Disability Discrimination – hypocrisy in action

Normally, I would be quicker off the mark with some choice criticisms of the latest .net magazine, but now that I live on the cultural equivalent of Pluto, it takes a while for the magazine to get to me. That said, by page 10 (ironically first full page of content) there is enough to make me want to choke the lives out of the editorial team.

For background, .net is a webdesign magazine and regularly has articles about how important it is to make sure your web sites are accessible – and meet the requirements of the DDA – as well as a monthly “agony aunt” style column which gives out best practice advice. In the last two years, I don’t think a single issue has had less than two pages worth of accessibility advice. Quite rightly this advice emphasises how people should aim for broad audiences and go out of their way to not exclude one category or another.

Now, keeping that in mind, this months “Mail of the Month” is from “Ann Thulin” who describes herselve as “a woman and old” and feels that .net discriminates against her. She points out that in previous months there have been complaints about the insane choice of tiny fonts and colours which are so un-contrasting as to be almost invisible. Ms Thulin puts forward a well written rant, basically saying that as an older person, her eyes are not strong enough to read the text properly and that despite the previous excuses used by .net team (“not our fault – technical problems”, the accessibility issues are actually the result of a human making the (ill)informed choice that 6pt pale grey goes well against off-white paper. I am not old, and I am not disabled and I find it hard to read the articles sometimes – especially as the magazine team seem obsessed with geometric shapes which draw the eye away from already badly contrasted text. The layout is, from an accessibility point of view, almost criminally bad.

You would think, given the monthly obsession about accessibility, that .net would take this seriously. If this was about a website (as previous months “Access all areas” will attest), then the ranting about ensuring the content was accessible and available to all would be almost non-stop. If the .net team were reviewing a corporate website with such bad accessibility issues it would be crucified.

In reality, this is the response (in full):

Wow, that’s some indictment. It’s a little unfair to call us lazy, as we’re still looking at improving areas of low contrast n the magazine. Buy you’re right about one thing: we don’t plan to increase our font size. Our average reader is 31 years old, and it’s with this age group in mind that we design the magazine. Lastly, we’re not sure what Bill Gates has to do with the price of fish, but definitely wouldn’t change our font size for him.

Strikes me as that is a long winded way of telling Ms Thulin to “f**k off, we don’t care about you old farts.” I am amazed that any editorial staff allowed such a blatant dismissal of their readership be printed. Before I go on, the Gates reference is because Ms Thulin said that if she was Uncle Bill, she thought .net would change – I assume implying that if she was rich and male, she would have more impact on their policies. It strikes me, that despite the “witty” response, she is right here.

.net editorial team are lazy. They have had months to pick up on this accessibility issue but still haven’t bothered their arses. The think which infuriated me was the dismissive “we cater for 31 year olds” remark.  If I was Ms Thulin, I would seriously consider getting legal advice on this – it strikes me as being both discriminatory towards people for age and disability. Everything about the response is wrong. Annoyingly wrong.

For example, it implies that 31 year olds have perfect eyesight and colour perception. This is not the case by any stretch of the imagination. I very much doubt that what ever research .net carried out looked into eyesight of their readers. It is not dissimilar to saying “our average reader wears size 8 shoes so we don’t care about your problems reading the text.” They have committed the cardinal discrimination sin and made assumptions about eyesight based solely on age.

Saying the average reader is 31 is pretty meaningless as well. Is the circulation of .net amongst 31 year olds so prevalent that no other age group is important? What about all the 14 and 15 year olds who read the magazine – based against that there will be dozens of people in their 40s, 50s, and sixties or beyond. When you factor in the increased incidence of eyesight problems amongst people who work day in, day out on IT, you see that if anything, .net should be obsessive about accommodating for visual disabilities. If there were any doubt, 20% of the regular contributors and 40% of the “Ask the Experts” panel are shown wearing glasses. Do these people not count? Obviously not.

Given that there is a legal and moral obligation to accommodate people with disabilities (and not discriminate against people on the grounds of age) it is breathtaking that .net magazine feel the integrity of their layout is so important that they can ignore genuine complaints. Does the DDA not apply to web design magazines?

With this blinding disregard for their readership (disabilities or otherwise), it will amuse me no end to read their continued articles going on about how important “accessibility” is…

[tags].net, hypocrites, Accessibility, DDA, Disability, Discrimination, Disability Discrimination Act, Web Design, Magazines, Technolog[/tags]

CAPTCHA – Work of the Devil

Every one knows that allowing bots to post things on people’s behalf is a bad thing. I mean it contributes to spam comments on blogs – which no one likes. Obviously anything which works against this evil is a GoodThing®?

Well, no. I don’t agree. First off, there are better ways to prevent things like automated signups, automated submissions and spam bots. More importantly, they are such an annoying thing I can’t for one second think they do not drive visitors/subscribers and commenters away. Now, I would love to see the business model of a website (especially a “Web 2.0” one) which is happy to drive a percentage (however small) of it’s customers away.

Now, I am healthy, have good eyesight and fully functional manual control – and I have a hard enough time getting round some of the CAPTCHAs out there. I dread to think what it is like for people who have even slight visual impairments or motor co-ordination issues. Over the last few weeks, I have suffered numerous, infuriating, problems with CAPTCHAs on sites which really should know better. Continue reading