How did I get involved with accessibility?

I suppose it goes back to when I started to learn HTML. I started by learning from a book, and with the guidance of my other half. Within a year I had leant HTML 4. By the end of the next year I was already dabbling in CSS. That was 5-6 years ago.

3 years ago my other half started business as a web designer. The initial take up was slow, but she kept going.

During this period a website we are both involved in decided to upgrade the whole site to XHTML 1 strict. The L-Space Web is a website devoted to Terry Pratchett, award winning author of the Discworld Novels. This was a major undertaking, the site had been in existence since circa 1994. However, along with our fellow maintainers, we have virtually brought it up to scratch. the site is still in need of a major overhaul, but hopefully this upgrade will have made this easier when the time comes.

I actually maintain a fair few sections of L-Space, too many these days, but it is still enjoyable now as it was when I first started. The upgrade taught me to write clean mark up, which was and is a great benefit.

Through her contacts she became involved with the Leicester Disability Information Network website. This portal was created for users with varying usability issues. The leader of the project, Justin Hammond, was dyslexic, which in itself caused a few problems.

Icons were created to try and help those with reading difficulties, the mark up was as clean as possible to aid everyone, and CSS was used extensively. the project as a whole, which incorporates the website, was nominated for several accesibility awards.

As a result of this she learnt a lot about accessibility, and usability, with regard to web sites.

How does this affect me, well obviously some of the things she learnt rubbed off on me. Although I am not able to work for various reasons, I did do some background research, and testing, for the website.

Following on from that I became intrigued by the whole concept, and starting to migrate the majority of my site to XHTML, with as many WAI checkpoints covered as possible. Of course maintaining my site is always bottom of the pile, I prefer to work on other projects. I still have major doubts about some of the guidelines laid out, as does any self respecting web designer/developer. But I hope I am able to design sites that are both accessible, usable, and ‘nice’. What still lets me down is my lack of graphical skills, but that will grow as time progresses.

I still continue to do things in the background, though it is always in my free time, and done for free!! One day i hope to get paid work that I can do from home, until that time, I continue doing the odd bit here and there.

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