My journey started in the early 90s, when I did a university paper titled Communications 101. The paper mentioned a new invention called the World Wide Web. In 2000 I graduated from a multimedia design course with enough World Wide Web skills to be dangerous.
I spent the next 15 years working in a creative design studio as a Front End Developer. This is a fancy term for someone who builds website interfaces. During this time, the web grew up from an art installation of sorts to the more functional beast that it is (still becoming) today.
In 2003, Web Accessibility appeared as a requirement. In order to meet emerging Government standards, I became familiar with aspects of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG has now been adopted by many countries and is the de facto standard for assessing whether a website is ‘accessible’ or not.
Trying to code pixel perfect designs to meet WCAG inevitably involved confrontations with graphic designers. They preferred the static nature of print and rallied against the concept of an adaptive web. The advent of responsive design brought the adaptive web to the mainstream, but users living with disability were still viewed as an inconvenient minority.
I went from militant to agreeable and then back to militant again. At some point I realised that I had to go in my own direction in order to get the results that I wanted. Thus the idea for Do The Right Thing was born.
I’ve cycled since I was a child. As a non-driver, I’m used to navigating a world that is often ignorant of, or hostile to my needs.
I love to combine cycling with travel. Bike touring through developing countries has given me a better understanding of the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
A growing awareness of my privilege has led me to become more active in my own community. Even in New Zealand, many people are struggling to live under a system that is not set up for them.
Through community engagement, I have met many people ‘living with disability’. Often this adds substantial overhead to their lives, but it’s the judgement and exclusion by others that really hurts.
My own set of abilities have made life challenging. I have sometimes struggled to gain acceptance from those who expect everyone to be the same. I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I was ‘normal’, but I like my life the way that it is.
I am constantly active in personal development and enjoy exploring new challenges to gain new skills and insights.
I have continued to take development work, but am increasingly frustrated at the deprioritisation of accessibility, Business As Usual.
I believe that the current obsession with WCAG metrics and automated internal testing is holding the web industry back. I look forward to a second age of enlightenment, where web creators are inspired by real people with diverse abilities and walk alongside those who they create for.
The logo you see in the site header represents the company values.
The stylised DO represents the head and torso of a person. It is blue like a clickable web page link, because Web Accessibility:
- requires curiosity – about other people
- requires action – in seeking to know diverse people and their opinions
- results in new insights – about diverse people’s perspectives
- results in possibilities – for creating more inclusive websites.
The word Right is underlined to emphasis that the website user is the right thing to focus on, while developing a website.