These are not the Androids you are looking for- iOS on the other hand…

With iOS and Android in mind, have you ever wondered which one is the more superior one out of the two?  Of course you have- it is almost 2014 and where would you be without that handy piece of technology that could not function without the ingenuity of either iOS or Android.

Superiority aside, I was initially concerned more with the development side of mobile apps.  While the software that makes our favorite apps accessible is intriguing, to say the least, the development side has always been the most fascinating to me.  In order gain some insight on this, I decided to read up on the topic.

During my search, I came across an article, Android vs. iOS Development: Fight!, written by Jon Evans on Nov. 16, 2013.  First of all, I found out that the author is a rather awesome individual- Evans is an author, journalist, adventure traveler, and software engineer.  He also happens to have a decade of experience as a software developer and has even built numerous Android and iOS apps.

To begin with the development of mobile apps, Evans recommends that in order to be productive, use an integrated development environment, or IDE. 

Apple’s is Xcode, which is, by and large, a joy to work with, according to Evans.  It is slick, fast, helpful without being intrusive, and it keeps getting better at papering over the complex and paranoid certificate/profile machinery which Apple imposes on developers to retain its titanium-fisted control over iOS apps and devices.  The debugger works seamlessly, and the simulator is fast and responsive.

For Android, Evans declares that he current state-of-the-art IDE is Eclipse: customized with Android plug-ins and it is embarrassingly bad.  It is rather slow, clunky, counterintuitive when not outright baffling, poorly laid out, needlessly complex- it is simply just a mess.  He goes on to say that its debugger is so clumsy that he finds himself doing log-file debugging most of the time, whereas the XCode debugger is his iOS go-to bug-hunt tool.

Evans continues by mentioning that beneath the sleek, seamless exterior of Xcode and Objective-C lurk the Lovecraftian horrors of 1970s programming. Although he is merly making an amusing joke here, the point is well taken.  In regards to the configuration of iOS, he states that as far as macros and header files go- projects, targets, schemes, and build configurations or an appallingly-intimidating list of build settings.  They are much like the grim despair of encountering a baffling linker error!

Android on the other hand has a single manifest file and Eclipse builds your app in its entirety (usually) every time you save any file.  Evans prefers more clarity in the error messages you get when your app is not working because you have not configured its permissions correctly, but that is a minor cavil.  By and large, Android app configuration is simple and elegant.

Next, Evans covered the overall aspect of design and which software was better to use.  With regards to Apple’s iOS, its Interface Builder is a very sleek way to put simple good-looking user interfaces together quickly.  The trouble is, as Evans explains, the more he actually used Interface Builder, the less he liked it.  It is basically another layer of configuration complexity- it is excellent for simple things, but as time goes by and apps evolve, those simple things tend to get complex and messy.  He also feels that the multi-screen Storyboards Apple added about a year ago does not really help.

Now, Android theoretically has a comparable visual tool, the less said about it the better.  In practice you wind up writing XML files which provide layout guidelines, as opposed to rules, so that apps are rendered well on the entire vast panoply of devices and screen sizes out there.  Meanwhile, Android provides an icon pack for developers to use, whereas iOS developers have to go with third parties like Icons8, or create their own.

Overall, Evans feels that it is a closer contest than one might think- although he concedes that this is pretty idiosyncratic.  In the end, however, two things give iOS the edge.  First, it is still much simpler: three screen sizes (including iPad) and two screen densities, as opposed to the mass of complexity which is Android.  Second, the default iOS visual elements are much more visually attractive than Android’s.

What is really phenomenal, is that both iOS and Android make an enormous library of software available to their developers and, according to Evans, those libraries are fairly similar: there are APIs for phone functions and features, network access functions, a panoply of View objects including a powerful WebView which essentially functions as a full-fledged browser.  Most of the work, meanwhile, is done in controllers: very roughly, an iOS ViewController is equivalent to an Android Activity.

