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Website Accessibility As A Duty

For the first time in the history of humanity we have the ability to create things that are accessible to almost anyone, almost anywhere, almost instantly and it is our responsibility to do so.

graphics showing up in a google images search for the term accessibility

A couple months ago I was at a meetup for Columbus Web Analytics Wednesday and I explained to some colleagues that I was working on a Website Accessibility Checker application.

This was shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court had declined to hear an appeal from Domino’s Pizza arguing that the American’s with Disabilities Act’s provisions shouldn’t apply to their website.

As the debate continued, I realized that my feelings on the matter were strong but simple.

If I was blind, I would hope that people who could create content that was accessible to me, would do so.

The difficulties of being blind

When was reading the Gil v Winn Dixie case, I realized even more than I had before, how difficult it is to be blind.

excerpt from gil v winn dixie describing using an inaccessible website

Humans primary sense is sight so without that you can’t read a book, read a normal menu, you can’t tell who or what is in your proximity…heck, you can’t even shop for groceries on your own.

Yet digital media has to conveyed as binary data and that binary data can be translated on-the-fly into other languages, it can be adjusted for color, contrast, size and other display features.

The flexibility of digital media is what makes it accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time, almost instantly.

We have a duty to our fellow humans to do everything we can to accommodate as many users as possible. With the aging population in many developed countries, more and more users need to be able to adapt your website to their needs…aside from being good for the bottom line, why wouldn’t you want to?

Because it takes a little more effort and a little more work? Maybe costs a little more money?

So do handicapped parking spaces and toilets wide enough for wheelchairs but every public place has those features and people aren’t complaining about it.

George H. W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act
P14777-18 President Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on the South Lawn of the White House. Sharing the dais with the President and he signs the Act are (standing left to right): Rev. Harold Wilkie of Clairmont, California; Sandra Parrino, National Council on Disability; (seated left to right): Evan Kemp, Chairman, Equal Opportunity Commission; and Justin Dart, Presidential Commission on Employment of People with Disabilities. Mrs. Bush and Vice President Quayle participate in the Ceremony. 26 July 1990 Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place since 1991. It is now almost 3 decades later and people act dumbfounded when it is applied to their website.

If a blind person walked into a store and was turned away would you think it was wrong? Well then why should websites, which are becoming a more and more significant part of day-to-day life, be able to turn away blind people?

I’m not blind but I do have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), yet because I’m intelligent and figured out ways to compensate, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30 and went through great hardships in life before that.

I can often tell people want to scoff when I say I’m disabled, because I don’t have a physical handicap and I’m smarter than the average bear but I was talking to a friend about it the other day and for the first time I realized how much effort it takes for me to make websites usable.

I have ad blockers but auto-play videos with sound often get past those so then I mute them, open developer tools and take what ever actions is needed to stop the motion and noise. Often times, disabling Javascript or adjusting the CSS rules of objects such as setting them to display:none.

And I’d say ADHD is a minor impairment compared to blindness, deafness, paralysis, etc.

Heck, by the age of 50 most people have need glasses for reading (visual impairment).

So, given that most of us will at some point have some level of disability, shouldn’t we accept our duty to our fellow man to make everything that we can accessible so it works for as many people as it can?

I think so, and so does federal law under the ADA, the Fair Housing Act, the Affordable Care Act and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

FCC’s Website Crashed by John Oliver’s Net Neutrality Plea

I was watching Last Week Tonight this evening and I took John Oliver’s plea to heart to go to the FCC website.

He even set up a vanity domain that redirects to the appropriate page:

When I went there just after his show (at 11:36pm EST on May 7, 2017), I saw the screenshot below.

error page following the overload of traffic after John Oliver reported on net nuetrality

I tested it on my cell phone and got another non-working page (just blank white, no error message).

EFF Newsletter – April Fool’s 2015

The funniest part is below:

Electronic Frontier Foundation newsletter April Fools Day 2015

NSA Tells Public To Reduce Use of Passive Voice In Email

Both style and national security are impacted by the use of passive voice, the NSA said today. Having spent many billions of taxpayer dollars to capture all private electronic communication, the agency is frustrated that poor writing habits are making this data difficult to analyze. We strongly prefer short declarative sentences where the actor is clearly identified, said an NSA spokesperson. Instead of writing, ‘The protest will be attended by many activists,’ it would be better to write, ‘Known dissidents Amy Goodman, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald will travel by bus to the protest in Washington Square Park, New York, and will arrive at approximately 1:04 p.m. on April 1st, 2015.’ The NSA further suggested that instead of composing private email, citizens could instead fill out a webform at or travel to Bluffdale, Utah and share all of their most private secrets with the NSA in person.

