Joe Clark and Yesterday’s Post

When I wrote yesterday’s BC entry, I had made the erroneous assumption
that Joe Clark wrote the blog that Jeff Bishop pointed to in Desert
Skies (link above) about accessibility being more a failure of web
developers than the AT companies. I made this assumption because this
blog has a link near the top that says, “Support Joe Clark, support
accessible media research.” I did not know that other people try to
help Joe raise money for his web accessibility projects.

So, when I received an angry email from Joe Clark suggesting that I
had “put words into his mouth,” I got confused and replied with a
number of quotes from the blog post at

Joe responded with the link pointing to his fundraising efforts
quoted from my message and the statement, “Chris, get a fucking clue.”
When I replied to Joe asking exactly which clue he wanted me to
fucking get, he neglected to respond.

The blogger who wrote the excellent article only identifies himself or
herself as isolani and poking around the web page to find the identity
of this person did not result in my finding a name to credit for the
item. The closest thing to an identity for this provocative blogger
sits on the blog’s home page and says, “I am a web developer for Yahoo
Europe, based in London, United Kingdom, with a focus on web
accessibility.” Whoever this person is in real life, I will
definitely keep track of the blog posts in the future as the articles
are well written and presented in a logical manner.

As soon as I complete writing and posting this item, I will go back
and remove Mr. Clark’s name and any reference to him in yesterday’s
article. I did not know that he was trying to raise money to support
him while he performs his research. While Joe Clark and I have
completely incompatible personalities and cannot seem to communicate
with each other without clashing, I do respect his work and think BC
readers should visit and decide for
themselves if they want to donate some money to help Joe pay his bills
while performing what I believe is important research.

So, whoever isolani is, I apologize to you for having given credit for
your terrific article to Joe Clark and I encourage you to keep writing
articles for your blog as you have excellent insights to complex

On Comments

Redux posted a comment to yesterday’s entry saying the AT companies
don’t always support the entire set of WAI guidelines and, therefore,
web developers who do try to make their work as accessible as possible
will often find that some of their effort had no real value because
the screen reader companies chose not to support some portion of the

I agree entirely with this statement and in yesterday’s post, I did
mention that I felt that the screen reader companies should work
together to present an industry wide set of rules that a web developer
can use to understand a baseline for how her content will be presented
to people who use screen readers to access information on the web.

I do not believe that creating a catalogue of what web developers can
expect as the minimal level of support for web content with a screen
reader would damage the competition in this market sector. I do
believe that such a document would go a long way to encourage web
developers to follow accessibility guidelines who, in the past, might
have been burned by the inconsistent results from one screen reader to
another and, in some cases, where no screen reader worked as they
expected. The individual screen reader companies can publish a
product specific addition to the industry wide document so, web
developers who only care that their development efforts works with
screen readers that go beyond the minimum can code to the additional
information provided by the individual screen reader companies and
place an statement on their site that says something like, “For the
best results using a screen reader we suggest you read this site with

— End

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Web Accessibility Issues – Who’s to Blame?

Recently, Jeff Bishop has been blogging regarding a post made by a
sighted person that criticized how JAWS presented web pages. A blogger called isolani wrote an excellent article about such on his blog and here are
my comments about the matter.

I strongly agree with isolani’s assessment of the state of web
accessibility and that the responsibility for most web content issues
falls solidly into the lap of the web developers and the hacks they
have used to make web sites work while the standards for accessibility
have been fairly fluid over the years.

I, however, also believe that the screen reader authors/publishers
deserve some of the blame for one specific reason: namely, while most
if not all of the screen reader companies are members of ATIA and show
up at the industry association’s annual convention in Orlando, there
has been virtually no meetings between Freedom Scientific, GW Micro,
Dolphin, AI^2 and Serotek to discuss how web content should be
presented to their users in a way that web developers, even those good
guys who follow the WAI guidelines, so they can expect reasonably
consistent results no matter what AT the user with a vision impairment
might be using.