Evans exclaims that what iOS has, which Android does not, is an extra set of frameworks and features and a generally cleaner, better designed system.  Another metric, albeit a flawed one: lines of code.  These apps are very nearly functional identical, but the iOS one has 1596 lines of custom code, including header files, compared to 2109 lines of Java code and XML for Android. That’s a full 32% more.

Finally, the topic that is more than likely on everyone’s mind at the moment: the internet!  These days, many, if not most, apps are conduits to Internet APIs more than they are standalone programs.  This is important enough that it’s worth looking at separately.  Both iOS and Android provide quite a bit of tools and APIs for this.  Evans says that they both also provide very similar WebViews, which are basically full-fledged browser windows that you can plug into your app anywhere.

Network connections basically have to run in the background, so as not to block the main thread of the app, and multithreading is rather hard.  Android provides an AsyncTask class for things like this, which is verbose but works well, and a very easy way to determine whether you are currently online (which is rather nice, I might add).  However, iOS provides equivalent facilities, but they are all pretty low-level and unsatisfying.

So, according to every meticulous detail Evans went over, the winner over which is more superior- iOS!  Android has its advantages, but overall, it remains significantly easier to write good iOS apps than good Android apps.  Combine that with the fact that iOS users tend to be wealthier–and arguably more influential–and it still makes sense for most startups who want to make a splash to go iOS-first, Android-later. Evans declared that the new Android Studio IDE could conceivably close some of that gap…but not all of it.

As an Apple user myself, I agree with the conclusion Evans finally got to.  While what he had to say eventually added up, I think he took too long to make his point!  His article was full of techno-babble and a bit to verbose for my personal liking, but to each their own I guess.

Mobile Web: Friend or Foe?

Whenever I need some inspiration in regards to web design, or even the web in general, I turn to a particular blog – “The Haystack.”  It was created by a fellow blogger, Stephen Hay, who has been living and working in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands since 1992.  Since 1995, he has been designing for the web and his roots as a designer and art director in corporate identity / packaging design and advertising served as a foundation for his current work as a web design and development strategist through his own user experience consultancy Zero Interface.  Stephen is a popular speaker on the subjects of CSS, web accessibility, and open web standards.  He has also published several articles on these subjects.

Needless to say, his wisdom is something I have come to depend on.

Recently, he posted a blog titled There is no Mobile Web in which he discusses in detail the reasoning behind a tweet that declared his thoughts on the Web.  He posted on Twitter- There is no Mobile Web.  There is only The Web, which we view in different ways.  There is also no Desktop Web.  Or Tablet Web.  Thank you.”

Interestingly, he unexpectantly received an enormous amount of re-tweets, which he hopes meant that most people understood what he meant.  However, there were also those who did not quite understand what he was trying to say, as well as those who just flat out disagreed.

I understood perfectly what Hay was trying to say in regards to Mobile Web.  From a practicality standpoint, it made perfect sense.  But what would this world be without the individuals who feel the need to argue about something most likely for the sake of arguing.  Regardless, for anyone reading this right now that does not quite follow along with Hay’s thought process, let me explain in further detail.

He explains that most sites on the web are not built with specific mobile use-cases in mind.  This is obvious, however millions of people access these sites every day through their mobile devices.  They access typical websites through their “mobile” devices.  In these instances, the presentation of the content on mobile devices is potentially important.  Hay goes on to declare that that the intrinsic characteristics of this content on the mobile platform are just as important; take image size as an example.  Manufacturers cater to the users of “non-mobile” websites on mobile devices via things like zoom, which although inconsistent across devices, makes viewing most websites on a smartphone bearable.  Developers can do their part by adjusting the served content or the presentation.

With that said, simply adjusting the presentation of content or pieces of content on a website does not, in Hay’s opinion, constitute a “mobile website”.  He still believes it is just a website for which the developers have considered the users of mobile devices and adjusted certain things accordingly.

