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Panel: Bloggers and bandwidth

Filed in: blogging, SXSW2004, Web, Sun, Mar 14 2004 18:30 PT

Pat Pound talked about how her blog got surprisingly popular among her colleagues, who learned a lot about things like life with a guide dog.

Jason Shellen of Blogger pointed out the social factors Salam Pax in Iraq, and now bloggers in Iran are picking it up. Also the Dean and now the Kerry campaigns. He pointed out Atom and AtomEnabled as a method of increasing access. Adam Weinroth added that Atom as a standard technology would have a “phenomenal” impact on the creation of accessible content.

Next was Weinroth, from Easyjournal: Access is about getting to the content. Accessibility is the ability to consume the information you have access to. It’s all a digital divide issue: gaps in access based on culture, income, etc. Companies want access to markets. “Blogging represents something very important with respect to accessibility.” Google produces results from blogs. Tool vendors have a responsibility to make their tools accessible. (I’m gonna hold him to that, folks. And all the others, too.) Adam likes the curb-cut analogy (that is, not everybody who has used curb cuts is in a wheelchair).

Ana Sisnett, the moderator, is “totally in awe” of the panel. She’s new to blogging, having fallen in love with it as another tool for enabling access and communication. It allows for a lot of formats that help people find the most effective way for them to communicate. Sisnett asked how to work on accessibility for deafness. Sharron Rush pointed out the MAGpie captioning software, which I had just demoed in the last session.

Pound said the trend of using cell phones to create Web content “makes blind people really uptight.” For new technologies like digital TV and DVD, practical accessibility has to start after the technology has been created.

Weinroth says that accessible development “can really be a source of innovation.” TTY, for example, was created in the 60’s, and was “the first instant messaging client.”

Shellen says Blogger and Globo had a deal to bring blogging to Brazil natively. They translated Blogger into Portuguese, and it was very successful. They access technology differently than we do here. They have a huge digital divide. The first experience with computers in Brazil was really around 1995-96 when Windows 95 came around. So their first experience was better than with middle-class America, with 286 and 386 machines. They got to leapfrog a little. They were able to grab on to things like blogging more readily.

Pound said that there’s so much more choice out there that users with disabilities can pick what works for them. She says she considers it a responsibility of users with disabilities to keep up to date with technology (new versions of screen readers, etc.) Sisnett asked if there are resources to help people with that, and Pound responded that, well, it depends, and in many cases, it’s a matter of paying the $100 or $150 to update screen readers every year and a half.

Then CAPTCHA came up, and I had to jump in. Shellen mentioned that Orkut had implemented CAPTCHA, and immediately got nailed by accessibility advocates, and said they planned to put up MP3 files. I mentioned the W3C paper on CAPTCHA, and the fact that this is just a cat-and-mouse game, and the solution is to get out of that cycle of people defeating systems that are fundamentally broken in terms of what they’re trying to do. We need to move past that and to a genuine solution. CAPTCHA ain’t it.

Adam closed with the story of the blogger from the 19th Floor, who had a passionate plea to the companies supporting blogging to make sure everyone gets to participate.

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