As isolani discusses his guilt for having crafted web pages in a
manner that works poorly with screen readers, I must also apologize
for my role in causing different screen readers to produce
inconsistent results on the same web page.

During my six years at HJ/FS, I strongly held the opinion that “it’s
accessible if it works with JAWS” and my input into design issues for
our Internet support actually promoted a user experience that, while I
thought it would be superior to our competition, it would, until the
competition caught up, be unique to JAWS. Today, almost three years
since I worked a day for FS, I use four different screen readers
(JAWS, Window-Eyes, System Access and orca) and each of these have
their own idiosyncratic ways of delivering web content. At FS, we
tried to follow the WAI User Agent Guidelines and would tell web
developers to read the WAI Web Content Guidelines if they wanted to be
accessible. If they wanted to be very accessible with JAWS, though,
they might do something differently in order to really shine. I would
say something similar to teams that built web browsers, steering them
away from an MSAA solution and into one that exposes a DOM which, at
that time, would only work with JAWS.

The other group of AT users and developers whom I feel own some of the
blame is those folks who insist on a lowest common denominator
solution to web sites. These people often push for alternate, “text
only” pages that a screen reader user can read without requiring their
AT to be smart enough to handle pages that, if coded to the content
guidelines, should work with all access technology products. I feel
strongly that text only, blind guy ghetto solutions are at best a
quick fix and at worst an incomplete version of the main web site.

I believe that because added their text only interface
rather than making their entire web site comply with the guidelines
they contributed greatly to the perception that people with vision
impairments need a ghetto to live in that will shelter us from nasty
things like advertisements, long lists of information and many of the
features that people without a disability can use on the main amazon

I know there are still a number of people who use SpeakUp or some
other text console based screen reader on GNU/Linux systems. They
will make the claim that because they use text only browsers that all
web sites should have some way to make a reduction of themselves so as
to work properly with ancient technology. My answer to this criticism
is that such people have access to the source code for their browsers
and that they should fix the compliance problems in the text browsers
and stop whining about progress in web standards.

As I started, I strongly agree that the majority of web accessibility
issues are the fault of web developers using odd hacks and writing
code that doesn’t comply with the guidelines. The issues with AT
companies and users above are relatively minor when compared to the
overwhelmingly huge number of poorly crafted web sites out there


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Love That Dirty Water

“Love that dirty water,
Boston, you’re my home”

On August 25, Susan and I, both of our dogs (1 guide, 1 pet) piled
into our Toyota with luggage, computers and a few other things that we
thought we might need on our journey to Massachusetts.

The ride started in St. Petersburg and, on the first day, we got all
of the way to Florence, South Carolina. We had no idea that it would
take so long to drive through Georgia from south to north, we
definitely underestimated its size by a lot.

While they share a name, Florence, Italy may be culturally as far as
possible from its South Carolina namesake. We stayed at the Red Roof
Inn as we would every night on the road because they allow pet dogs at
all of their motels. From our hotel, we had a few options for a place
to eat, Waffle House, Omelet House and a very scary looking place that
also had “house” in its name. We only stayed one night there so the
culinary aspects of this town didn’t really matter much. As far as I
could tell, the only Florence, SC exists is to offer food from cheap
southern chains and to sell fireworks.

I would have thought all of this homeland security stuff would have
cut down on selling explosives to random customers but, alas, I
suppose they figure the rednecks who frequent such places do not have
the intellectual capacity to organize an assault on anything of
importance and real terrorists must not believe that they can buy some
pretty serious inflammatory and concussion products from a ton of road
side stands.

Day two we drove from lovely Florence to Virginia. As we approached
the North Carolina border, we found that a whole lot of billboards
advertised a place called south of the Border, a Mexican theme place
that, according to a leaflet in our room claimed to be exactly half
way from New York to Miami. It gave no explanation for its Mexican
theme in the middle of the Carolinas and I chose not to ask. As we
passed it, Sue described a really huge sombrero and a statue of a
Mexican guy that also seemed huge. From one of the billboards, we
learned that the complex housed “Rocket City” which claimed to be the
“largest fireworks store in North America.” This in no way made me
feel safe.