Hay shared some valuable wisdom pointed out by Thomas Fuchs, explaining that there are specific mobile use cases and thus mobile-specific websites or web apps.  I personally agree with this.  By the same design, there are websites and web apps that were designed with only the desktop, and oftentimes a certain browser in mind.  However, Hay points out that we generally do not speak of the “Desktop Web” when referring to these apps, but ironically, that is exactly what we do with mobile.

The way I see it, is that no one doubts the validity of ‘one web,’ or its principle of ‘thematic consistency,’ if only because it means you can send or bookmark a URL from one device to another and know that the same content will be keyed off it.  However, this does not necessarily mean that all users should be expected to use the same content regardless of device and context.

For example, the product you buy on Amazon should indeed be the same as a German’s Amazon product, but that does not necessarily mean that he would not rather see the particular product in a different format.  Possibly a format that is priced in Euros, describes the product in the native language, and invokes a much smaller shipping fee!

Another example I could use is an airline web site (no particular one).  The home page for your typical user could possibly present flight booking and corporate information; where as the mobile user might see a flight-checker and boarding pass barcode feature.  You are looking at the same company and standards, but seeing a completely different mix of content.

Does YouTube Have a Role to Play in Society?

Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Henry Jenkins?  If this was the first time that you have ever heard that name mentioned, then I can only assume that you have been living under a rock up until this point. Do not fret however, because I will enlighten you on who exactly Henry Jenkins is!

First and foremost, Jenkins is currently the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.  He is also the author and/or editor of twelve books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory CultureHop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture and From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games.

Now, you may be asking yourself that while these credentials and achievements are rather impressive, why is Jenkins so pertinent to this post?  The answer is simple- he wrote a blog titled Nine Propositions Towards a Cultural Theory of YouTube that talked about the place of YouTube in contemporary culture.  Many of the ideas Jenkins mentioned might be familiar to some individuals, but I think you might find them interesting distilled down in this blog post.

The first idea Jenkins discusses is the fact that YouTube represents the kind of hybrid media space described by Yochai Benkler in The Wealth of Networks — a space where commercial, amateur, nonprofit, governmental, educational, and activist content co-exists and interacts in ever more complex ways.  Jenkins puts this revelation rather bluntly when he compares this coexistence by exclaiming, “…it potentially represents a site of conflict and renegotiation between different forms of power.”  One interesting illustration of this is the emergence of Astroturf – fake grassroots media — through which very powerful groups attempt to mask themselves as powerless in order to gain greater credibility within participatory culture.

He goes on to say that YouTube has emerged as the meeting point between a range of different grassroots communities involved in the production and circulation of media content.  Jenkins proclaims that much that is written about YouTube implies that the availability of Web 2.0 technologies has enabled the growth of participatory cultures.  I would argue that it was the emergence of participatory cultures of all kinds over the past several decades that has paved the way for the early embrace, quick adoption, and diverse use of platforms like YouTube.  However, I feel that Jenkins overall view of YouTube and its placement in our society is rather unique.  He describes it by saying that, “as these various fan communities, brand communities, and subcultures come together through this common portal, they are learning techniques and practices from each other, accelerating innovation within and across these different communities of practice.”

Jenkins also believes that YouTube represents a site where amateur curators assess the value of commercial content and re-present it for various niche communities of consumers.  YouTube participants respond to the endless flow and multiple channels of mass media by making selections, choosing meaningful moments which then get added to a shared archive.  Because of this, we are ironically finding clips that gain greater visibility through YouTube than they achieved via the broadcast and cable channels from which they originated.

A classic example of this might be the Colbert appearance at the Washington Press Club Dinner.  The media companies are uncertain how to deal with the curatorial functions of YouTube: seeing it as a form of viral marketing on some occasions and a threat to their control over their intellectual property on others.  We can see this when Colbert and his staff encourage fans to remix his content the same week that Viacom seeks legal action to have Colbert clips removed from YouTube

Another idea that is proposed is the exact value of YouTube.  Jenkins declares that YouTube’s value depends heavily upon its deployment via other social networking sites — with content gaining much greater visibility and circulation when promoted via blogs, Live Journal, MySpace, and the like.  While some people come and surf YouTube, its real breakthrough came in making it easy for people to spread its content across the web. Interestingly, YouTube represents a shift away from an era of stickiness (where the goal was to attract and hold spectators on your site, like a roach motel) and towards an era where the highest value is in spreadability (a term which emphasizes the active agency of consumers in creating value and heightening awareness through their circulation of media content.)

