E16 – Interview with Makoto Ueki – Part 2

Continuing the conversation with Makoto Ueki. This week we talk about certification and accessibility conferences. Makoto tells us that the greatest challenge for accessibility going forward is that WCAG 2.0 is incredibly difficult to understand.


Nic: Welcome to the Accessibility Rules podcast. You’re listening to episode 16. This episode has been sponsored by patrons like you. We really do appreciate your support. I’m Nic Steenhout, and I talk with people involved in one way or another with web accessibility. This week, we’re continuing to talk with Makoto Ueki. You really should check out the first part of our conversation, if you haven’t already done so, because it was amazing. It was so informative. I learned a lot, and I think you will, too.

Hi, again, Makoto. Shall we continue our discussion where we left off last week?

Makoto: Yeah. Hello again, Nic and everyone. Let’s get it started.

Nic: Let’s get it started. Last week, you spoke a little bit about some of your achievements about implementing some of the Japanese standards into WCAG 2.0. What would you say your greatest achievement in terms of web accessibility is?

Makoto: A tough question. I am not sure. I’m still challenging, and I’ve been struggling with web accessibility. I became a certified professional in web accessibility, a CPWA, by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, the IAAP. The certification might be one of the achievements for me.

Nic: Yeah, that’s pretty I guess. I understand it’s not that easy to get that certification, so congratulations.

Makoto: Thank you. The examination was in English, and they didn’t allow me to bring my dictionary with me, so it was very challenging, but yeah, I did it.

Nic: That would have been very difficult to do, a complicated test in a language that you’re not entirely familiar with, so yes, congratulations.

Makoto: That’s very good, yeah. The certification is going to be much more important because if I were webmaster of a company, if I want to make my website more accessible, I will look for who’s going to help me. I will look for web designers, developers, programmers who have a professional skill for making web content accessible, but there is no clue, there is no information who can do that. What I expect is this certification program will be localized into Japanese in the near future, and many more Japanese people will get certified as a professional on web accessibility. That’s going to make things better, easier to achieve.

Nic: Right. Do you think certification is more important for professionals in Japan than it is in North America?

Makoto: Yeah. They say that Japanese people love to be certified. There are many, many certification programs, certification exams in Japan for, I don’t know, a variety of things. Some of them are ridiculous, but people love to be called, “You are a specialist on this field, on this category, or on this very specific topic.” For business reasons, people will take the exams for getting certification on web accessibility. I am really, really looking forward to having this certification in Japanese language.

Nic: Yeah, I can understand that. You work, obviously, with clients. You’re doing accessibility training, auditing. You must encounter things that you find frustrating in your work. What would you say is the most frustrating thing that relates to web accessibility?

Makoto: One of the things is that WCAG 2.0. It is hard to understand what each success criteria means. The Japanese national standard has the same success criteria, and it is safe to say the Japanese national standard is the Japanese translation of WCAG 2.0. If people get interested in making the web content accessible, they will look for guidelines. Even if they find WCAG 2.0 or Japanese national standards, it is hard for them to understand each access criteria. Why don’t we make it more simple, more easier to understand, make it more plain language? That is one of my frustrations.

Another thing would be my English. If I could speak English more fluently, I can learn a lot more things from accessibility people all over the world, and I can share my thoughts, findings, and anything with many more people. I could contribute a lot more to W3C Accessibility Guideline Working Group. In Japan, I don’t speak English, so I try to make time to speak and listen English all the time in order to improve my English.

Nic: I think you have very good English, Makoto. I’m sure that from your perspective, it’s maybe more difficult, but I guarantee you, your English is excellent.

Makoto: Thank you so much. Domo arigato.

Nic: Your English is much better than my Japanese, that’s for sure.

Makoto: Yeah. I can teach you Japanese anytime.

Nic: That would be interesting. What’s the first reason, the number one reason, you think most people fail to succeed with web accessibility?

