Re: The Great Accessibility Camp-Out

Posted October 1st, 2006 by Mike Cherim

The Great Accessibility Camp-Out article ( This post is here to support potential commentary in response to an article written by Gez Lemon and myself being called The Great Accessibility Camp-Out. In the feature we discuss our views as to how we define “web accessibility,” but that’s not the purpose of the article. Gez and I agree to disagree and get along just fine, and that is more to the point. Sure you can read it and agree or disagree with one or both of us. That’s fine. We’re not looking for votes. We realize that regardless of how we define the word, the goal in the end is the same: To make the web more accessible. Period.

Should you choose to offer your views on the matter, please feel free to do so below:

12 Responses to: “Re: The Great Accessibility Camp-Out”

  1. Bob Easton responds:
    Posted: October 1st, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Great article Mike and Gez. You both have very interesting points of view, and you’re both right.

    I find myself getting paid by a large international business machines corporation to think like we are in Camp 2 and keep the enterprise out of legal trouble. Yet, on a personal level, I’m much more in Camp 1. I’m thinking there are probably a lot more non-disabled people who can benefit from good accessibility practices than just the disabled, somewhat like the idea that curb cuts benefit many more than just those in wheel chairs.

    Consider situational conditions and good accessibility practices become more valuable. Something to think about are cases where the people have no disabilities, but their environment offers challenges. Such as:
    - people in manufacturing or laboratory environments who wear eye protection that limits field of view, acuity, or color perception
    - people in working environments who wear gloves and don’t have the dexterity to use a mouse, and maybe not even a keyboard
    - people in noisy places where audio content can’t be heard
    - I’m sure you can think of many more.

    Of course, accessibility advocates in either camp will likely produce good results for the situational conditions, but maybe only by accident for those in Camp 2.

    Again, you’re both right and we certainly don’t need any wars to drain our energy from doing the best we can.

  2. Anthony Brewitt responds:
    Posted: October 2nd, 2006 at 4:09 am

    I agree with both camps also, but I am also constantly battling in my head to what exactly accessibility means in the current climate of Samurai’s and WCAG disclaimers. As a web designer providing services to companies I usually try to think of accessibility as supporting the widest possbible range of user groups for a website. It’s an area I need to work on more, thanks for reminding me!

  3. Mel Pedley responds:
    Posted: October 2nd, 2006 at 5:53 am

    I think I’m somewhat on the fence between the two camps here.

    I cannot completely commit to Camp 1 as I do think there are times, and situations, where users have to take responsibility for their own choices. For example, if someone choses to remain on dialup when higher speed connections are available, and within their reach, I do not think I should be obliged to design with their free choice in mind. If they choose to stay with an older browser rather than upgrade, why should I have to take that into account? To do so would constrain design and possibly compromise the experience of others for no good reason.

    However, I can’t place myself clearly in Camp 2 either as I don’t think users come easily segregated into ‘those with disabilities’ and ‘those without disabilities’. I don’t use a wheelchair, so, in theory, a wheelchair ramp is of no real use to me. Yet, on the days I went out with a small child in a buggy, ramps were an absolute godsend and often determined whether I was able to enter some buildings or not. Did I have a disability on those days?

    Whenever you examine the human experience, what you see is almost never in black and white but an unending spectrum of greys. As long as that situation persits, I’ll feel happier sitting somewhere in the middle - trying to find a resonable balance.

  4. Paul S responds:
    Posted: October 5th, 2006 at 6:47 am

    Very nice article :)

    I agree with Mel somewhat in that I’m mainly in Camp 1 with a few exceptions like the browser issue. I refuse to pander to anyone below IE6 simply because if Microsoft don’t support IE5.5 then why should I?

    I believe the primary concern is making sure those with disabilities can access the website but I always end up trying to push further to make sure a site is accessible to all.

  5. Victor Tsaran responds:
    Posted: October 5th, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    Great article and thanks for bringing those issues up. It would be interesting to argue about accessibility in the context of technological advancements, e.g. web 2.0.

  6. Jérôme Coupé responds:
    Posted: October 13th, 2006 at 9:33 am

    very nice article indeed,

    As far as I am concerned, I am with camp 1. I also agree with Mike in saying that we are talking about scales rather than absolute do’s and don’t. To me, accessibility means trying to offer access to content to as many people as possible (this, of course, includes people with disabilities).

    However, I also tend to follow Bob Easton’s line of thought: when people are paying you for accessibility, it’s mainly for the company to keep out of legal trouble (ADA, EU laws and the likes). However, I think that the definition of accessibility is getting broader for these people as well (EU institutions are now talking about “design for all”). Now that new platforms and new browsing habits are becoming more popular (web TV, mobile devices, more seniors online, etc.), it seems that the audience targetted by accessibility efforts is getting wider.

  7. Jennifer responds:
    Posted: October 19th, 2006 at 10:09 am

    Technology, particularly web sites and web apps, should be helping people with disabilities the most. Instead, the same technology that can easily open doors for them is used to exclude them. I agree with Camp 1. However, I have to admit that I am in state government and I firmly believe that any technology offering that is for public use should include everybody (dial-up, old monitors and browsers, etc.). Keep in mind that a thorough dose of common sense should be applied. For instance, the state does not offer driver’s license applications in Braille. The point is: you should strongly consider your audience, both present and future, when making decisions regarding the level of accessibility you offer.

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