W3C column

In his latest W3C column, Dr Scott Hollier looks at the the Internet of Things (IoT), accessibility and how WAI standards can help.
Is language an issue of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? Dr Scott Hollier discusses this in his latest W3C column.
I was in a meeting recently where a government office expressed interest in improving web accessibility on a major state government website. While there was much enthusiasm around the table, the conversation swung around to the one question that everyone dreads: “How much is digital accessibility thing going to cost us?” Immediately, it seemed that the temperature in the room dropped several degrees and the momentum for change ground to a halt.
Firstly, my apologies to international readers for my column becoming a bit Australia-centric recently. I’ll endeavour to get back to more universal issues soon, but with nearly half a year gone since our biggest government web accessibility effort was completed, it’s important to take a look at what’s happening.
Last year I was involved in the organisation of the Western Australia Web Accessibility BarCamp, a great event with many excellent speakers, a great vibe with around a hundred people in attendance and lots of great information on accessibility.
It was a pretty normal Wednesday night on 5 November last year. I was watching ABC News 24 to catch up on the day’s top stories and it was my wife, who is also a web accessibility professional, who alerted me to the news bar at the bottom of the screen stating that a blind woman had launched a claim of unlawful discrimination against Coles over its inaccessible website.
Welcome to the first column for 2015. It’s my great pleasure to introduce someone whose work is vital to the running of W3C WAI, Shawn Henry. Shawn very kindly took some time out of her incredibly busy schedule with various working groups and the WAI-IG mailing list for an interview.
As the end of another busy year approaches, it’s worth looking back at the year that was and the significant contributions WAI has made. With celebrations relating to the 25th anniversary of the WWW and the 20th anniversary of the W3C, there has been much opportunity for reflection, and there have been some more localised celebrations for my home city of Perth, Australia as well.
It’s a scene repeated daily for people with disabilities. You’re busy working away when an alert pops up in your calendar reminding you that one of your relatives is having a birthday party next week and you need to buy a present. A little panicked that the event has sprung up so quickly, you scramble to the web to search for that gift you know will be perfect. After using a shopping comparison website you find the item you need at an amazing low price, and follow the link. What gets presented on your screen next is a blob of swirling colour, graphics, incomprehensible descriptions, no captions on the video and silence from the screen reader.
Regular readers may have been surprised to see my last column, The '100% accessible website' joke—do web accessibility professionals have a sense of humour? , get a bit more attention on mailing lists and social media than usual.
One of the challenges of working in the web accessibility space is trying to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of technologies that affect web accessibility and the standards, policies and legislative frameworks that follow to support them.
Entertainment is something that we all value, and I was reflecting on this recently when considering the experience at the last concert I attended. It seems that by the time I find out that my favourite band is coming to town the tickets have almost sold out and I tend to end up seated at the very back of the grandstand, closer to the planes flying overhead than the stage. The result is a torn feeling between wanting a better experience closer to the action or simply enjoying the opportunity to be there.
Over the years there have been a number of web accessibility issues that have led to heated discussion, but few topics have divided the community more than people’s views on the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).
In mid-2012 I wrote a W3C column article titled The National Transition Strategy – is it on track? In it I raised concerns about the Federal Government’s ability to achieve its goals, but stated that ultimately, the NTS was a positive force: “I'm optimistic that if the concerns of people working at the coalface of the NTS are addressed, an obvious and significant improvement to the accessibility of government information will occur by the end of the year.” While I still believe this to be the case, it’s clear that the national mood has changed as the practical reality of the 2012 progress report and the position of the recent Federal Government begin to sink in.
I’ve recently returned from the Web for All (W4A) conference in Seoul in what was a fantastic couple of days hearing from academics specialising in accessibility, industry-based accessibility specialists and students just starting out on their accessibility journey.
On 12 March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee filed a proposal at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) for what we now know as the World Wide Web. While I can’t say that I know Sir Tim beyond a brief encounter with him in an elevator at the WWW conference last year, it is staggering to stop and think about his positive contribution to the world, and in particular for people with disabilities.
Recently I was involved in a discussion around how best to evaluate websites, and while the conversation remained civil, it was a classic case of asking 10 different people questions and getting 10 different answers.
For the first W3C Column of 2014, Dr Scott Hollier interviews Assistant Director, Web Advice and Policy - Accessibility at the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) on the National Transition Strategy, web accessibility and his work in government.
Dr Scott Hollier looks back on the highlights of 2013.
While Accessibility APIs have improved, there's still work to be done when it comes to the implementation of HTML5.

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