Today the Accessify Forum celebrates its sixth birthday. In that time we’ve seen over 60,000 posts, and membership currently stands at about 9,000. For a forum dedicated to web accessibility, I think that’s pretty good.
Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the forum is the wonderful debates we’ve seen over the years. As I wrote back in March, web accessibility relies upon discussion and debate to develop. There are often blurred lines between right and wrong, and real-world accessibility is far from binary. Only through honest debate can we arrive at anything close to the best answer to the questions that the subject poses.
Work is ongoing to improve the forum, with many changes already applied to improve the overall usability of the site. For me, though, one key thing which would make the forum better would be the presence of more users for whom the issues of web accessibility have a direct impact. We do have a small number of blind and visually impaired members, as well as members with a variety of other conditions, all of whom add tremendous value to the discussions and often report issues which surprise even the experts. But I often feel that we’re too heavily reliant on these few individuals for their opinions and experiences, and having a broader range of members would improve the discussions no end.
‘Real world’ experience
Accessibility testers know the immense value of getting feedback from a ‘real person’ facing ‘real problems’ with a website (as opposed to obsessing over code validation and automated testing, which can only tell you part of the story and which most decision makers don’t understand anyway). I myself have seen the horror on the faces of individuals when shown video of a user struggling with their site. The evidence that their website is discriminating against real people, due solely to the barriers which their website has put up, becomes undeniable. It’s a profound thing to watch, by all accounts epiphanous, and one which changes the way people think about the web and everyone’s right to access information.
As a moderator, I would naturally invite and encourage everyone to head over to Accessify Forum and sign up. But more urgently, I would ask anyone who feels comfortable to talk about their disabilities to head over there, perhaps offer a site critique or two, and bestow upon people the immeasurable value of your own experience. Perhaps you will provide the next epiphany to make the web that little bit more inclusive.
Happy Birthday Accessify Forum.