I’m not sure why but 2008 has been the year of the wiki in accessibility circles. As the field of accessibility has got more vast and complex so have people’s need for detail and areas of specialism making it almost impossible to stay on top of everything. This can be quite bewildering for anyone trying to build accessible web pages, especially when knowledge is spread around countless blogs and forums, so wiki’s really do seem like the way forward.
But are we in danger of spreading ourselves too thin?
I thought I’d do a quick round up of what’s out there and what’s in the pipeline. The roundup focuses on wiki’s that the web developer may find useful even though a few are targeted more at the end user. It’s not comprehensive by any means, there’s an awful lot out there that deserves a mention but I thought I’d look at the wiki’s that I tend to stumble across in my everyday wanderings as an accessibility person. If I’ve missed any then leave a comment and I’ll add it in.
Scripting Enabled, as the name suggests, is all about using scripts to enable access for people with disabilities to sites that are otherwise highly problematic to access. Mainly a collaboration between people who have specific access requests and developers who can hack work arounds the wiki is a solutions base rather than just informative and educative. It’s also intended as a place where developers can be crowd sourced to make ideas happen.
Global Assitive Technology
The Global Assitive Technology wiki, set up by AbilityNet a UK charity specialising in technology for people with disabilities, is a collection of up to date information on all aspects of assistive technology. It’s mainly a wiki providing information about what hardware and software are out there for users and but also stands to be useful for researchers and developers.
Similar to Scripting Enabled Project:Possibility is a community project that is committed to creating open source software for persons with disabilities. They sponsor university code-a-thon’s in the States and then document accessible hacks they have created on their wiki. Well worth a look and great to see this level of commitment within the university system.
Targeted specifically at the developer Codetalks is a great repository of information that covers making Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and widgets accessible using the Accessible Rich Internet Application specification from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI ARIA). As well as links to resources and tutorials it also documents ongoing projects.
I had hoped that this wiki would have a section listing “accessibility-supported” technologies; in other words technologies “that work with assistive technologies and the accessibility features of user agents” as defined under WCAG 2.0 . A list of “accessibility supported” technologies would massively help people when implementing WCAG 2.0 and ARIA. Other than that this is a great resource and one to watch.
Accessibility – MozillaWiki
With an emphasis on Firefox, as you’d expect, the MozillaWki documents specifics around technical accessibility including WAI ARIA, projects and drafts for Gecko, FireFox’s rendering engine. A useful resource if you need to know about all things Mozilla.
Accessibility – Second Life wiki
Available in English, Spanish and French (bravo!) the Second Life Accessibility wiki is a resource aimed at end users documenting what accessibility features are available in Second Life. Despite being low on information at the moment it acts as a great help and support resource. What would be great to see added however is references to research and work going on by Linden Labs, other organisations and individuals around accessibility in Second Life.
While aimed at blind contributors Blind wiki aims to document information about accessibility, technology, helpful tools, tips and links for visually impaired users. Probably the most interesting page on there looks at making Media Wiki a screen reader accessible wiki.
Accessify – watch this space
Coming soon is the Accessify accessibility wiki. Originally an idea conceived by Jon Gibbon’s (aka Dotjay) to put together a repository of videos of people with disabilities using the web this has grown into more of an all round resource for people looking for web design information. To find out more and how to contribute see the thread about it on Accessify Forum.
One last thought..
It’s great to see these wiki’s out there but it does make me wonder, is there enough room on the web for all these wiki’s? Could we be in danger of a wiki-crunch on a global scale much in the same was that we have been warned of the decline of the blogging by co-founder of Weblogs and ex-blogger Jason Calacania as reported in this months .Net?
I can’t help thinking that if we’re not careful we’re in danger of having ones that contain little content or eventually fall by the wayside if they’re not shown a little love. This may or may not be a bad thing as we see survival of the fittest, and hopefully therefore the most useful, but what we don’t want is to duplicate or spread information to thin in the meantime.
The other thing I think that may be holding back these public wiki’s is that so many organisations now have internal wiki’s and people’s efforts are concentrated there. Perhaps there is mileage in organisations opening up their wiki’s or contributing content?
So if there’s a wiki that does it for you start contributing today. From a developer perspective my money’s on Scripting Enabled and Codetalks; both wiki’s focusing on specific and topical areas of accessibility that need to be addressed if people with disabilities are not going to be left behind on today’s web. Also, with the brains and dedication behind the proposed Accessify wiki, coupled with the fact that it’s one of the most popular sites around, I think there could be some good things happening there as well so watch that space…