-Danielle Lidikay

 

 

I just got done reading this article on arstechnica, and I have to say, it left a sour taste in my mouth.

I find it irksome. Not just because it is insensitive to the plight of the disabled, (it is) not just because it probably cost them more money to take this to the supreme court, than it would have to just write the code (it absolutely cost more money). But because they are attempting to defend a position that is untenable.

To fully understand why I feel this way, we should take a walk through computing history, all the way back to my fathers first experiences with a computer. It had no model I could point to, it was custom built. PC manufacturers just had not caught on yet. The idea of a “personal computer” for everyone to have in their homes was years away. This computer was all but inaccessible to the average person of the day. Programs were not stored on board, they had to be loaded from punch cards. Every time it was turned on, the bootstrap needed to be put in, by hand, on a long series of toggle switches on the front panel.

Anyone familiar with history knows the rest. Soon computers had screens, keyboards, computer mice, user interfaces. Computing history has been a steady march toward making the power of a computer accessible to all people, of all creeds and backgrounds. This was clearly evident when the web became a concept in the 90’s. Not only should computing power be for everyone, but information as well. Layouts were simple, HTML designs, black text on a white background. Not pretty, but logical, straightforward, and easy to read. It was designed with academia in mind, so it was a foregone conclusion that it needed to just work.

Those who know me, know what I am going to gripe about next. More features have been added over the years, followed by more features still. Some quite useful, and some I find incredibly frustrating. Page load times have ground to a crawl. Every site is inundated with pop up dynamic content, auto play videos, fancy graphics and drop down menus, and all manner of electronic bells, whistles and noise, that serve to irritate my utilitarian nature. All in the name of, not adding functionality, but to “look pretty”.

Forget all of it! I don’t want pretty websites. I want sites that work. I want sites that are easy to read quickly.

As it turns out, a lot of my gripes are also things that tend to trip up screen readers, devices that visually impaired users use to interface with computer systems. Dynamic content, layers upon layers of javascript, and disorganized spaghetti websites play hell on these devices when trying to parse out which text to read, in what order.

You don’t need a lot to design for accessibility. Our own webhost has a great guide on how to do it

This site follows most of the rules, with a few exceptions. I admittedly have a bad habit of using HTML tables to do content layout. But the biggies are there: text is black on a white background. Absolutely no dynamic content. Page load times are fast, images are small and only used where necessary.

This is, in my belief, everything the web was supposed to be. Readable. Accessible. Simple.

So, in an open letter to the Dominos team: please just drop this and write the necessary accessibility features in. This isn’t a good look for you, and I have a feeling even if you win this legal battle, you will succumb eventually.

Its long time knowledge in the computing field, but maybe you haven’t heard, so I will pass it along here:

Never fight against openness, accessibility, and cross compatibility. You will lose every time.