Mainstream Sites Or Accessible Solutions
Recently I wrote about Accessible Twitter and an accessible CAPTCHA solution. Both solutions were developed because a mainstream application is not accessible for people with disabilities, so people stepped up to come up with a quick solution. In case of Twitter, a site was developed to provide people with disabilities with a more accessible browsing experience. In case of the CAPTCHA, a solution was developed because many web sites offer an image verification system which is not accessible. The question is if it is a good idea to approach accessibility from the back door with such solutions.
Without a doubt, these, and similar solutions offer a way for people with disabilities a remedy to be able to instantly access functionality and information on the internet. Those people and companies who work on such solutions make life easier to millions, and they should be recognized for their efforts.
However, this also sends a message to application developers that they don't need to worry much about accessibility, due to the frustration of millions, somebody will step up, and create something which will eliminate the accessibility barrier. With solutions like Accessible Twitter, or a human aided CAPTCHA solutions, they are essentially off the hook, and can continue their inaccessible coding and design practices.
So, theoretically, it would be a more compelling argument to say that as long as such solutions do not exist, if web sites want to have 20 percent more visitors, users and potential customers, they should be responsible for making their sites accessible.
But what happens to those, who in the meantime are not able to participate? Those, for example, who are not able to pass the image verification, thus cannot use a social networking site which would make their work easier? They will become less productive, and essentially be deprived of services which are, on paper, available to all. They don't even have a fair chance that these inaccessibility problems will be fixed in the relatively near future. Let alone, at all.
The question is really hanging in the air, there isn't a good solution. For a long-term solution, I would recommend holding off with the accessible solutions, and put pressure on developers to make their products accessible to all. But for all practical purposes, it doesn't work. At this age, we cannot say that something will be available sometime, maybe in years. We need to step up, and allow access for people with disabilities as soon as possible. In practice, I do support sites like Accessible Twitter, and solutions like a human aided CAPTCHA.
What do you think? What's the better choice? Is there a better alternative? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.