My Challenge to the Accessibility Community: We Need an Accessibility Body of Knowledge

In my post "Barriers to Improving the Accessibility Game Plan", one of the things I said was:

There is a shocking lack of independent and open knowledge out there on accessibility. If we were to assemble a full compendium of information that exists on accessibility on the web, what we’d find is that the information is incomplete, inconclusive, and inconsistent. The earliest publication of scholarly articles on Web Accessibility is around 1996. In total, there are 11,500 results in Google scholar for the search string “Web Accessibility”. Of those 11,500 results there are probably thousands which are irrelevant. By contrast, the search string “Project Management” returns 513,000 results. While this isn’t a perfect comparison, it demonstrates the low amount of scholarly information on the topic.

As an industry, everyone involved in accessibility tends to keep everything they do secret, as if they’re guarding national intelligence. We need to begin sharing knowledge with one another and collaborating on research. Disability rights organizations need to begin funding scholarly research and we need to begin creating a cohesive body of knowledge which covers the best practices necessary for making an accessible web. By doing so, we’ll be able to provide clear, cohesive guidance to those who are new to accessibility and accessible web development.

This is something that has troubled me for a while, actually. The fact that there is no single source to get good, clear, peer-reviewed information on this topic is, in my opinion, a very huge barrier which prevents "outsiders" from participating in accessible development.

Here’s my challenge to the accessibility community

Let’s all step up to put together a compendium of information on web accessibility and other (closely) related topics. Let’s put together something which provides clear, actionable information that helps everyone involved in web design, development, and management understand the 5 Ws of accessibility. It should be seen as the central body of knowledge for accessibility.

For my part, I offer to do the following

  • Host it on my VPS
  • Assist in design, development, and management of the site
  • Work collaboratively with others to manage the process of collecting the information
  • Contribute to the information in every area where I feel I can do so

What will you do?

I know in advance there will be logistical and political challenges to a project like this. I don’t care and neither should you. I challenge everyone who reads this to step up and become part of the solution. Together we can put together something amazing that will help make a more accessible website. If you’re interested, all you have to do is sign your name below or e-mail me: karl AT

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  • Posted August 6, 2011 at 11:54 am   Permalink

    This sounds a lot like what Gary Barber was proposing more than a year ago, i.e. Accessibility Patterns. You guys should talk 😉

  • Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:02 am   Permalink

    Hi Karl,

    Thinking of the Accessibility Body of Knowledge you propose, I am not sure how this should be tackled, not even whether it would really move us forward.

    I think first of all it is important to differentiate by audience. Clearly, in terms of audience, or users, that body of knowledge would fall into different sets of resources:
    (A, high-level guidance): a set for non-technical people unfamiliar or only roughly familiar with the field. This needs to have non-technical language, be concise, and well structured; some such resources exist and it is not clear to me whether you think of integrating them or evaluate them to create a new ‘definitive’ high-level guide. It might alöso have advice on the procvess, what stakehlders need to be involved, what levers to pull to make it happen. And this will different depending on country and field, some will have laws and regulations that help, others don’t.
    (B, comprehensive): a set that covers on a non-technical or none-too-technical level all important accessibility requirements with links to more technical, how-to-do stuff. I would have thought that this is WCAG 2.0 and its techniques.
    (C, implementation-oriented): a set of resources / demonstrators about accessible web techniques. There are many such resources out there as you know, and while there will be consensus on a good part of best practice, there is also a lot of disagreement. Witness the discussions around the use of WAI-ARIA. There are also quite a few meta-resources / accessibility advocates pointing to good resources out there, obviously with overlaps. Will creating still another meta-resouce change anything, fundamentally?

    But maybe a I have still misunderstood your intentions..