Or rather, like type and design sites, they do not.

My issue here is the fact that a lot of deaf people seem to want their specific and immediate needs met, but do not per se want accessibility. The following is an unfair generalization, but it is true some of the time with some people: “Just give me my sign language, captioning, and interpreters, and we can all go home.”

As an example, the Coalition for Movie Captioning is the Coalition for Movie Captioning and not the Coalition for Movie Access; all they want is captioning, not accessibility (that is, they don’t also want audio description for blind people). In this context, there are disabled people and there are deaf people. (Deaf people aren’t disabled!) As far as they’re concerned, you have to meet the deaf people’s needs and may optionally meet the needs of other people with disabilities, though somebody other than a deaf person would have to bring those needs up.

I thought I would do a check of deaf Web sites that use a lot of sign language. Text-and-graphics deaf sites are no different from text-and-graphics hearing sites. Although they generally tend toward 1999-era awfulness, you do find the occasional site where the developers knew what they were doing (Cf. teaser).

I want you to understand why deaf sites must be accessible here.

  • All sites must be accessible (or, at worst, a vanishingly small number of sites don’t have to be, but nearly all do).
  • Through Web accessibility, other disabled groups, chiefly blind people, can actually learn about deafness and understand what deaf people are concerned with. I suppose not many of my readers have watched blind and deaf people communicate via an interpreter. Well, we have the Web and we don’t need an interpreter.
  • Some deaf people are also blind or otherwise disabled to varying degrees. Through inaccessibility, you’re cutting off your own people.
  • Some of us are interested in hypocrisy reduction. We’ll give you your captioning, sign language, and interpreters if you’ll grow up and learn how to make accessible Web sites, just as the rest of us had to do.

In the sites below, almost none had valid code, usually by wide margins (with one exception, as you’ll see). I would be OK with that if the only thing they were doing wrong was using embed to get multimedia to work, but the rule, not the exception, is tag soup. Deaf-site designers tend not to know anything about valid code.

However, as in the ASLpah.ca case, the entire structure of the Web is built around the word and the hyperlink, so when a population comes along that prefers to communicate by video, what real options are available?

  • Has a cute language-selection screen that uses “go” as a button both in English (“ASL/English”) and French (“LSQ/Français”) Great localization there.
  • Interesting widget to zoom the screen in while watching video segments.
  • Unpleasant positioning of captions in a big rectangle alongside the video. In the original version, they had real captions (using the kooky Cocon font, no less).
Art-, Science-, and EngineeringSigns
  • Good concept here – technical sign vocabulary presented online.
  • You have to pick a video player before proceeding, though at least they tell you that QuickTime works better.
  • Passes the validator but shouldn’t, given that one page’s HTML begins thus:

    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"

    Nonetheless, the effort is there.

Auslan SignBank
  • Australian Sign Language dictionary. Nice site, with fun touch of Helvetica Rounded type. (But what the hell is ASL doing there?)
  • Somewhat hideous tables for layout and serious tag soup. However, some items, like the number signs page, would be difficult at best in CSS.
Disability Rights Commission BSL Information Pages
  • They know a lot about accessibility over at the DRC. Their report on British Web accessibility is still unavailable in HTML, for example. (My HTML version is still online.)
  • Anyway, they’re attempting to translate some basic disability information into BSL, and not only are they using tables for layout, I can’t get their Windows Media videos to work. (It’s possible that, like embed, tables are the only reliable way to place a video image in exactly the right spot. However, I don’t see much of an effort to do it in CSS.)
ASLpah.ca (definitely not .com)
  • If I’m to believe what I read, “This Web site presents innovations and tools that we have developed to allow you to browse Web sites without any text!” You mean even without the text I am reading right now?
  • Warns you that you need IE/Win or a Gecko browser. This is generally frowned upon.
  • More tables for layout. They’re not too far removed from valid code, though.
  • The effort to use one video image to highlight another that is in turn a link to another Web site seems a tad convoluted. On the other hand, this may simply be another legacy of the CERN research paper that was and still is the ideal Web document according to the W3C. It’s not a real Web page unless it’s a stream of indistinguishable words.
SignPost BSL
  • They’re BSL interpreters for TV and the like. (Our dear British friends have a sign-language requirement on many TV stations.)
  • Unpleasant Arial usage.
  • This one actually comes equipped with WCAG and Bobby badges and can probably lay a credible claim to meeting Level A of the Guidelines. (Not Level AA; they too have invalid code.)
  • As usual, I can’t get their Windows Media videos to work.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.05.23 15:41. 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:

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