Acessibility for All (rant)

Acessibility for All (rant)

I just went through a two week tit for tat with the support staff of a “popular” React framework web-based documentation system that was selected for use by our company. There is a FireFox error in a critical function we need to use. They were responsive, I’ll give them that, but after two weeks the response was “our developers seem to think it’s an Ubuntu Firefox issue.”

I’ve been doing this for over a quarter century and those assessments really get my goat. If there is one piece of advice I can give to any budding web developers out there, it is to never forget the premises on which Sir Tim Berners-Lee set out at the birth of the Internet:

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

This has a larger application than just disabilities. It is our jobs as developers is to ensure everyone can access our content, regardless of platform, browser, or device. You don’t get to wuss out, be lazy, or blame it on a browser or other system – it is your job to get the content to the user. In all my years I have taken on that task, no matter what it took, even in the horror of the Internet Explorer 5 days. In one company I worked – and this was less than 4 years ago – the employees were forced by IT to use a specific Windows version and could not update beyond I.E. 7. Many of our web site features did not work for them, and what was the response from our “team lead?” “If they want us to support IE7, they’re going to have to pay for it. Make them use Chrome.”

I cannot digest this line of thinking. Rant on about ROI and cost of technical debt and market share of site visitors, it doesn’t matter. This violates one of the basic premises of development.

So when I heard “it’s an Ubuntu Firefox issue” I went straight to my VM (in a cyber-rage,) fired up a Windows 10 instance, and into FireFox. Lo and behold, same error. I then reported it to team members (who are all perfecly happy to go with the flow and use Chrome,) and lo and behold again – Same error with FireFox in both Windows and Macintosh. I even did some digging and showed them where to look in their code to rout out the problem, an object was not being defined before it was actually being referenced. All they need is a wrapper to ensure it loads first. I reported the screen shots and findings back to the company, their response is that they don’t think they will do anything about it any time soon.

They have forgotten the face of their father. (Kudos to anyone who gets the reference. 😀 )

I won’t even get started on Facebook’s React framework, that’s a rant for another day. 😀


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