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My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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Google Chrome Browser Released with No Thoughts of Accessibility

So recently Google released a brand new browser called ‘Chrome’. It offers a simplified interface and a few "new" features, which are discussed at length already by many other people. I won’t go there. But it’s worth mentionning that the browser is next to unusable for many people with disabilities. Screenreader software is not supported, and keyboard access is quite limited, among other issues.

Steve Faulkner has made a brilliant analysis of Chrome’s accessibility, saving us all a lot of work :) Thanks Steve.

Jonas Klink, software engineer for Google released a statement to the effect that they wanted to "release early" and focused on a clean user interface. He promises "rapid improvement".

Yeah, well, ok. I’m glad to hear that.

But why do I feel like accessibility is once again an after-thought? It’s not a priority, obviously. Oh, they claim they laid the foundation for building accessibility in their browser. So what? What would be the reaction if a builder constructed a brand new "state of the art" museum, with no ramps? "Oh, we’ve planned for ramps, but they were not important enough to delay opening, we’ll put them in as soon as we can". And so a whole lot of people are excluded.

This, to me is discrimination, plain and simple. If accessibility was trully important to Google, as Mr. Klink states, they would have made more of an effort from the get go.

I’m not trying to antagonise anyone here, but I am tired to be made to feel like the poor cousin, always, because of my disability. I look forward to the promised improvements. I’m not quite yet holding my breath.

2 thoughts on “Google Chrome Browser Released with No Thoughts of Accessibility

  1. I hope they fix it up quickly too — but they are following an opensource development model which means put the project out there, code and all, early.. people gets this confused with commercial products where it’s all polished up clean and ready for use. Chrome instead is an ongoing continuously improving project with (hopefully) contributors outside google very soon. Still good to make some noise about accessibility — I’m making noise about it only being for linux thus far. it’s reasonable for them to release the windows only version as soon as it’s ready, and the linux version what that is ready, and the accessibility get sorted as soon as poss. Perhaps you should turn up and volunteer to help code it?

  2. Hey there Brenda :)

    We’ve discussed this quite a bit on the Guild of Accessible Web Designers’ list. The consensus is that we don’t buy this “it’s an early version” reason for being so thoroughly unusable by people with disabilities. It’s easy to say “it’s only a beta version” to abdicate responsibilities. How long has it been since gmail became available? 4, 5 years or so? And it’s still in beta!

    The thing is, as long as accessibility is an afterthought, we’ll see people unable to use things. And then we are told that the reason more of an effort isn’t made to include accessibility is that people with disabilities don’t use the product! Bit like Pete, my car mechanic back in Chicago. I told him he should put a ramp to his office. He asked “why should I put a ramp to my office, you’re the only guy in a wheelchair that uses my services”. I asked something like “why do you think that is?”. Pete was an excellent mechanic, honest, quick, affordable. A gem. But as long as people couldn’t get in, they were unlikely to go. He put in a ramp, and within a month had 12 more regular customers. It’s a bit like that with software too.

    As for turn up and help coding it, I would if I had the knowledge and time.

    Cheers :)

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