Regardless, Jenkins proposes that in the age of YouTube, social networking emerges as one of the important social skills and cultural competencies that young people need to acquire if they are going to become meaningful participants in the culture around them.  This is the complete opposite of what many others have to say about the youth and their constant involvement with social media.  We need to be concerned with the participation gap as much as we are concerned with the digital divide.  I believe that Jenkins is on to something here, however.

There are many ‘YouTube Celebrities’ that actually earn a living through subscriptions to their videos.  For example, one of the largest subscriptions that has a continued fan base is that of makeup artists.  One of the most popular makeup artists, and one that my wife follows, goes by the username MakeupByTiffanyD

I think the most interesting factoid Jenkins mentioned, was how YouTube seemingly embodies a particular opportunity for translating participatory culture into civic engagement.  The ways that Apple’s “1984″ advertisement was appropriated and deployed by supporters of Obama and Clinton as part of the political debate suggests how central YouTube may become in the next presidential campaign.  

Can you imagine YouTube playing a role in a presidential campaign?  The idea itself is not all that ludicrous.  In fact, if it is as influential as Jenkins suggest, than maybe YouTube could play a part in Obama’s impeachment.  Wouldn’t that be great?

Recently, I have been playing the newest addition to the Arkham video game franchise, Batman: Arkham Origins.  I can not tell you enough how enjoyable this game was!  Ever since I was a child, I have been a huge fan of Batman and his gallery of rouges.  One of the greatest additions to this game was the Deathstroke downloadable campaign challenges.  While it may be fun being the good guy, being the bad guy from time to time has its moments as well! 

Deathstroke, as seen in the screen-shot below, plays very similiar to Batman in the game.

Image

(image taken from the Arkham Origins website.

In the video below, you can see just how similar Deathstroke’s fighting style is to Batmans.  He even has own array of gadgets.  However, I will say that I feel, in my personal opinion of course, that Deathstroke’s fighting seems to be a bit more fluid than Batman’s.  While Batman fights with agility and Deathstroke seems to fight with a sense of swiftness.

Introduction to the Wonderful World of Podcasts

I find it a bit ironic that as privy as I am to pop-culture and the latest trends, it was not until recently that I finally caved and decided to get myself a Facebook.  Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer the face-to-face method of speaking to one another.  I know how crazy that may sound, but it really is not a convoluted as you may think.  We have become an introverted society, constantly avoiding interaction as we stare at our phones instead of becoming the extroverts we were meant to be, looking up towards progress and social interaction.

Regardless, I understand the convenience of it all so don’t write me off as some nut-job who simply wants to stand in the way of what many of you may refer to as social-media driven progress.  I understand the importance of convenience – trust me, I do!

With that said, I have also recently found myself drawn to the fascinating world of podcasts.  What exactly is a podcast, you ask?  Podcasts, defined as a type of digital media with an episodic series of files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication, are a great way to consume information.

Like I said, I became fascinated with podcasts and sought to find out as much information as I could about them.  During my search, I stumbled across a wonderful article on how to find the very best podcasts, “How to Evaluate Podcasts: Tips for Finding the Best Podcasts.”

I knew I was headed in the right direction once I found out the author of this article was none other than Andrew Walsh, a college instructor and reference librarian  who happens to be the founder of Social Web Q and A and its parent entity SocialWebEnterprises.com

Walsh starts off my mentioning that since podcasts are most commonly listened to on portable media players, such as iPods or our Smart Phones, you can keep up with the news or learn a new subject during your daily commute or wherever else you happen to be. In order to get the newest files, you can either go out to the publisher’s website, or subscribe using a software program like iTunes so the episodes automatically come to your device.

