‘Building Accessible Websites’

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Building Accessible Websites > Launch party recap

Updated 2002.12.08

Thanks to the generosity of David Michaelides at Swipe Books, on Tuesday, December 3, we enjoyed a launch party for Building Accessible Websites.

Paul French of Pearson Technology Group Canada airlifted a pile of books in for the launch and was a pleasant and gregarious presence. A vast kilotonnage of food – much of it custom-made for the vegan guest of honour (above and beyond the call of duty) – was accompanied by Inniskillin wine.

Guests were already in attendance when I arrived before the 6:00 start. Over the course of the evening (and this is where I get to play gossip columnist, with boldfacing and everything – and, HTML purists, take note, in gossip columns bold is semantic markup!), we enjoyed the company of Bill McQueen and Don Peuramaki of Fireweed Media Productions, with whom I chatted about heart–double-lung transplants and captioning; Geoff Sinclair and Jason Thompson of the CNIB, who came to learn firsthand just how colourful I am; and Russell McGorman and Errol Saldanha and their respective wife and fiancée, keepin’ it real for the graphic-design contingent.

Old friends appeared in droves – Luke Tymowski, Emma Jane Hogbin, William O’Higgins – plus a luminary of the Toronto independent content scene, Craig Saila, who, as it turns out, works for the Man. Shamir Furtado represented for Imex Systems, which kindly sent flowers to the event. (This is the closest I’m ever gonna come to a wedding, so perhaps I should have tossed them to the crowd. Catch ’em and you get a book contract!)

Naturally, book designer Marc Sullivan was present, but shock was registered when his three Aryan children and delightful wife later appeared and spent quite a while working the room.

DAISY announcement

At a certain moment, I delivered remarks to the adoring crowd, pointing out that this year’s theme for December 3, the International Day of Disabled Persons, is Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods, a theme compatible with accessible Web development. I was also able to make the official announcement that Building Accessible Websites will become one of the first DAISY electronic talking books to be produced with full XHTML files provided by the author.

DAISY is a new file format for electronic talking books. You can still have a human voice reading the book as from time immemorial, but the book carries electronic structural components, like bookmarks, that make reading a book a more convenient experience. You can hotlink between underlying text (here’s where my XHTML files come in) and the voice reading, and a DAISY device can output text to a Braille display in addition to or instead of a voice reading. DAISY brings talking books into at least the 20th century if not the 21st.

The prepared statement attributed to Geoff Sinclair reads as follows:

The CNIB Library for the Blind is pleased to be able to produce Joe Clark’s Building Accessible Websites using source files from the publisher for the benefit of our clients,” says Geoff Sinclair, manager of collections and access. “Without these files, the Library must scan books first in order to produce alternative formats. More often than not, this is time-consuming and less accurate than working with an original publisher’s file. Because Joe ‘practices what he preaches,’ these source files have been structured very well, and this will immensely speed the production time of this book.”’

Evening’s end

I then capped off the evening by reading from the particularly disparaging Amazon.com customer review posted by our dear friend in the United Kingdom, pointing out that all the things he complained about are actually the best parts of the book. After a few chuckles and a round of applause, I mingled and inscribed books for my adoring public.

In another of life’s little ironies, nobody brought a camera and there is no photographic documentation of this important milestone. Well, it happened.

If anyone ever hears me even hint that I don’t have any supporters, please feel free to get upside my head with a reminder of the attendees at a party thrown in my honour. December 3 was the first day of the rest of my life.