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Why is [Technology] So Hard?

Vinton Cerf, one of the Fathers of the Internet

Vinton Cerf, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Vinton G. Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, recently wrote about software accessibility in Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), November 2012. He explores why it’s so difficult to get software engineers to create software that is accessible to people with various disabilities.

This is similar, I think, to technology and education. Why is it so difficult to implement technology in teaching and education? The answer to both questions lies in the fact that there are far more people creating technology than need accessible technology or teaching technology.

The comments on Cerf’s article are especially worth reading, as several come from users who require software to be accessible.

How would one teach a blind student geography or geology? How would one help a deaf student learn a language or to make music? By providing the student with choices in their [educational] interface, we enable them to succeed.

For those interested in accessible software, Adaptech Research Network has a list of free and inexpensive accessible/adaptable software for Windows, Mac OS and iOS

One feature of good interface design is anticipating what the user is likely to need 
to do next and to prepare for that. A similar notion might inform thinking about 
accessibility. One is struck by the seemingly impossible challenge faced by blind users
and UI designers for them. In the Web-based world, two-dimensional displays, 
touchscreens, popup windows, drop-down menus, color highlighting, and other signals seem 
utterly out of reach. One must think how a user interface will behave when it is 
serialized for audible presentation. In addition, consistency of format and audio feedback
 from screen to screen also seems like a helpful philosophy.

 

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