You can choose compassion

At the end of the Hot Topics panel at the closing of @media London today, Jeremy Keith threw to me. I faced my destiny and announced that, as of today, I am pretty much retired from Web accessibility. I said “pretty much” and didn’t elaborate, but it means I have a few loose ends to tie up, and a somewhat related project for which I have a proposal in. I’ll also continue to read all the usual blogs and so on.

However, market forces have shown that pretty much nobody wants to hire a sarcastic gay vegan to fix their Web accessibility. That’s fine; I support the capitalist system and the free market, with a few of the rougher edges filed off. That is a concise restatement of the Canadian economy, now that I think of it. I just want to stop pretending I have a business. I don’t.

Next, Web accessibility is being handled. I haven’t read the new version of WCAG 2, but I’ve read the change documents, and it’s clearly much better. We released the WCAG Samurai, and even WCAG 1 is sufficient most of the time. They’re fixing up 508. The oddball ends of the spectrum, Flash and PDF, are also being handled – the former by two tall, blond experts who will eventually get it right, the former by the committee I serve on, which is working slowly but hasn’t made any serious mistakes yet and is comprised of intelligent people.

Plus, everyone in the room today has more than enough knowledge to create a standards-compliant and accessible site without ever looking up a reference document. It’s done as a matter of course by good developers. (We don’t need to have a discussion about how many lousy developers there are; they are not our kind of people.) Unbeknownst to the W3C, we are working in a post-guideline, post-checklist era.

Anyway, I have books to write, and, crucially, a research project I am trying to get off the ground. It’s going OK at best, but I am entering this phase with hundreds more supporters than I did when I started out in Web accessibility. I shall prevail.

I didn’t know how to feel afterward. I didn’t know if the idea of not knowing how to feel was something I got from television drama scripts or was actually real. It seemed like anticipatory nostalgia, or a Royal Tenenbaums paraphrase: Immediately after making this statement, Joe realized it was in effect.

I don’t think I’m unhappy. I just didn’t want to pretend anymore.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.06.08 18:06. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
http://blog.fawny.org/2007/06/08/retired/

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