Category Archives: Against Disablism

Blogging Against Sexism – A Belated Entry

Better late than never: my post for Blogging Against Sexism, submitted before International Womens Day slips off the International Date Line.

With various ideas about this, I finally decided that I would just reflect on the sexism that I have observed in my adopted country, Australia.

I should begin by saying that I live in a rural community – what I have observed may not reflect the situation in the cities here (at least the more cosmopolitan bits of the cities).

After having realised that I had missed the boat for International Womens Day, at least in my time zone, I decided to let things go and wait until next year. It was then that a local woman of my acquaintance (ie: my wife) made a comment – an assumption that a librarian was a woman – that I thought that maybe I should have a voice, at least to say how deeply ingrained sexism is in the rural culture.

In a small town, not far from here, there is a clothes shop. It sells mens and womens clothes. It offers a free alterations service – for mens clothes only. When I first heard of this, liberal minded Brit that I am, my jaw just dropped. Had I not only moved to another continent, but also into a previous century?

A closer look at the roles of women in the workplace and other roles by gender does not paint a nice picture; I understand 19th Century attitudes in older people, but it is not just older people that I am observing. The communities hereabouts are horribly and distressingly sexist. Possibly I am just a foreigner misunderstanding the culture in which I am now living, but it really does look bad to me.

I can only hope that increased penetration of the Internet into rural areas will help rid us of sexism and all the other “isms” as well.

Here ends my piece. I just wish that it could have been more positive – and on time!

Further Social Inclusion posts should follow on the 1st of May – Blogging for Disablism Day.

British Parliament Debates Coeliac Disease

British coeliac sufferers can take heart at this parliamentary debate, as reported by Hansard.

Gordon Banks, parliamentary member for Ochil and South Perthshire, himself a coeliac suffer did well to raise this debate, and I hope that we see this go somewhere.

Whilst Britain may be behind Italy (as would appear to be all other nations) in awareness of and facilities for coeliac disease/gluten intolerance, dialogues like this can only be seen as progress.

Web Accessibility – A Small Part of a Jigsaw

Where does Accessibility start, and where does it end? For most,Accessibility is about creating Web content that can be accessed universally, with reference to whatever version of the WorldWide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Even for Web Accessibility, things do not end there. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a process that also includes the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG).

The ATAG has a two-fold purpose: "…to assist developers in designing authoring tools that produce accessible Web content and to assist developers in creating an accessible authoring interface."

The UAAG "…provides guidelines for designing user agents that lower barriers to Web accessibility for people with disabilities…".

So, not only do we have pathways for creating accessible content, but also for having an accessible means of creating that accessible content and of rendering that content. Developers of Web content would do well to familiarise themselves with ATAG and UAAG, as these can both impact on what happens to their content, and how it comes into being in the first place. (Badly coded user agents and authoring tools are NOT, in the authors view, an excuse for producing bad content.)

This is, however, still only a small part of a jigsaw. accessibility does not stop here. Close your user agent (browser) and your authoring tool – be it a sophisticated Content Management System or a lowly text editor. What are you left with? The computer's operating system. And just how accessible is that?

Those who have spent considerable time testing and repairing the accessibility of their content, should open their minds and apply a similar process to the operating system as a whole. Just how accessible is it? Does it make unexpected sounds and movement that might confuse? Can it be operated with a keyboard or pointing device alone?

Also have a look at other applications on your computer. How intuitive and accessible are they? Would they, if presented as Web content, pass the test?

Then move a little further back (literally). Look at the computer itself, the positioning and ergonomics of the display, keyboard and locator. Are these as fully accessible as they could be for you? Or for another person?

The further away from which we look, the more we can see of the jigsaw puzzle that is accessibility. It neither starts nor ends with Web content, but Web content is nevertheless a crucial piece, without which, the puzzle would be incomplete.

Now that we have seen the shape of the puzzle (and looked at the picture on the lid of the box), we should be better placed to fit in our little piece of Web Accessibility – in the right place and the right way around.

OzeWAI 2006

The OzeWAI Web Accessibility conference is now underway in Melbourne. Due to health issues, I am not there. I have, however, just been there by "telepresence", narrating my presentation via Skype.

This wasn’t the easiest presentation I have made – I could hear virtually nothing from the other end and I was getting my own voice coming back at full volume with an approximate 250ms delay.

Hoping to be there in person next year, or at least to have streaming audio.

Life Without Gluten – Introduction

Life Without Gluten is the latest category of articles to be added to Smiffy’s Place. My wife has recently discovered that she has a gluten intolerance, which has made life somewhat complicated, not only for her, when buying food or eating out, but for me, as the cook.

Living in a country where wheat is one of the main staples, the provision of gluten-free foods goes beyond a health issue; it is, in fact, an issue of social inclusion, as is the provision of foods free of other staples that contain common allergens (dairy, eggs, soy, etc).

In my Life Without Gluten series of articles, I will be sharing our experiences trying to obtain gluten-free foods, both in the supermarket and in restaurants and also any gluten-free recipes that I have developed or tested and that I deem worthy of note.

If you have experiences in this subject that you would like to share, please send e-mails to the address at the
bottom of the page.

