I got a bit a of a smack this week and was forced to rethink my definition of “disability”. According to Joe Clark and Mark Pilgrim, I’m a disabled computer user. I have a hard time seeing black text on a white background, and a lot of dark text on darker backgrounds. I need a softer difference between the two. On the one hand, it’s good to know I’m not alone. On the other hand, I feel denser than usual for not considering issues with viewing color as a disability. It never occurred to me that people who are red-green colorblind would have issues with things like horizontal stoplights – although it made complete sense the moment I thought about it. My idea of using an image to represent various links needs a little rethinking and a good bit more underlying structure to work for a disabled user. I also need to remember that bandwidth is still an issue in most places – not everyone lives with a tech worker who needs high speed Internet access at home. I need to recognize that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. (To paraphrase Hamlet.)
That being said, I also refuse to fall into the very trap that has captured me repeatedly this semester – over-analysis paralysis. While Clark made me wonder how much I can really understand the needs of a disabled user, Pilgrim provided great instruction for making websites more accessible. I will have to consider which techniques to implement and which to skip, but there is a lot of room for improvement in my site’s accessibility. Frankly, I found the simulation appalling – is that the best there is? REALLY? That’s terrible. But the most that I can do is to make my site more readable for the screen-reading technology that’s available.
And really, when we discuss audience, design, and information architecture, aren’t we already talking about accessibility?
*As a George Carlin fan, I had a major feeling of deja vu. While Carlin rails against the softening of language and its corresponding erasure of humanity, he’s also railing against excessive political correctness. The section from 4:15 – 5:30 covers his thoughts on disability terminology. (Beware – this is Carlin, although a cleaner version from an album, rather than a recording of a live show. Mildly NSFW for language after the selection.) But no matter who says it, it’s important to remember – terminology does matter. I just wish I could be half as funny.