I've been pondering the topic of accessibility lately, specifically web accessibility, in a bastardized sense of the term that I hope you'll allow me until I get a chance to figure out what the proper word is.  (According to Wikipedia, "accessibility" should be "a general term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible.")  What I actually mean is something closer to "level of service," with an accessibility aspect.

Accessibility in its actual sense is something that I for one don't think about anywhere near enough.  This is most likely because I'm a jerk who can't see problems until they're right in front of my face.  Hence why I'm thinking about it now.

But I'll quit being so vague.  The reason that I've been thinking about this is simple: the internet sucks in northern Saskatchewan.

I don't think I need to turn part of this post into an argument about why the internet is or isn't an essential service.  It's pretty clear to me that it's unquestionably an essential service.  I use the internet every single day at work, I used it when I was trying to find a job, I use it to keep in touch with people, for entertainment, information, blah blah blah.  Sure I don't need it to survive, but I don't need potable water or electricity from the city to survive, either (okay, well I probably do, but I could learn to live without them--and the internet, via boiled water, candlelight, and whatever I did with myself ten years ago before my family got a computer).  To do more than just survive, though, I need clean water from the tap, power from the wires, and a way to access the Borg collective internet hivemind.

So this is where the level of service thing comes in, if you agree that the internet is an essential one. And the fact is that almost nobody is designing with slower connections in mind. The vast majority of websites that I visit while I'm on site are so bogged down with Flash and various other graphics and tomfoolery that it pretty much incapacitates my browser (we use IE at work and route everything through a central system elsewhere, which is most of the problem, but still). This includes my own company's website, by the way. Swimming Canada froze up my entire connection for five minutes one day, and some recent updates mean that I can't even check my Google Reader during my lunch break anymore.

However, the website of the airline that we use to fly up to site has a prominently(ish) placed "Slow Internet?" option on its home page, because many of its customers are northern residents/located at minesites with terrible internet. But as the design potential of the web improves, it seems like everyone else is forgetting that there are still users out there without high speed internet. And while the infrastructure is maybe catching up, I don't think it's getting there fast enough that we can just tell people in remote locations to suck it up until the tower gets built. It can't be just northern Saskatchewan that has a problem with this, and even if it is, this is where the whole accessibility thing comes in. There are a few thousand potential users up there. Is that enough to warrant a Slow Internet design requirement?

The moral of the story is that, to my dismay, this basically looked like shit when I opened it on my work computer. So does basically every gif. And what does all of this have to do with books? Not a whole lot. Project Gutenberg loads up just fine.

PS - Is this blog accessible? Not quite. I could do a better job of captioning my pictures at the absolute least, and I have no idea how good Blogger may or may not be with accessibility in general. But now that I've ranted about it, maybe I should look into it a bit more carefully.

No comments:

Post a Comment