IBM, Open Accessibility and Change

Richard Schwerdtfeger, my mentor and technical lead at IBM, explains why IBM let go of myself and Pete Brunet, and what it says about IBM strategy in open accessibility going forward. Although it was done suddenly, it makes a certain amount of business sense.

To summarize what I’m reading and thinking: IBM realized that our efforts in driving WAI-ARIA and IAccessible2 forward were a success.Things are now at a point where IBM can use these technologies in products without devoting full time employees to drive them. IBM believes browser manufacturers must carry forth any further efforts necessary to make web applications accessible.

What still remains to be done? There is more work in W3C to finalize the WAI-ARIA 1.0 standard, and Rich will still be chairing that effort. There is more work to support WAI-ARIA within various JavaScript toolkits and assistive technologies such as screen readers. However, the biggest missing piece in the infrastructure now are solid, consistent, support across all browsers. Firefox support for WAI-ARIA is strong, although some advanced uses such as complex grids with expandable parts will take time to sort out. In addition, consistent support across other browsers will be elusive for some time. Hint: IE 8 betas need work, but are easily beating WebKit and Opera.

But what’s really needed now is WAI-ARIA support in popular web applications. Killer WAI-ARIA applications will drive the need for better browser support, by putting meaning behind the efforts. One would think that a killer consumer application using Dojo’s Dijit or native WAI-ARIA support would emerge, but I haven’t seen one yet (please correct me if I’m wrong). You will still hear this note of resistance when discussing the need for WAI-ARIA with developers of some browser engines. WAI-ARIA bugs in ATs and browsers are simply more likely to get fixed if real users must switch browsers in order to access their web mail, calendar or web-based office application.

The solid Firefox and AT support, and upcoming IE support, are reason enough for developers to rally behind WAI-ARIA. Web application developers, please, implement WAI-ARIA and push browser manufacturers to fix their bugs. Finally, JavaScript front-end developers — please help contribute WAI-ARIA questions and documentation to the free-aria mailing list and codetalks.org wiki.

So in summary, IBM is right. They really did a lot for the community in developing WAI-ARIA and IAccessible2. A major aspect of this was their support for Pete Brunet and myself. We did a great job and IBM will continue to use the results for accessibility in their products. Now, the community will bring these technologies to the next level — mostly, by embracing them.

I want to end by lauding the work Pete did with IAccessible2. Without IAccessible2, advanced web application accessibility would not be available on Windows. IAccessible2 also allows any desktop application to support full accessibility. Like myself, Pete is obviously considering opportunities — he is brunet at us.ibm.com. And hey Pete … open some champagne. Both Rich’s post and our body of work show the facts. We were profoundly successful.

About these ads

2 Responses to IBM, Open Accessibility and Change

  1. Jared Smith says:

    Sorry, but IBM was neither right nor smart to let you guys go. Yes, they’ve done a lot for these technologies, but if they think they are truly mainstream and finalized, they are dead wrong. They are pulling the plug (like they have countless times in the past – e.g., Home Page Reader, at least 3 captioning products, etc., etc.) at precisely the time when having people like you is vital to seeing them to fruition.

    I’m glad you see the logic in their reasoning for this, but right now, for the rest of the accessibility community, IBM = Incredibly Boneheaded Moves.

  2. aaronlev says:

    Thanks for the support. Hey, I’m not saying I personally would have done it this way, but fortunately, I haven’t ever had to lay anyone off because a bad economy. I just happened to have been working in a highly talented group of people, and someone had to be “it”. Thinking otherwise won’t likely get me too far.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: