp going into a building

Poster for disability awareness month encouraging people to take pictures of people with disabilities

It was great to see this one on their companion blog, Epic Win:

Person using a wheelchair being passed above the crowd at a heavy metal concernt

Mad Pride

Newsweek tagline: “Why some mentally ill patients are rejecting their medication and making the case for ‘mad pride.'”

From The Growing Push for “Mad Pride”.

I am familiar with various movements that celebrate the positive aspects of difference such as Disability Pride, Deaf Pride and Crip Pride, but only recently came across the idea of Mad Pride, a movement that celebrates the positive aspects of mental health diagnoses. The movement has been around for awhile, but a recent Newsweek article was the first I learned of it, at least that I remember since I received my own mental health diagnoses.

There is much good that comes from accepting a mental health diagnoses and “coming out” to friends and family. Benefits include an increased understanding, a sense of community with others with like experiences and a greater openness to receiving help and managing lifestyle. Of course there can also be negative consequences, but I believe that the perception of those is generally greater than the reality.

On the other end of the spectrum from “mad pride” there are many who suffer from the debilitating effects of “mad shame”- an unwillingness to acknowledge a mental health diagnoses in ones self. In between those two extremes are the masses of people who have a mental health diagnoses that treat it as an illness managed through some combination of pharmaceuticals, self-medication or other treatment options.

When first diagnosed with a mental illness, I found myself somewhere in the middle- never ashamed, but neither was I anxious to shout it from the rooftop. Since that first diagnoses there have been long periods of darkness and frustration, I’m in a good place now with a completely different diagnoses (ADHD). I now freely share my diagnoses and am feeling successful in work and family life and my ADHD is a an important part of that success.

Additional Resources

Disability Perspective

A “man on crutches” is sharing the experience of just one small part of his day affected by his disability, getting a seat on the bus in the seats reserved for riders with disabilities. He has done an excellent job of conveying his experience and perspective through images:

People Who Sit In The Disability Seats When I’m Standing On My Crutches

See the Person, Not the Disability

Great video I came across at walking . is . overrated:

In his post titled, Some Sweet Disability Thinking, Red references a post from Mark Smith:

If you told me of all of the complications of your disability – physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, economically – and I simply replied, “So what?” would you be offended?

In fact, I give this very response to my friends – and, more importantly, myself – every day when it comes to the challenges of living with disability: You and I have disability hardships, so what?

Read the rest from Mark Smith’s post titled Three Pages in the Trash.

“So what?”

Never Leave Home Without a Spider-Man Costume

This is a great story from Thailand where a student with autism had a panic attack and climbed onto the ledge outside of his third floor classroom. It was the student’s first day at a new school and no one was able to convince him to come back inside, so the local fire department was called.

Fireman Somchai Yoosabai shows up and hears that the student loves comic book heroes. It just so happens that Somchai hasa Spider-Man costume that he keeps in his locker. He puts costume on and quickly and safely convinces the student to come back inside.

More at:

Web Accessibility vs Life Accessibility

After lacking the motivation to write a post for almost a year, I was finally able to admit that I don’t care about web accessibility as much as I thought I did. If you are looking for good, current information on web accessibility issues there is a long list of people who you should follow before Curb Cut.

That said, I care very much about disability issues. Curb Cut has been an accessibility blog written primarily for readers already interested in accessibility issues. However, depending on your past experience you may or may not give a crap about disability issues.

My interest in web accessibility originated from my relationships with two of my brothers who were born with Down syndrome. Like a good brother should, I wanted to make the web a friendlier place for them. Well, it turns out that Patrick has no use for the Internet. Dallin Paul is a heavy Internet user, but thus far has been able to find every America’s Funniest Home Video People Getting Hurt Collection and Power Ranger video on YouTube without any problem. If my goal is really to make the world a better place for them then it is time to refocus my efforts. There is little I could to for the Internet that would make it more useful to Patrick or Dallin Paul, but consider the following:

  • Patrick has worked for over 10 years at a University food court. He works hard, is dependable and well-liked by colleagues and customers. Nevertheless, there is very little chance that he will be offered a full-time position or any kind of benefits.
  • Dallin Paul still has a fear of attending church with my family because of some very unfortunate experiences he had with Sunday school teachers growing up. When he does attend, he is welcomed by some, tolerated by others and ignored by everyone else.

I have spent a number of years as a teacher in special ed classrooms, traveling with Special Olympics teams and volunteering with various disability organizations. You wouldn’t know any of that from reading Curb Cut in the past. My disability experience is the only real value I have to offer and I purposefully kept it out of my writing on web accessibility. Shame on me.

Here’s to a more authentic Curb Cut.

Personas of Persons with Disabilities

I recently presented on disability awareness in building accessible websites to a group of interaction designers. At the end, I was asked about examples of a specific person with a disabilities as well as design considerations for that person. This is what I found:

Personas of Persons with Disabilities and Recommended Design Considerations

  • Fluid, a user experience project for open source projects, created the persona of Sara Windsor, a faculty member who is blind and outlines some considerations in designing an accessible user experience for her.
  • Living with Disabilities, profiles for a blind person, low vision, hearing impaired, motor control impaired, and cognitively challenged, with design considerations for each- from the University of Michigan.

