- From a vantage point that would have been identified during traffic analysis, the sign is cut off;
- From the same vantage point, the sign might be too small (i.e., illegible) for some people, a problem that would have been identified during prototype testing.
Since some of us are talking about aChecker, I threw my own site at it and it spewed out a slew of complaints. I didn’t assume my site was flawless (in fact I knew it had many problems), but the amount of complaints it threw at me was just too much.
I mean, some of what it spew back at me was justified. (For example, I didn’t know WCAG requires the lang attribute to be tagged onto the HTML element instead of the BODY element—not that the requirement made any sense.) But some of it was just bogus. Contrast problems for non-textual elements that happens to be text? With the advent of webfonts, textual data can be anything (especially when people have started talking about using specialized dingbat fonts as a replacement for graphics). You just can’t infer that a piece of textual data will be actual text, especially when the glyphs concerned are obviously symbols.
The problem is that these requirements are divorced from both the context of what the text is and how the text is actually used.
So I wonder: Will the mandatory adoption of WCAG actually produce the opposite effect of what is intended? Will people, out of the requirement (as opposed to the desire) to be compliant with the WCAG, forego simple text for graphics, throwing the web back to where it was 10 years ago when heavy graphics ruled? I don’t want to believe in this, but if WCAG 2.0 AA is going to become mandatory, I think this will be a very real possibility.
For outliers like us, by the time orientation kicks off in September we will already have had our first semester finished (and very likely graded), so participating in any sort of orientation activity might feel a little superfluous. However, I think the face2face postcard project (something that I just found out a couple of days ago that we are even told “not required to participate”) is an interesting enough idea that I will very possibly participate in.
Of course, someone whose first semester is already ending is probably going to be over-thinking about the problem. First off, I perceive the project as essentially having three dimensions: an exercise in identity design, (ok, this might be stretching things a bit) an experiment in interaction design, and (ok, this might seem totally out there but remember my first semester is already almost history) a study in inclusive design.
With the program’s focus on digital inclusion, treating a postcard project as an inclusive design problem might seem like a wacky idea. However, the reality is that the world we live in is still a physical one, constructed of physical things. While digital technology can make many things simpler and more flexible, we can never truly, fully dissociate ourselves from its intrinsic physicality. Moreoever—borrowing the engineer’s jargon—, digital is not “passively safe”—in the sense that if loss of inclusivity is to be considered a catastrophic failure. And so I genuinely believe that inclusivity cannot hinge on digital technology alone; but then what does it even mean for a piece of 5″×7″ cardboard to be “inclusive”?
In the mind of this naïve first-year student, the single true barrier to accessing this piece of 5″×7″ cardboard—which by the way is required to only have my “self portrait” on it—is sightedness: A self portrait on a piece of paper is completely inaccessible to an unsighted person.
Perhaps we can describe the picture, either in the form of text (which can then be fed either to a screen reader or a Braille display) or in the form of audio. So this brings us back to our focus on digital technology. But how do we link the two pieces together? How do we link the piece of cardboard to a website, without the use of any visual element (such as a QR code or a printed URL)? Perhaps we can add the URL in Braille? But can this even be done? (Yes, with Computer Braille Code and a stylus—but will people be able to actually read the Braille I write?…)
Actually this reveals a bigger problem: Assuming that Braille is indeed practical and if Braille is the “passively safe” missing link between the primary 2D artefact and the alternative representation, how much Braille should we use? Are there other non-digital options? How much inclusion should we aim for?
What, really, is the role of print in the context of inclusivity?