Last week I attended the web accessibility conference organized by the National Council For the Blind Malaysia (NCBM). This was one conference I didn’t have to second think of attending. Simply because one of the invited speakers was from the World Wide Web Consortium; better known as W3C to us Malaysia web standardistas.
And her name was; Shawn Henry. She’s the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Outreach Coordinator at W3C. Besides her, I would also like to acknowledge Silatul Rahim from the Malaysian Association of the Blind (MAB). He demonstrated how blind users use a screen reader and…he is blind as well.
This conference wasn’t focused on giving a step-by-step tutorial on how you can make your website accessible – which I’m glad. It was to:
- Generate the awareness of disabled users utilizing the Internet today
- Acknowledge other types of disabled users (not only the blind)
- Introduce the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines and standards
- Share quick tips you can implement easily on your website like:
- Alternative text
- Page organization (headings, lists and etc)
- Client-side map element and text for image maps
- Transcripts for audio
- Captioning and description for video
- Hypertext links that makes sense (not Click here or Click there)
- Using the longdesc attribute for graphs and charts
- Make line-by-line reading sensible for tables
- And others.
- Show us (designers,developers,companies and etc) how we can educate our clients or higher-ups to acknowledge and implement web accessibility
- Teach us when and how we can integrate accessibility through the development process
- Share available tools for evaluation and authoring (freeware and paid solutions)
- Give us a sneak peek of future solutions W3C will be introducing to make accessibility easier
At the end of the day, this conference (to me) was to open up everyone’s mindset and realize we do need to make accessible solutions. During a tea break and lunch, a group of us were discussing how business would see the feasibility of making their solutions accessible. Then I said to one of them:
If you had 10 able users visit your website, but only 1 generate recurrent sales compared to 10 disabled users, but 5 generate recurrent sales then who is delivering your return on investment (ROI)?
This is one of those subjective discussions which you could go on and on unless the other side wants to open up. And speaking of open up, Shawn did also mention designers need to be less perfectionist when it comes to developing websites – thank you, Shawn!
Here are some facts I observed during the two day conference. The screen reader software (good one) alone costs around RM4000. Some government officials who attended had the chic to murmur they only attended by orders of their senior management. And further observation, 5% knew about web accessibility, 10% have heard about it, 55% listened whole-heartedly, 10% were forced to attend, 10% were designers and developers and the last 10% didn’t come back for the second day.
Anyway, organizations under NCBM are taking web accessibility seriously. They’ve a few things planned to make this conference and its efforts not go to waste. Below is a photo of the panel involved in this initiative. And I’m proud to say, Simpleet Solutions will be contributing a notable effort to them.
If you’re a Malaysia website designer or developer, it’s time to realize web standards in Malaysia is coming and it will be enforced if not by the government then by organizations, companies and individuals who care about the disabled users in Malaysia and around the world.
P.S: It was good seeing you there, Sashi. We’ll be in touch.
P.P.S: This is my first post using WordPress 2.5 and the uploading of images is a pain in the butt now.