What is even more interesting is that anyone can create a podcast, so there is a varied and exciting mix of different perspectives out there for your enjoyment.  However, doing a little podcast quality control will greatly improve your experience, and this article outlined some things that I believe you should look for when evaluating podcasts.

First, Walsh states that you should determine whether the podcast’s style is a good match for you.  I think that is pretty common sense seeing as we all have varying preferences.  Since a podcast is just a format for delivering content, there are a plethora of different styles, formats and lengths.  Some podcasts are well-structured and to the point, while others are more of an entertainment experience filled with colorful personalities and plenty of casual chatter.  There are even some that are produced by professional media organizations, where others are done by independent folks with an opinion to share.

Second, Walsh declares that you need to verify that the speakers are qualified to discuss the topic.  I could not agree with that statement more!  There are some many people out there today with access to the kind of technology that enables them to create podcast, and just because they have an opinion on something, does not necessarily make them qualified to talk about it.

Walsh continues by saying that when he is evaluating a new podcast, he does a little digging to find out more about the people who are giving the show.  He says that this is less crucial when you are listening to a podcast produced by a large media company such as the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but in most other cases, you will want to research the speaker’s background and experience as well as possible incentives that might affect what they say.

Lastly, Walsh mentions that you should watch for excessive advertising.  Fortunately, the vast majority of podcasts are free to listen to, but many content providers include advertising in order to gain some revenue from their efforts.  This nonsense can include messages from corporate sponsors or even quick plugs for premium services offered by the podcast publisher.  One thing to keep in mind is the fact that the sponsored messages will usually be spoken by the same people who do the rest of the show.  If you are only half-listening and miss the sentence about an upcoming advertisement, you might mistakenly think that the host is simply talking about a product or service without any financial incentive. For many people, this is less likely to happen with text-based content online because we see so many ads every day that they become easy to spot.

After reading all of this information, I decided to try out the information I obtained and use to analyze a random podcast.  At the end of the article, Walsh gave a few links to the best podcasts of 2012.  I decided that I would try out a podcast on How Stuff Works Podcasts– a site with several interesting podcasts from the staff of HowStuffWorks.com, including Stuff to Blow Your Mind, TechStuff and Stuff You Missed in History Class.

Feeling that I wouldn’t mind having my mind blown, I went with that topic!

This particular series was indeed a part of a regular podcast series.  By what I could tell, it appeared that the hosts, Robert and Julie, came out with a new podcast every day or two.  I also noticed that there was a section for a transcript of the actual podcast.  Immediately, I realized that they had made their series “accessible!”

However, the podcast I chose to listen to was title, The Dexter of Parasites.  The premise of this episode dealt with the television character, Dexter, and how in the same way he preyed on other serial killers, parasitic organisms are targeted by parasites as well.  Needless to say, my mind was blown.

The podcast consisted of a lot of banter between the hosts, informational mostly, but also comical in a way that made it enjoyable.  After listening to it, I could see what attracted so many people to podcasts.  They are convenient, informative, and most of all, a great way to pass the time.

How accessible is my website?

In my last post, I reviewed an insightful article that I had read which discussed the accessibility of a website.  The article itself was extremely helpful and furthered my understanding of what it truly meant for a website to be accessible.

With that in mind, I thought I would see just how accessible my own website is based on the Section 508 guidelines found on the site WebAim (web accessibility in mind).  This blog post will be dedicated to my findings.  In doing so, I hope that you may learn from the mistakes I may or may not have made.  For further assistance in understanding what it is I am trying to convey, or to just simply learn more, you may find Jim Thatcher’s Section 508 Tutorial helpful.

The following standards that I will be discussing are excerpted from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, §1194.22.  The pass/fail criteria that is associated with each standard represent an interpretation of Section 508 web standards.  However, what I discus is technically NOT official Section 508 documentation.  For the full text of Section 508, please see the official government 508 web site.

