“Accessibility Experts”

On experts and having an open conversation about accessibility on the web

Today I was directed to an article from WebAxe by Dennis Lembree about how web accessibility should be left to experts. Before today I had never personally heard of WebAxe or anything written by Dennis (that’s not to knock WebAxe as I will definitely be adding it to my reading list) even though I follow a number a accessibility blogs, 456 Berea Street being one my favorites.

On to the article. Whether or not Dennis was trying to, the article comes across with a bit of pretentiousness in telling others not to discuss web accessibility unless they are an “expert”. This brings up the whole issue of what constitutes an expert but that is for another time perhaps. Dennis specifically points to a few articles by Chris Coyier and Jeffery Zeldman in which they talk about a few ways that accessibility might be improved based on examples from screen readers.

There are many good comments on the article already and I’m sure it will generate more. One that I think shares my sentiments -

There’s a lot of cult of personality on the web and the accessibility community is no better than any other. My overall fear, and it has been for years, is that we are fostering a perception that ‘only an expert’ can do this and ‘accessibility is too complex’. By doing so we send out a message accessibility is a dark art that only those initiated into the club can practice.

If we can’t have open conversations about web accessibility or the web in general then how can we as a community improve and learn from one another. It’s hard to find good information about web accessibility, and when you do it usually takes time to read through and absorb it. One recent project that I hope will bring a change to that is The Accessibility Project by Dave Rupert. It’s an open source project that anyone can help add to and breaks the content into “digestible” chunks. As it says on the about page of the Accessibility Project, “Accessibility is hard” and we should be doing everything we can to change that.