Tag Archives: Accessibility

Code for a lake or an ocean? Depends what you’re fishing for.

Recently some colleagues of mine were asked the question:

“Given the (relatively) small percentage of OS X installations today, why would it make sense to write something using Cocoa? Any time you’ve tied yourself to an OS you are in danger of marginalizing yourself.”

This is a good question, worthy of some consideration here. I think that question is best answered by asking oneself who their audience is, and you could indeed be catering to a niche market. Are you dealing with a lot of Mac users? In that case, Cocoa may be the best choice. Personal satisfaction is a factor too – I know some developers who just like working in Cocoa and choose to do so despite the fact that they are OS-tied and marginalized. I don’t think they care one bit.

Sometimes nice markets can thrive. Just make your apps compatible using open standards or supported formats for files and communications so that they integrate. It depends on what you’re fishing for. You can catch some big tuna in the ocean, but there’s plenty of catfish in the pond as well.

Or on the other hand, are you dealing with a bunch of nerdy scientists that insist on using every platform known to mankind including BSD and Solaris on their desks (as I am)? Probably in that case you want a web app, or a Java client, or at the very least a core base of cross-platform C++ code and putting different faces on the thing as needed.

The tradeoff has to be: Do you provide a ‘good enough’ product to the widest possible number of users? Or do you provide the best of breed product to a smaller target that demands it? Of course in most cases the answers will tend towards the widest number of users, but sometimes those niche areas need filling too.

Of course the point is kind of moot for me personally since I only deal with web apps which should, if done properly, be nearly universally accessible to any web browser or related device… πŸ˜‰

Target.com garners accessibility lawsuit

A blind student from U.C. Berkeley is suing the Target Corporation because their website is inaccessible to blind users:

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, said the upscale discounter’s on-line business, target.com, denies blind Californians equal access to goods and services available to those who can see.

“Target thus excludes the blind from full and equal participation in the growing Internet economy that is increasingly a fundamental part of daily life,” said the suit, which seeks to be certified as a class action and alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and various state statutes.

I knew that eventually some prominent litigation would come to the fore on this issue and that web developers nationwide would start taking the issue of accessibility seriously.

Creating an accessible web presence is not difficult work. It just requires awareness and a little attention to detail. Most sites that adhere to web standards such as using valid and semantic XHTML, CSS layouts, and basic accessibility guidelines like alt text for images and avoiding inaccessible technologies like image maps, Java or Flash objects for navigation and/or content, and deeply-nested table layouts will work just fine for those users that lack vision, who may be unable to use a mouse, or for whatever reason need assistive technologies to surf the web. And in doing so, you usually achieve near-universal access to older browsers, handheld devices, and you give your site a far better chance of doing well in search engine query results.

Blind people access Web sites by using keyboards in conjunction with screen-reading software which vocalizes visual information on a computer screen.

But Target’s site lacks “alt-text,” an invisible code embedded beneath a graphic on the Web site that a screen reader could use to provide a description of the image to a blind person, the suit said.

Target.com also has inaccessible image maps, the suit said. Image maps, when clicked on by sighted users, allow the patron to jump to other destinations within the Web site. But since Target’s site requires the use of a mouse to complete the transaction, it prevents blind people from making purchases online, the suit said.

Wow – it’s really there in print finally! These are real issues that we need to address for the future of our web development practices.

“Blind people have complained about (Target’s Web site) in particular,” Basrawi said. “That one’s gotten a lot of complaints, especially because it’s completely unusable. A blind person cannot make a purchase independently on target.com.”

Are all your web properties accessible?

Update: This is now being covered over at Molly.com, boxofchocolates.ca, and webstandards.org.