The first 508 standard, section A, states that a text equivalent for every non-text element needs to be provided (e.g., via “alt”, “longdesc”, or in element content).  What this means, is that in order to pass this standard, basically every image or embedded media that conveys content needs to have equivalent alternative text.  An example of what this will look like is seen below:

<p><img src=”Images/headshot.jpg” alt=”Headshot Achievement” ></p>

As you may have guessed, a site will fail this standard if a non-text element has no alt or text description or the description is not equivalent, or is not described in the adjacent text.

Unfortunately, upon review of my site, I noticed that I neglected to provide sufficient alt text.  Instead, I mindlessly copied and pasted my image code one after another- repeating the information.  Now that I understand alt text better, I can make these changes in order to make my site a bit more accessible.

Section A goes on to say that the alternative text should also succinctly describe the content conveyed by the element, without being too verbose (for simple objects) or too vague (for complex objects).  A site would fail this standard if the alternative texts are verbose (“picture of…”, “image of…”, etc.), vague, misleading, inaccurate, or redundant to the context (e.g. the alt text is the same as adjacent text).

Once again, I have noticed that my own site is not accessible in regards to this standard.  While I cited the sources of my images, I neglected to provide the alternative text that should describe the content conveyed by the image.

There are of course a few other guidelines in Section A, but they do not necessarily apply to my web site.  For example, Section A mentions that complex graphics, such as graphs or charts, need to be accompanied by equivalent text, either through a description in the body of the page or a link to a description on a separate page.  While that makes sense, I did not have anything of the sort on my site.  One other guideline mentioned was that transcripts should be provided for audio content.  While I did have video with audio on my web site, I did not have just plain audio.  I feel that the video accompanies the audio.

This last example of Section A brings me to into what Section B has to say about audio/visual components.  It declares that equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation should be synchronized with the presentation.  This means that if there is video, than there should be synchronized captions that accompany it. 

I am sort of torn on this one though.  While my video does not necessarily have synchronized captions, I feel that it does not really need it.  That is, however, just my opinion.  My video is nothing more than a trailer for a video game.  However, the video game itself is completely story driven and depends on the narration of the main character.  The audio in the trailer is purely narration from the game.

Thinking on the issue now, I see that the video would not only be best served with captions/ sub-titles, but that it would also make my site that much more accessible.  By including sub-titles for the narration, I feel that I would enhance the experience the visitors of my website will have.

To conclude this post, I found the Section 508 guidelines to be very helpful and beneficial.  This was my first attempt at creating a website and I was bound to make a mistake or two.  Regardless, I fell confident going forward that I will not make the same mistakes and that my current website and any future sites I create will be accessible.

The Benefits of Accessibility

Continuing along the path to web enlightenment, I came across an article that outright made stop by browsing and read it from start to finish.  The fascinating article was Understanding Web Accessibility, written by Shawn Lawton Henry.  In order for me to appreciate the content of the article more, I decided to learn a bit about Henry and to see what the author’s qualifications were.  Maybe then I could come to some sort of realization on to what exactly influenced the author and made Henry want to write such an immaculately detailed piece of information. 

It turns out that Henry leads worldwide education and outreach promoting web accessibility for people with disabilities at the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Shawn focuses her personal passion for accessibility on bringing together the needs of individuals and the goals of organizations in designing human-computer interfaces.  I found it very interesting, that her TAdER Project provides research and outreach to better understand users’ needs to customize text for readability — specifically, people with low vision, dyslexia, and related conditions that impact reading, including older people.  She has even written a book, Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design, which is available free online, which offers an approach for developing products that are more usable for everyone.

Alright, enough about Henry, let’s move on to the article itself; I am sure you anticipation much be reaching its boiling point by now!  Right off the bat, the thing that made this article so informative is probably the most obvious- the fact that it was basically an introduction to understanding web accessibility (much like the title suggested).

