Do We Really Care?
19 comments | Posted: 8 December 05 in General, by Nathan Smith
Update: We have now started an Accessibility Concers section of the forum, and edited this article to make it more generalized, removing specific names.
Recently, over on Church Marketing Sucks, a few of us got into a debate in the comments about a website that was submitted to their Peer Review. I’ll be the first to say, I was a little too sarcastic. However, I think the topic and hand is worth revisiting here, that of Christian consideration for the disabled.
The point that the web standards advocates were trying to make was that the site in question is totally inaccessible to blind people, with a Flash movie being the only point of entry. As far as screen-readers are concerned, a technology that reads web pages aloud to blind users, this point of entry is just a movie, and so there are no links presented to the user to get past the front page.
A few of us mentioned these drawbacks, only to be met by what I will call Defenders of the Status Quo. These people cited that the site looked cool, and was reaching their target demographic, namely people with good vision and that have the Flash Player installed. I even pointed out that Google would never index their site, because it cannot discern whether there are embedded links in Flash. Basically, if a site isn’t blind-friendly, it’s not Google friendly either.
In case you’re curious, approximately 1.5 million visually impaired people in America use computers, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. These statistics are from 1999 and a bit dated, so I’m guessing this number has gone up even more, as computer use is becoming more and more prevalent.
Granted, the majority of Internet users have no trouble with their vision, but is excluding visually impaired people justified because they’re in the minority? Below is an excerpt from one of my comments on the website Peer Review…
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Of course the statistics on blind usage of the web would be low. Now, ask yourself, is that because they don’t want to use the web? If so, we shouldn’t bother developing sites that cater to them. Rather, and highly more likely, they do not use the web as much, because people ignorantly leave them out in the cold when developing sites.
All I’m saying is: The days of compromise on accessibility in favor of presentation for non-disabled people have come to a close. It’s now possible to do both, and we as a the Body of Christ should be leading the way, showing consideration for more than just the average person.
We take up special collections to help those who are mobility impaired, because the law requires ramps for those in wheel-chairs. Yet, we do mediocre websites and completely disregard other types of disabilities. Why? Because we as human beings are lazy, and won’t change unless we have to. There will come a day when accessibility will universally be required by law. It’s already happening in Australia.
Jesus didn’t discriminate against against the blind, he healed them, as he also healed those who could not walk. My question is, will we as Christians be riding the crest of the wave, ensuring accessibility, or will we be dragged along in the under-current of progress? Throughout the past century, Christian usage of technology has been a step behind the rest of the world.
I say that we have a unique opportunity to make the gospel accessible to everyone, an opportunity with implications comparable to the advent of the printing press. We have the ability to present the good news in today’s vernacular to everyone. Will the Church today realize that, or continue to defend the status quo? We need to decide.
One thing is for sure. You can no longer feign ignorance to the problem. There is simply a choice to be made. Do you care about blind people, and implicity value them as equal to yourself in God’s eyes: Yes or No? Let your actions reflect that answer.
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