Different Accessibility Issues with Web Content

This article appeared originally in the October newsletter of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS) and provides the framework of a session that I will be presenting at this years
OzeWAI conference. Anyone who has experiences that they would like to share regarding using the Web whilst suffering from fatigue issues is invited to mail me at the address at the bottom of the page. (Note that this is a temporary address, subject to frequent change; those who know my real address are encouraged to use it.)


When creating accessible Web content, we need to consider the needs of people with a number of issues which include but are not limited to:

  • Sensory impairments
  • Impaired mobility
  • "Different" hardware/software (not a PC with Internet Explorer with an 800×600 screen resolution)
  • Cognitive and print disabilities

I guess that most people reading this are nodding at this point, saying, "yes, I am aware of all these issues, and a load of other ones".

Allow me to introduce an issue which is rarely mentioned, or considered. I write from direct, personal, experience but am sure that others will be able to identify with at least some of the aspects.

Chronic Fatigue and Friends

I am tired. I am tired all the time to the point of incapacity. Whilst this has been tagged conveniently as "Chronic Fatigue" I have two underlying issues – sleep apnoea (apnea to our friends in the USA) and thyroid/adrenal insufficiencies.

Note that the effects of my fatigue problems, whilst ongoing for me, can affect other people for other reasons – jetlag, over-work, teething infants, and more.

So what has this got to do with accessible Web design? Everything.

Before my sleep apnoea was treated, I used to suffer from "microsleeps" this is where I would, throughout the day, keep falling asleep for fractions of a second (like narcolepsy). On an everyday basis, this meant that I
could not safely drive, use power tools, have a bath, etc.

When trying to read a Web page, I would often have to start a good ten, twelve times (and still had to give up on many occasions). This problem was worst when there were large, unbroken blocks of text and/or wide columns.
My work-around was to increase the font size, although this did not help me when language was excessively complex. A clear layout with small chunks of text and plain language made my life much easier in this respect.

Multi-column layouts (more than two) were an issue for me in the apnoea days and still are in "Chronic Fatigue Mode" although slightly less so. I hate cluttered layouts; when the mind is tired and wandering, bits of content all over the place – especially when there are bits of navigation in several different places – is hugely distracting and very frustrating.
Blogs are amongst the worst offenders – what is with trying to cram so much onto a single page? Something to linearise the layout would help me here, a simple and tidy design would eliminate the need.

Movement. Argh! I would like to see a guideline "Do not allow any form of movement on a page without first asking the user’s permission." When the slightest distraction can make a page hard to read, any movement (often advertisements in the form of animated images or Flash) can actually push
"hard to read" to the level of "unuseable" As a user of the Firefox user agent (Web browser), the AdBlock extension is my saviour here, allowing me to "ban" distracting and/or annoying advertising (and other) content.

One thing that I would point out is that those with fatigue issues can be very irritable (just ask my wife). The hard-to-read page full of distractions can make for one very annoyed reader (take my word for it); if you are trying to influence that reader to buy something, support a cause, vote for someone – you may well have just sent them off to the

Name and Shame!

If you have a mobility impairment, and a permit to park in mobility/disability parking spaces, you have experienced the inability of using those spaces because someone who didn't have a permit parked there illegally. It happens, everyday, everywhere.

Thus begins the introduction to a new, international, initiative to name and shame those who park in disabled (handicapped) parking spaces who have no right (or need) to do so.

Whether the inconsiderate type of person that actually does this would respond to (or even notice) being stigmatised for their actions remains to be seen, but this blogger rather likes the idea.

UPDATE – I have added this to my new category, Accessibility Rogues Gallery, as this site is performing much the same task, to my mind. Name and shame! Heh, heh!

Another PHP Comment-despamming technique

Another method for de-spamming web log comments is illustrated in wordinbox.php. In this instance, a word is selected from a list; the user is asked to include the word in their post, the word being stripped automatically, when the form is submitted. It is assumed here that the word list used contains words with absolutely no relevance to the context in which they are used. The same could be done, incorporating relevant words into the text, obviating the need for stripping them later.

So who’s got the problem?

It’s no longer BADD, but I’m only now getting to read some of the later posts, so comments will continue. The conclusion to Wampum: Jonah goes shopping has awoken a thought that has been drowsing in the back of my mind.

I’m still considering the possibility that they are even worse off, with what ever their children/casual-contact/instant-hostility disorder is, than Jonah, who is generally happy, except when he isn’t.

Hmm. These disabilist people (and all the other race/sex/etc ists) – they obviously have a problem. They are obviously poorly “soclialised”, to be displaying behaviour like this. Do they, themselves, not have a disability?

This is not a statement of my opinion – it really is a question (mostly to myself) which needs to be considered.

PHP Text Captcha

In the post A More Accessible Alternative to Graphical Capchas, I discussed a method of using a question/answer system for determining whether one is dealing with a human visitor or a naughty robot. The example was given in Perl, but I said that it would be easy to adapt for PHP. This wasn't entirely correct, as PHP has a different approach to arrays from Perl, but I have now done it.

I have posted an example implementation on this site, which also provides links to download the PHP source files.

Notes on the routine that does all the work are interspersed with the code in the file textcaptcha.php