As Henry puts it, accessibility is, well, what makes the information on the web accessible to all sorts of different people, primarily people with disabilities.  With accessible websites, people with disabilities can do ordinary things: children can learn, teenagers can flirt, adults can make a living, seniors can read about their grandchildren, and so on.

According to Henry, With the Web, people with disabilities can do more things themselves, without having to rely on others.  People who are blind can read the newspaper (through screen readers that read aloud text from the computer), and so can people with cognitive disabilities who have trouble processing written information.  Individuals who are deaf can get up-to-the-minute news that was previously available only to those who could hear radio or TV, and so can those who are blind and deaf (through dynamic Braille displays).  People with quadriplegia who cannot move their arms or legs can shop online to get groceries, gadgets, and gifts delivered.   Not only that, but people who cannot speak are able to participate in online discussions, such as through blog comments.

There are even websites, such as the site for the National Federation of the Blind, that are dedicated to developing a rigorous procedure by which web sites and applications that have made special efforts to be accessible to the blind can be identified and recognized.

The possibilities are endless and we now live in a day and age where disabilities no longer define us, nor do they run our lives.  Due to the accessibility the web offers, we have the potential to move past the restrictions our disabilities once put on us, break out of our sheltered shell, and enjoy all that life itself has to offer.

I know I am probably making accessibility out to be more than it really is, but the mere fact that it provides opportunities to participate in society in ways otherwise not available, blows my mind.  Yea, our society may have slipped in the past decade and lost many of its once prestigious morals and principals thanks to Obama’s leadership, but the fact that these individuals have the opportunity to participate is something worth celebrating.

However, celebrating will have to be put on hold until the rest of the web gets in the same boat.  What do I mean?  Well, unfortunately this possibility is not a reality seen throughout the web.  The problem is that most websites have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use them. Adding insult to injury, most web software tools are not sufficiently accessible to people with disabilities, making it difficult or impossible for them to contribute to the web.  This is a very big deal as many millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web.

The article goes on to break down the definition of accessibility, defining it as a means for people with disabilities to be able to use the Web; more specifically, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web.  The article continues to break it down further by listing off various benefits that exist to those with varying disabilities.  Examples from the article are as follows:

  • Some people cannot use their arms or hands to type or move a mouse. Carl had polio and cannot move his arms. He uses a mouth      stick, which is just a wooden dowel with an eraser on the end. Sarah has cerebral palsy and has limited control of her arms and mouth; she uses a headstick.
  • Some people with tremors and older people with diminishing fine motor control can use a keyboard, but not a mouse.  Richard has multiple sclerosis and can move his arms but not with enough precision to control a mouse.
  • Some people cannot see at all and use a screen reader that reads aloud the information in the web page. Neal was born blind.      John started losing his sight from retinitis pigmentosa when he was a young adult. Screen readers are also used by people like Tracy, who can see just fine but have trouble processing written language.
  • Some people have blurry vision and cannot read text unless it is very large. Shawn has a neurological condition that makes it      hard to focus on small text, so she increases the size of text and images in her browser. Richard also has blurry vision. It is common for people to have multiple disabilities.

Although reading about the improved functionality of websites that utilize web accessibility was very informal, it was the various examples Henry gave to provide depth to the topic.  In regards to the creation of my own web site, it was interesting to read that alternative text equivalents, called alt text, are a clear example of web accessibility.  Web pages often include images, but some people cannot see images.  People who cannot see images can get the information contained in the images when web developers include alternative text equivalents for images. An alternative text equivalent provides the same functional information in text as the image provides visually. The markup for image alt text looks like:

                                    <img src="thunder.gif" alt="storms" />

 

Henry continued with article by describing approaches to web accessibility, such as how to understand the issues and how to involve people with disabilities in your project, as well as debunking harmful myths about web accessibility, such as accessibility making site dull and that it is expensive.  She also went on to give additional benefits from a business perspective.

All in all, this was a great article to read and it really opened my eyes.  I implore your to read the article yourself; I guarantee you will learn just as much as I did!