See the original email here:


I hope you guys find that as funny as I do.

Happy April Fool’s Day.

Prevent WordPress HTML Auto-Formatting

I hate that WordPress auto-formats my HTML.

I know HTML well and I always author it with semantic elements like paragraphs. I don’t insert blank paragraphs between paragraphs for spacing, and why in the world would anyone wrap an image or a figure (both block elements) in a paragraph?

I recently came up with a partial solution that doesn’t require a plugin or editing functions.php.

It’s not perfect but it’s easy to use and it doesn’t require access to the codebase.

Without further ado I give you (drum roll please):

My Auto-Formatting Solution: class="wp"

Have a look at the code of this post.

You’ll notice that all the <p> elements have a class of wp like this:
<p class="wp">.

I don’t use forced line breaks very often (<br>) but it works to preserve those as well.

Anyone who comes after me and works on a site where I have used this method, and isn’t aware of it, could easily be tricked, just like WordPress is, into thinking there’s some significance to this class; there isn’t.

As soon as a class is added, WordPress stops wantonly deleting my semantic HTML presumably because the software is intelligent enough to realize that classes generally indicate a default element no longer has default properties, that it must have additional properties or stylings associated with it.

I don’t really care why it works, I don’t really care why WordPress innately strips paragraphs (and then adds them programmatically when it renders it‽).

What I care about is that I don’t have blank lines (i.e. new lines \n) followed by &nbsp; in between lines of text that isn’t wrapped in an appropriate element like a <p>.

Other Solutions to Auto-Formatting

ps disable auto formatting plugin

With varying degrees of success, I have used 2 plugins (my current favorite pictured above) to help prevent auto-formatting, and my current starter theme, this theme (open-source and freely available on Github), includes functions for some of this.

The problem is they are hit or miss.

I don’t know why; I’m not really a developer. I loathe error logs and debug modes.

On some sites, the <img> tags end up wrapped in perfect little <figure> tags and any captions show up wrapped in <figcaption> tags with no despicable wrapping paragraphs standing on every street corner proclaiming their right to be there.

On other sites it doesn’t work.

Same goes for the plugins, especially the first one I found, Don’t Muck My Markup.

dont muck my markup plugin interface

No, I haven’t reported a bug because as I said it’s hit or miss. Sometimes it works like a charm and sometimes it fails miserably and given the complexity of most sites I work on (think of all the variables: server software, PHP version, WordPress version, other plugins, performance enhancements [i.e. cache], proxies, human error) I don’t even try to figure it out, in my recent experience, it probably works correctly about 2/3 of the time.

PS Disable Auto-Formatting has been more reliable for me so it’s now my plugin of choice (it has taken the place of Don’t Muck My Markup in the script that automagically installs plugins for me).

Google Webmaster Tools Now Reporting Single Clicks

I logged into Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) today and noticed something new: More granular reporting of traffic, all the way down to single clicks.

screenshot of google webmaster tools interface showing table of clicks to pages, some with 1 and 2 clicks

For anyone familiar with GWT, that’s quite a change because, at least for the last 3 years, it hasn’t reported anything less than 5 clicks/impressions.

Not that I felt it wouldn’t register anything unless you had at least 5 click/impressions, my gut feeling was that when it said 5 clicks it meant more than 0 but less than 6.

Why Did GWT Change It’s Reporting of Clicks/Impressions

It seems so long ago now that Google announced it would start obfuscating the vast majority of it’s keyword referral data——the (not provided) keyword mass extinction.

But when they did they made some references to improving the keyword data in Webmaster Tools, thus (ostensibly) protecting their users privacy but still allowing marketers to optimize content to their users.

Fairly quickly after Google started encrypting keyword referral data they expanded the window that GWT could look back from 30 to 90 days.

A couple months ago I noticed something else (see Figure 3 below: it’s possible this existied previously but I had never noticed it)

Top Searches and in the Top Pages

search queries segmented by page in google search console
Figure 1.) A triangle icon indicating more data

Detail of which queries triggered a specific page in SERPs from GWT
Figure 2.) Expanded, the details of the searched terms are revealed

Position in SERPs of Page for Search Queries Step 3 of 3
Figure 3.) Clicked, it reveals the positions where your page was shown in SERPs

I had never seen the detail of positioning until about 2 months ago.

1 Click, 2 Clicks, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Today I logged in to check on some of my sites and for the first time ever saw clicks greater than 0 but less than 5 so I thought I’d share it.

Now if only they’d incorporate conversion tracking.