Good & Bad Accessibility in the Pacific Northwest

Today, I want to share two quick things about accessibility (one web, one not) that are both local to MRW Web Design.

Seattle Public Schools Accessibility Lawsuit

A faithful blog reader let me know about this first story after reading last week’s post on the lawsuit against Harvard and M.I.T. for not captioning videos.

Despite minimal news coverage, Seattle Public Schools was sued recently because their website was not accessible to screen readers. Unfortunately, as is often the case including with Harvard and M.I.T., the lawsuit followed multiple attempts by a parent to notify the district of the problems after a 2012 website update made less accessible than it had been. The district is now fast-tracking a CMS upgrade to resolve the issue as part of the settlement.

In trying to learn more about the suit, I came across the blog post, “Avoid the Undertow of Web Accessibility Lawsuits” that made a good point:

For every lawsuit that gets big headlines (such as the Target litigation), there are countless smaller lawsuits and informal settlement agreements that all require Web accessibility. The waters may seem tranquil enough on the surface, but there’s a strong undercurrent pushing towards web accessibility.

In promoting last week’s post about accessibility lawsuits, I thought this summed it up pretty well:

(Here’s the list of better reasons for accessibility.)

A Cool Example of Physical Accessibility

I recently spent a long weekend in Vancouver. Wandering around Robson Square while waiting for dinner ((We ate at Shizen Ya which is probably the best vegetarian-friendly Japanese restaurant I’ve ever been to. Ignore the name and try the Geisha Girl Roll!)), we discovered a really cool staircase with a built-in ramp:

People can choose to either use the stairs or ramp, the latter of which would be useful for countless groups of people including those in wheelchairs, with strollers or carts, using walkers or crutches, and even on roller-blades.

This immediately struck me as a beautiful example of universal design. This entry to a lower area of the square is accessible to almost anyone and does so without having to add the accessibility features “on top.” This is now my favorite piece of presumably-1970s-era all-concrete architecture (though the competition is not stiff).

And what does that have to do with the web? There are lots of examples of universal design on the web where an accessibility feature helps all sorts of people do many tasks. Take video captioning as an example. From a footnote in last week’s post:

[Leaving captions off videos] also makes it much harder for users to search for specific references in the course, review the contents of the course, and access materials over a slow internet connection that can’t stream video.

Update 3:28pm PST: I shared this post on Twitter today and got some awesome feedback from @udpartners:

These are really great points and a reminder of how hard design is!

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