Only Consumers, Not Creators?

A recent post on Movable Tweak listed a few things the author would like to see changed in Movable Type. All well and good, until I read the following comment by Su:

Ajax: Meh. It’s possible to avoid buzzwords while still buying into the hype, you know. AJAX has serious usability(and accessibility) issues that haven’t even all been discovered yet. While I wouldn’t particularly object(actually, even care) if more software made use of it, I can think of many reasons to avoid it for the time being.

And the follow-up by Jesse Gardner:

Su, I completely I agree that accessibility is important! That’s one of the mantras of my design business. And I am familiar with many of the AJAX accessibility issues, but we’re talking about using it to power an application. Perhaps others would disagree with me, but I think sacraficing accessibility in an application for the sake of enhancing the UI is an acceptable loss. For instance, have you ever tried to use MT with javascript off? Many of it’s features depend on javascript (try to rebuild!) but I would consider than an acceptable risk, considering all of the benefits we draw from it. Also, keep in mind, AJAX accessibility problems are usually issues like working with screen readers, using the back button and clean urls, most of which don’t really matter as much in an application setting (again, see Google Maps).

I get the distinct impression that in this comment, accessibility is treated as an important consideration only in OUTPUT, and not in the TOOLS that are used to create that output.

Do people with disabilities not want to create content? Would they consider it an acceptable loss to sacrifice accessibility and render the tool unusable for them just so the rest of us could have an enhanced UI? Would they think it “doesn’t really matter”?

Do you?

(I’ve never given much thought to whether people with disabilities would be able to use Movable Type to create websites, and that reflects poorly on me since I have often promoted its virtues to others. Time to ask more questions.)

4 thoughts on “Only Consumers, Not Creators?

  1. Tilt

    I had to read the second comment multiple times, but I don’t think it’s talking about tools — I think it’s just a rehashing of the old argument about how you balance lots of cool gizmos and geegaws in your UI with accessibility and usability concerns.

    I don’t think Ajax has any fundamental impediments from a accessibility standpoint on the part of the coder — at least no more than any other challenges a developer would have to face if they need accessibility features, like screen readers for code, or magnification, or speech recognition tools, or whatever. Usability, of course, in the world of coding is a horrible joke of evil and ill-conceived APIs that we all inflict upon each other because of our general hatred of humanity.

  2. tilt

    Oh, and also that I think the second comment is essentially arguing that there are some kinds of applications (like Google Maps) for which the normal Ajax accessibility concerns don’t apply, and that — in general — accessibility/usability is about smart design, and doesn’t flow inherently from tools.

    But I’ve never used Ajax myself, so I don’t really know what the issues are.

  3. unwiredben

    I think there’s an interesting dynamic between easy and possible. Making a site or tool accessible means making it possible to do everything if the user is differently able. I think it’s quite possible to do lots of interesting AJAXy things which might not benefit a blind user, while still providing the ability for a blind user to post and manage a MT blog. In fact, MT is flexible enough and exposes enough internals where making a user interface that works well for non-sighted users is quite possible.

    For tools, the big problem is architecture. If you bind the system’s capabilities too tightly with how they are presented, it’s tough to hook in ways to make it easy. However, keeping that separated means that not only can you provide alternative interfaces for the blind, but you can make it accessible to scripts and power users. Thinking about accessibility means you have a higher quality tool for everyone, in my experience.

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