Upon reaching Virginia, we followed our MapQuest directions to
Virginia Beach. We checked into the Red Roof Inn, took a quick nap
and then went to visit my friend and guide dog school classmate and
her Shotsi, a lovely goldador. As guide dog school gave us assigned
seats for all of our meals, Misty and I sat beside each other for the
entire month and our dogs sat on the floor together and became
friends. As we started down the hallway to Misty’s apartment,
X-Celerator saw Shotsi and growled a little and then recognized his
old friend and practically dragged me to the apartment.

At Misty’s, the two guide dogs enjoyed a lot of play time. They did
some doggie boxing, had a tug of war with some toys and generally
jumped around making doggie sounds. Baby, our 20 pound pet dog, found
the behavior of the two bigger animals a bit disturbing and insisted
on barking at them and trying to herd them as he finds such displays
of joy unbecoming of a sophisticated dog.

The following day, we drove north from Virginia, like Georgia, much
larger than we thought. We finally got to Maryland, Delaware and
finally Edison, New Jersey named for Thomas Edison whose famous
laboratory remains preserved in Menlo Park, one town away from the
town that bears his name. I grew up a few miles from Menlo Park in a
town called Westfield, New Jersey and we visited Edison’s laboratory,
now a museum, on numerous field trips over the years.

Today, Edison is home to an enormous number of immigrants from South
Asia. I had hoped to eat in a South Indian restaurant which also has
a franchise in Cunard Place, New Delhi. Unfortunately, they stay
closed on Mondays and we had no intention of staying an extra day in
Jersey just to enjoy a meal.

The following day, we left on the final leg of our trip. This took us
north on the New Jersey Turnpike and we made our first stop at the
Vince Lombardi rest area to offer the dogs a time to relieve
themselves, for the humans to also relieve ourselves and to get gas.
At the pumps, a young man with a thick Latino accent asked us what we
wanted and it occurred to me that perhaps Lou Dobbs argument that
foreigners displace Americans from jobs must have some truth. What
person growing up in this country doesn’t envy any immigrant with a
job pumping gas at the famous New Jersey Turnpike rest area named for
a giant of football history. I also wondered why New Jersey had a
rest area named for Lombardi as the great coach didn’t come from
Jersey and he most famously coached the Green Bay Packers, a team
located in Wisconsin.

The rest of the ride from Jersey to Natick, Massachusetts went without
anything eventful. We stopped for lunch in Connecticut where I
enjoyed a turkey sandwich. From there it was smooth sailing all the
way to Susan’s mom’s house.

We arrived last Tuesday and have gotten into Cambridge most of the
days since. We’ve seen old friends and enjoyed the general
strangeness that is Harvard Square. We’ve eaten in a number of really
excellent places without analogue in our part of Florida. We’ve
gotten tickets to a number of jazz performances for later this month
and have enjoyed almost everything we’ve done so far.

X-Celerator, my guide dog, has performed excellently. On this past
Saturday, he got his first subway ride. We rode from the Riverside
station, the furthest west in the MBTA system to Park Street where we
changed to the Red Line that would bring us to Harvard Square. Before
heading down the stairs to the platform for the Red line, I slapped
some red tiles on a wall to the staircase. I told X-Celerator “watch
red.” Yesterday, three days when we arrived at Park Street station, a
chaotic and very noisy place for people, I said, “find red” and, on
his first time leading me in that station, he confidently walked
directly to the same set of stairs I showed him three days earlier.
The doggie has constantly impressed me in a series of challenging
situations in Cambridge and on the trains in and out of the city.

We’re having fun here in the north, enjoying the early fall weather
and the great restaurants.

— End

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