Dear accessibility practitioners, please don’t use @medium as your primary publishing platform. Syndicate there if you must, but Medium doesn’t support alt text for images, and has given no indication that it plans to. Its last comment on the subject of alt text was made several years ago and amounts to “Sorry not sorry”. So, avoid Medium as your primary publishing platform, and go with a website of your own that you can control instead. Then, syndicate to Medium.
Demand letters are the single most ineffective tool for creating meaningful improvements with regard to web accessibility, and are the quickest way to torpido the cultural and policy changes which allow technical fixes to be anything more than temporary, surface-level progress. Demand letters serve only to turn accessibility advocates into ambulance chasers. This is a hill I will absolutely die on and anyone who disagrees with me is more than welcome to bring it on.
Everybody is swooning over Google’s upcoming automated captions, except zero of the people who actually need them. I have to wondere how it is that as an industry we manage to convince ourselves that we’ve collaborated with people with disabilities on all this amazing new accessibility tech that helps us avoid the obvious solution: Do it right in the first place. I’m sure there were messages across email lists, or surveys, or whatever, with asks for testers, ETC. But the deaf community has been saying for years that automated captions aren’t an optimal solution, and it seems arrogant to me at worst and well-meaningly naive at best that all that advice about automated captions would be ignored for the sake of Google’s business goals. We know what accessibility advancements look like, because people with disabilities have been telling us what they need, for years. Maybe one day as an industry we’ll actually start listening. I’m not holding my breath for the foreseeable future though.
Apple is now apparently saying that its Accessibility Events feature, (you know, the one that “may reveal whether an assistive technology is active on your iPhone”), is not enabled by default. Like hell it’s not enabled by default. It sure was enabled when I installed the iOS 12.2 update last weekend on my iPhone 8+). I specifically went in to general/accessibility/VoiceOver to check, and had to turn the feature off. This note includes a screenshot of my just-updated iPhone 5S, and as sure as the sun is shining, the accessibility events feature was turned on. I have a severe allergy to BS, and Apple doesn’t get to bypass the BSometer just because it has a history of caring a lot about accessibility. Websites should be designed and developed from the beginning with accessibility in mind. The guidelines are already out there and have been out there and freely available, complete with extensive documentation so that they can be understood, for over twenty years. There’s a metric ton of freely available information from the accessibility community of practice on every aspect of those guidelines, all over the internet, for basically as long as the guidelines themselves have existed. Assistive technology tracking has been covered already by this community of practice, and we’re probably all tired of it. For Apple to lie about something as simple as whether the feature is on by default indicates at least some corporate squeamishness around implementing it in the first place, and the best thing they could do at this point is to remove it.
In yet another attempt to become the “One Browser to Rule Them All,” Google is adding the ability to Chrome for screen reader users to ask for automated alt text for images. “Oh hey, since we’re not allowed to explicitly track screen reader usage, let’s just set up a honeypot to get screen reader users to just hand the information over.” I can’t wait to have to once again make a choice between privacy and accessibility. My life-long dream has always been to live in a database controlled by Google simply because I’m a screen reader user. I can see it now. Some company like Aira would absolutely love to get their hands on that kind of advertising data, and Google will gleefully hand it to them for the right price. Dear fellow developers, screw you for abandoning alt text like yesterday’s leftover fast food.