Whether you think Web 2.0 is just marketing hyper-spin, or whether you believe it’s the latest web based revolution, one thing’s for sure: It’s having one hell of an effect on accessibility. The big question though, is whether we learnt our lesson with Web 1.0.
Talking recently to Mary Zajacek of Oxford Brooks University, about her paper on Web 2.0 (presented next week at the W4a conference) it occurred to me again that we’re still fighting a rear guard action in terms of accessibility.
Web 1.0, since I suppose we must call it that, came along and the web as we knew it arrived. Accessibility became a consideration, then grew into a serious movement. Now Web 2.0 has barged onto the scene and it seems that the accessibility movement might be the first against the wall now the revolution has come.
The surprising thing, is that it’s not Web 2.0 that’s to blame. This is the digital age and time and technology wait for no-one. History however, has a habit of lurking around to remind us of the mistakes we already made.
What we didn’t really learn the first time around, was that we need to get to people before they learn to do things the wrong way. It always has been, and always will be, harder to teach someone how to do something differently from the way they’re used to.
At school, children are taught to form letters on the page as they write.
They learn about the building blocks of mathematics. They practice good written and spoken communication, but what they don’t learn is effective online communication.
In nearly every subject, children are provided with a toolkit of skills that enable them to complete tasks successfully. In a world that is increasingly reliant on technology, we must now teach them that accessibility, usability and creative design are part of the toolkit for effective online communication.
If we can encourage children, students, the world, that communicating successfully online is all about reaching people with your information or services, then we’ll be off to a good start. Until that time, all we can do is fire fight and hope for the best.