As soon as Christian Heilmann proposed Scripting Enabled I knew he was onto something. Collaborative working between developers and people with disabilities to create accessible hacks that people actually want to use is so the way forward.
This is a similar model to Knowbility’s Accessibility Rallies that provide training for developers in accessibility followed by a three day competition to build an accessible website for a non-profit organisation. The key is that developers get a grounding in what it is that people need therefore taking them beyond technical accessibility to real world accessibility, while we all get shiny new accessible sites.
A win win.
It seems that good things can also come in threes because after Scripting Enabled and Knowbility we have Project:Possibility. While on the Opera Education University Tour last week I met some really smart and enthusiastic students from the University of Southern California who had just taken part in SS12, an accessible code-a-thon organised by Project:Possibility.
Project:Possibility is a nonprofit, community committed to creating open source software for persons with disabilities. Run over a weekend in October the students worked on projects such as accessible multi-IM clients using the Google AxsJax framework, a community captioner and ways for visually impaired users to get directions from Google Maps (an idea also proposed at Scripting Enabled in London).
Google Maps is an interesting case in point here as it has been the focus of much developer attention. During Scripting Enabled in London a team worked on an Easy Google maps interface (based on Christian’s Easy YouTube interface) and more recently Patrick H Lauke wrote about Keyboard Accessible Google maps for Dev Opera. Having been criticised quite heavily by websites owners who want to include Google maps as third party content but can’t for accessibility reasons it’s encouraging to see that there are solutions out there. Let’s hope Google are listening.
I think Project:Possibility is a fantastic way for students to go beyond the text book and get some real hands on experience while benefiting the community. Learning at university can be tough at times when there are deadlines and grades to pursue and it can all get a bit academic (for want of a better word). This is why Opera published the Web Standards Curriculum, another community effort, in an attempt to help give people a framework upon which to build best practice web sites.
I wonder if we could get something like this to happen in colleges and universities in the UK and elsewhere, collaborating with any of the groups talked about in this post? I’d be curious to hear what you think, if this is a viable idea and if you’d be interested in participating. So leave a comment and let me know your thoughts if you have any.