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Jim’s Thoughts on the State of Accessibility

February 18, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

James Mannion shares his thoughts on the state of accessibility.

First I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your job I just read
over at the blind access journal. I am really feeling that lately I
have been wondering if the state of accessibility is falling into a
worse state than it has been in in a very, very long time if ever in
the time that solutions have existed. The sad thing is that for a
few years there I truely thought we were not only staying in the
game, but things were making positive forward progress. These days I
truely think we are in a serious back slide. I, like you, really get
frustrated and wish people would do the right thing. It frustrates
me that they almost hopelessly don’t have the insentive to much
care. I have signed and sent many people to the google petition. My
feeling is that this will set an example one way or the other about
this issue and any others that people choose to connect with it in
any way. If it does not succeed it could possibly be not just a dud,
but a step in the wrong direction. There is absolutely no way I
would consider any lack of success your fault. You have done more
than your part in making this happen. I also realize that you want
to do everything you can and my comment is not to take anything away
from that.

The point I want to get to though is that our screen
reader manufacturers need to be doing more and taking more of a lead
in directing accessibility improvements. They seem to be hanging out
in their cornor working the small number of things they have for a
while and not paying attention to much else. One company I
absolutely congradulate is IBM. They seem to take on a lot in terms
of accessibility and have been the driving force in Mozilla building
in accessibility measures. It is a beautiful thing when screen
reader manufacturers can work directly with the internals of a
program and that gives us amazing results or at least the potential
for them. However, what concerns me is that they are getting away
from any general approach to accessibility. Perhappes they just
don’t have the capacity to keep up on both fronts. I don’t know. It
just feels to me like one either gets lucky enough to fit into the
small segment of what the screen reader manufacturers deal with much
or more likely not these days and access is slipping away.

Meanwhile the companies are doing what they are doing out there and have little
insentive and very little central technical guidance in which to have
much confidence. I often hope they are listening to the podcast, but
what urges them to seek such information? I would have been happy to
direct yahoo people to the podcast and to any other source of help,
but writing them on several occasions produced absolutely no response
concerning their beta of yahoo mail. By the way it is interesting
that their praise comments on that new yahoo mail beta are the
stupidest crap I have seen in a while and appear to be written by
their own people??? The real issue though is the common technologies
that they as well as the software packages are using that the screen
reader manufacturers need to pay more attention to because the
“locks” on so many of the doors have the same brand name so to
speak. That could be a cloud with a silver lining, or could just
spell trouble a thousand times over and continue to do that while
others pile on top of it and do more of the same. We seem to be in a
period of rapid growth in the technologies being used and our
industry players seem to be sleeping or only talking to their
favorite people making up a small segment of things.

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