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The future of accessibility – New Year, New Dreams

By Donna Jodhan

As I sit here in my favourite chair listening to the cold Canadian winter wind beat softly against my windows, I am aware that snowflakes are falling gently outside, and I can hear the crunch of boots against firmly-packed snow on the ground. It’s time for me to start imagining and dreaming; maybe it’s the time of year that does this to me, but boy, is it fun to do.

This evening, I am going to use the flickering lights of my Christmas tree to help put me in the mood and I would like to dream a bit about what it could be like for blind people if access technology were able to communicate more effectively with mainstream technology, as well as with websites.

There’s no harm in dreaming, and one never knows what could be just around the corner. Access technology has made some major leaps and bounds over the years but the time may have come for us to start pushing harder for a more co-operative environment – a landscape where all stakeholders could work together to open wide the doors and help build a future where full accessibility is a reality, not just something that’s seen as nice to have.

It may not be beyond the realms of possibility to imagine:

1: The price of access technology being made more affordable as more developers engage in open source software development. There is already quite a bit of this going on, and somehow I feel confident that this trend is only going to become more popular as time moves on.

2: A flood of apps emerging to enable blind and sight-impaired people to function more independently with their hand-held devices. This trend has already started, and if we could convince manufacturers that it is a necessity that can benefit people other than the blind and sight-impaired, then who knows – the sky’s the limit! More manufacturers could easily be convinced to follow in Apple’s footsteps.

3: More web developers allowing access technology to communicate more easily with their content, forms and documents. A world where governments, companies and web designers and developers would finally see the light and embrace opportunities to create a situation where everybody wins out.

4: Access technology hugely expanding career possibilities for blind and sight-impaired people, by allowing them to access information more independently and quickly and to communicate more easily with the sighted world.

5: Social networks being made much easier to use, if we can all work out ways to enable access technology to communicate more effectively with social network websites, chatrooms, skype and so on.

So 2011 is going to be a very interesting year. Governments are going to hear more from us and companies are going to be told that more people will be demanding greater access to their products and services. Could 2011 be the start of an era where we get to work more closely with the sighted world? Why not?

If I were able to wave my cane and make it all happen, then my dearest wish would be that blind and sight-impaired kids would be able to grow up in a world where accessibility would be a natural part of their daily lives, and blind and sight-impaired older people would be able to enjoy golden years of virtual socialising.

With very best wishes for a wonderful year.
Donna J. Jodhan.

NOTE: Donna Jodhan is an accessibility consultant who is involved in an ongoing legal battle with the Canadian government over accessibility of its websites. For the latest see news, this issue. Donna’s blog can be found here: http://bit.ly/efW0Vj

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