What the word accessibility really means

Recently I met the husband of a retired teacher who's gone almost blind due to a disease. She surfs the web with Jaws and listens to audiobooks. Her husband was searching an audiobook player in a computer store. I couldn't help but listen the conversation between him and the owner of the store, so that I asked him if the player he was searching for should support the MP3 format. And we start talking. Quite a sensitive person, and very kind. I gave him the link of Roberto Ellero's web site, one of the major accessibility experts in the field of multimedia in Italy. I also gave him my visiting card. He said I was a special person. Why so? What did I do? I was flattered, but honestly I don't think there's anything special in helping a person with finding some information for his wife. So I started thinking about what the word accessibility really means.

Simply put, this word means only one simple thing: I care. We all know what the phrase "You're using a browser that is not supported" means for people who use assistive technologies. It's like shutting a door or putting a sign saying "No trespassing". Bu there's more. It's a matter of sensitivity. Accessibility guidelines can actually teach you how to improve the accessibility of your web sites, but only from a technical point of view. There's no guideline that teachs you how to be sensitive. And there's no guideline that explains what's the difference between pity and sensitivity. You should have no pity. You should be sensitive instead, because this is the only way you have for addressing unpredictable accessibility problems. If you have read all the WCAG guidelines, you've done only the half of your work. The remainder is up to your sensitivity. Yes, we care.

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