Accessiblity and Reality


This screenshot is of our database app that has consumed, devoured and assimilated the past six months of our time at SATV.  By the middle of January we will throw out our three-ring binder with printed calendar pages and it will all go on a workstation (backed up regularly, mind).

There’s just one thing:  It’s too small!  Our workstations are all Dell Optiplex 960’s with the 19” integrated LCD option;  they look great and are otherwise very readable.

But why is the default font Segoe UI at 8 points?!  There are multitudes of form boxes on computers around the world doing what this machine is doing, across all industries and verticals.

All of them use Segoe UI.  8 points.

All of them.

This particular app, which I’ve redacted to save the embarrassment, has many of these form entries.  They all use at most a third of the available screen space.  (Note the tiny record paging control at the bottom.  That is 6 pt if anything.)

This app, like many others, is built on Access 2003.  I spent a lot of time on Access 2007 writing SQL queries to import our old equipment Excel spreadsheet into this app.  At least that UI let me up the font size in Design View so I wouldn’t have to look at tiny SQL statements.

In this runtime, albeit an Access 2003 runtime, there’s no obvious provision.  The only potential solution will come when that workstation and all of our Vista machines, will be upgraded to Seven in a few months;  Windows 7 has a screen magnifier, much nicer than previous versions and more like the excellent magnifier in Mac OS X.  That’s what I’ll have to use when I’m on that app.

Raymond Chen happened to mention accessibility in one of his recent posts, where a commenter suggested that accessibility was an altruistic endeavor and could be outsourced.  Raymond says:

Sure, why not. Just like in real life, you can hire someone to do your programming taxes for you. If you would rather hire another company to come in and add accessibility support to your application, then more power to you.

Yes, accessibility is one of those altruistic things, but so too is not consuming 100% of the CPU all the time, or being usable at high DPI or color schemes different from the Windows default. Sure, you can write your program so it doesn’t work at high DPI, and requires the user to use the Windows default color scheme, and consumes 100% of the CPU all the time, but each time you do this, you alienate another percentage of your audience. (Not supporting accessibility will cost you a pretty large audience, because governmental agencies usually have accessibility as one of their requirements.)

The comment thread is worth reading;  commenters touch on all the points I’ve made before, including broken high DPI in Windows 7 and the amazing insensitivity of the Linux community towards its disabled users.


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