As I recently posted, a paper by myself and Liddy Nevile was accepted by the ADDW08 conference. In the paper we argued that the conventional wisdom regarding Web accessibility (just follow the WCAG guidelines and the Web environment will be universally accessible to all) has been shown to be flawed.  We argued that in a world of mass creation of digital objects, the hand-crafted approach which underpins the WCAG model doesn’t scale. We argued the need to embrace a diversity of approaches, including an exploration of the potential for exploiting the links between related resources in order to find equivalent resources.

Our paper is available (in MS Word, PDF and HTML formats) and our slides are also available (in MS PowerPoint and in (dodgy) HTML formats).  But in addition a video of the talk (which I took using a Flip video camera) is available on Google Video (and is embedded below).

And I’ve synched the video with the PowerPoint slides to provide an even richer experience. This is available on Zentation and a screen image is illustrated below.

Now although the HTML version of the paper should comply with WCAG guidelines (although as a peer-reviewed paper the language and writing style may mean that is is not necessarily  understandable by all), the MS Word, PDF, MS PowerPoint, HTML version of the slides and the .AVI video files will not.  Now I could make the resources conform to WCAG guidelines if I removed all but the HTML version of the paper.  But I would argue that this would diminish the impact of and accessibility of the underlying ideas I wish to communicate.  And seeking to make the various versions of the resources conform to the various checklists would be very time-consuming and would not, I would argue, provide an effective return on the tax-payers money.  And such consideration are, I suspect, informing policy decisions related to the provision of institutional repositories – although perhaps without the provision of links to related resources.

Now as devices such as a Flip can be purchased for less than £100 pounds, and uploading videos on Google Video can be done for free a question I would ask is “if conference organisers fail to make such alternatives for papers presented at conferences, could this be regarded as a failure to take reasonable measures to provide access to services for people with disabilities?”  Isn’t it unreasonable to fail to invest £100 to enhance the effectiveness of conferences along the lines I’ve suggested and demonstrated? And, indeed, doesn’t the informality used in talks provide a valuable alternative to people who may be put off by the nature of the language which is found in research publications.