out-law.com Website Compliance Seminar

I got up at 5.30am today to head over to Manchester on the train to attend the Website Compliance breakfast seminar organised by out-law.com. It was odd for me to be up before dawn – it only really dawned on me (no pun intended) just how early it was when it began to get light after over an hour of sitting on the train.

Anyway, the train was half an hour late (aren’t they always?) and so I missed the beginning of the seminar. Luckily it had started later than advertised anyway, so I hadn't missed much. It was nice to have identified Accessify Forum regular Patrick H Lauke (a.k.a. redux) when I arrived and meet someone from the forum.

I was pleased to find the hosts from Masons Solicitors, the law firm behind out-law.com, were well-informed and gave a good overview of the legal issues surrounding e-commerce. Obviously, I was interested in what they had to say about accessibility, and with the seminar having a focus on legislation, I was hoping that they would be accurate and informative.

Top marks to them for clearly emphasising that fact that a website constitutes a service and are covered by Part III of the DDA which has been in force since October 1999. They further emphasised that websites do not come under the heading of “physical access” and therefore are not affected by Part IV of the DDA which came into force this month. Either way, it’s all a bit academic now that the October 2004 deadline has passed!

Another thing to note is that there was not one utterance of “Bobby” throughout the entire seminar – not even in a room full of suits.

After the seminar, another member of Accessify Forum came over and introduced himself – Nathan Briggs (a.k.a. vigo). I wasn’t sure how many people from the forum were going to turn up – I already knew that Patrick would be there – so it was nice to find that someone else had made it to the seminar as well.

On leaving Masons, we found ourselves on a mission to find an open cafe so that we could sit and have a chat over coffee. We finally found a little cafe called History – a nice little place with a poster outside with Arnie saying “You’ll be back!” – I remember thinking that there was no way I’d find this place again!

The three of us talked about some current projects, standards and accessibility (duh!), general nonsense and a variety of tangents! I think I may have spawned an idea for another of Patrick’s experiments – another Firefox extension.

We were discussing some of my recent thoughts on sonification of Web content and the possibility of rendering in surround sound, when Patrick came up with an idea for converting markup elements into pitches. This differs from my thoughts so far in that I have been considering how the content of documents could be converted to sound rather than the markup. Coming from a musical background, I guess I really should have thought of that – an HTML score! Anyway, I’d be interested to see what Patrick manages to cook up from that. I really must get around to my own experimentation with Firefox extensions!

On other thoughts, Nathan and I chatted some more over a coffee at Manchester Piccadilly station before heading back home. I put forward my thoughts on starting a resource on best practices in Web Design aimed at business executives. It would be an attempt to educate businesses on what they should be expecting from their website design teams and/or consultants. I’m not saying that business executives don’t know anything about Web Design, but I am convinced that there is a need for something like what I have in mind.

The seminar we had just been to was actually quite good at aiming at this sort of audience. Personally, I find myself getting too technical when talking about anything related to Web Design, so I’m looking to get input from a variety of sources to try to get points across in plain language. The resource wouldn’t be aimed at Web developers, but I guess it could be useful to them in explaining issues to people who really don’t know about Web Design.

Perhaps I will write about this in another entry – this one is already quite long! Projects, projects, projects! Lots of ideas and not enough time – or space on my brain drive.