Personas of Persons with Disabilities

Regardless of whether or not you use personas, the examples are helpful to go through to better understand accessibility from a different perspective, even though that perspective is that of a make believe person.

If the personas aren’t doing it for you, take a gander at some of these videos and experiences to get a better feel for how persons with disabilities access the web:

Additional Resources


Access to the Web for People with Intellectual Disabilities

If you are looking for information on how to make craft more accessible websites for persons with cognitive disabilities, here are a few posts on the topic:

All of the above guidelines and suggestions are essential and relevant to any discussion on web accessibility. That said, is is also important to take a step back and look at who we are talking about when we refer to users with intellectual disabilities.

Intellectual disability is also referred to as mental retardation, developmental disability or cognitive disability (which seems to be the preferred term in the web design world) and has elicited a number of “official” definitions. Intellectual disability is found with disabilities such as Down syndrome, Fragile X, autism, and cerebral palsy, among many others.

Who do you think of when discussing intellectual disability? I think first of my two younger brothers Patrick and Dallin who were both born with Down syndrome. You may think of a family member, a coworker or someone at your local grocery store and each person you think of may have a wide variety of different characteristics and abilities.

Undoubtedly when a person with an intellectual disability gets online, there are many barriers to be overcome. However, there are also many barriers that keep people with intellectual disabilities from getting online in the first place. Here are just a few:

  • Basic computer skills

    For many persons with intellectual disabilities a decision is made early on whether to focus more on academic skills or on functional skills to best prepare for life after graduation. Basic computer skills may be entirely left out of the curriculum.

  • Living arrangements

    For any number of reasons, a significant number of people with intellectual disabilities live in long-term care facilities where computers and/or the internet may not be available.

  • Expectations, or rather lack thereof

    Low expectations may come from the person with a disability, a family member or caregiver and can be very powerful.

  • Poverty

    “In the year 2004, an estimated 28.2 percent of civilian non-institutionalized, men and women with a work limitation, aged 18-64 in the United States lived in families with incomes below the poverty line.” (– login required). If you had to choose between paying for electricity or your Internet service, which would you choose? (In case you are waffling on that one, remember that it is difficult to turn on a computer without electricity…)

Fortunately, there are some electronic and societal ramps in place to help overcome some of these barriers- government and private programs that provide financial and job training support, specialized education programs, self-advocacy efforts and a rapid expansion of unintentionally intellectual disability friendly websites. Persons with intellectual disabilities may or may not be able to do their banking online just yet, but the explosion of visual media has opened door for all kinds of accessible online experiences. I’ll refer again to my brother Dallin who has become extremely proficient in using a variety of online tools to find images, audio and video of his much beloved Power Rangers.

Let’s keep working on making the web accessible for everyone, but on occasion it is helpful to stop and consider just who that ‘everyone’ is.

To close, a quote from a paper produced by the Internet Society titled Global Trends that will Impact Universal Access to Information Resources:

The benefits of addressing the problems of inaccessible design extend to include all people, including the community of people with disabilities. (About 10% of the world’s population are disabled, with a disproportionate amount falling into the poor population in emerging economies). It is imperative that there be some way to insure that people with disabilities in the developing world are not separated from everyone else. There must not be even more of a Digital Divide opened between people with disabilities and the efforts to provide Internet access to all in emerging economies. Once it is understood that accessible design is always in synch with low technology solutions, then big steps can be made to help everyone gain access to the information society.

See Also:

10 Reasons People Care About Accessibility

I don’t know why you are reading this blog, but I there are a number of reasons that people become interested in accessibility issues. Do any of the below categories sound familiar to you or maybe someone you have worked with? Presented with no authority and in no particular order:

Why do you care about accessibility?

  1. Following the Crowd. My favorite A-list blogger keeps talking about accessibility and I don’t want to be left behind.
  2. Curiosity Killed the Cat. Enough about alt tags already, what’s the big deal with accessibility?
  3. Working for a Living. My boss cares and therefore so do I.
  4. The Plaintiff will now Approach the Bench. The lawyer guy keeps telling me that I need to care about accessibility.
  5. Me, Myself and I. I have a disability- I create accessible sites so that I can use them.
  6. We are Family. I have a family member/friend with a disability.
  7. We are the World. You know, “It’s true we’ll make a better day. Just you and me”.
  8. Powerful Market Forces. Why on earth would I make my site harder for customers to use?
  9. Pride cometh Before the Fall Of course my site is accessible, it also validates as XHTML Strict, I have never used a table in my life and I read W3C meeting minutes for fun.
  10. I don’t. Oh, okay- fine. (there- that makes 10).

Any others you would add to the list?

As long as a web developer is motivated to create an accessible site, does it matter what their motivation is?