Makoto: I think they don’t know what to do and how to do. We need to know how people with disabilities are using the web, to understand the challenges they are facing on the web, and also we need to know how people are using the web in different ways. For example, it was only 15 years ago or 20 years ago, we had a very hard time to make our web content to be looking good both on Internet Explorer and Netscape, on Windows and Mac. It was very simple, because we had very limited options. Now, we have a bunch of options. We cannot specify. People are using the web in very different ways, including using assistive technologies people with disabilities are using. We need much more imagination how people are using the web.

Nic: Yeah.

Makoto: People tend to talk about web accessibility based on people. It’s okay, but once people understand that the web accessibility is about people with disabilities, in other words it is something for a specific user group, and then they would say, “Okay, I understand. I understand that it’s the right thing to do, but it’s none of my business, so I don’t do accessibility for my project, for my website, for my web services.” It’s not a good thing.

I’d say that it’s about context or situations when people are using the web. For example, I’m getting old sites. I don’t know. It’s [Japanese words] in Japanese. How can I say it in English? Old sites?

Nic: Yeah, old sites.

Makoto: Okay. As I get in old sites, then I don’t like to read text with insufficient color contrast. The color contrast issues originally came from people who have low vision or are visually impaired, but it also benefits people without specific disabilities, like me. Don’t assume that web accessibility is something for a specific user group.

Nic: Yeah. I think that assumption happens quite a bit. It’s always surprising the number of people that think that web accessibility is only for people who are blind. When you talk to the person who has that impression, you start telling them about people who have low vision, people who have hearing impairments, people who have cognitive disabilities and motor impairments, and then you start explaining about maybe if you wrote your site in plain English, it would benefit someone who has a cognitive disability, but it would also benefit my friend Makoto, who is having a problem learning English.

Makoto: Yeah, exactly.

Nic: It’s really a question of making sure it benefits for everyone. I think you’re right, when people start to understand that it’s not a limited, small target population, then the desire to make it happen gets a lot bigger.

Makoto: Yeah, absolutely.

Nic: What are the greatest challenges for the field of accessibility going forward?

Makoto: I think the guidelines. WCAG 2.0 is hard to understand, so we need to fix that problem. That’s it.

Nic: I think it’s a very tall order. Obviously you’re aware of the work that’s happening with WCAG 2.1. The language is not that much easier to understand, so how can we make that happen, to take this set of guidelines that is fairly difficult to read and understand? How can we make that happen so it’s actually easier to understand?

Makoto: That will be my important mission as a member of the working group. For 2.1, the working group will not modify the existing language in the existing access criteria, but for new success criteria which will be added to the guideline. There are about 20 access criteria which were proposed. I am reading each success criteria, and my point is, is it easy to translate into Japanese or not? If I fail, if it is difficult for me to translate into Japanese, then I would propose wording changes or editorial changes to be more plain language. It was a very crucial and very important mission, because I am a member who doesn’t speak English regularly. WCAG is the international standards, so that is my mission in the working group.

Nic: I think it’s a very important mission, and I thank you for taking on that work, because I know it’s very important and it’s very difficult work. I really appreciate that on behalf of everybody that is trying to understand WCAG.

Makoto, who inspires you? What inspires you?

Makoto: I’d say everyone who I meet at the accessibility conference, like CSUN ¬†or A11yTO conference. Actually, I was very impressed with your presentation at the A11yTO conference. It was the first time for me to see you in person. We went to a restaurant to enjoy poutine in Montreal. It was a fantastic experience for me. I like to meet new friends. There are so many people who inspire me. I am very looking forward to CSUN next year. Maybe I’ll be back to the A11yTO conference next year.

Also, there are many Japanese web accessibility advocates. They know many things that I don’t know, so I’m very happy to learn a lot from everyone in the web accessibility community in Japan and any other countries.

Nic: Thank you. Those are very kind words. I would like to ask you one last thing before we finish, and I think it’s maybe a very important thing, I think. What would you say is the one thing that people should remember about accessibility?

Makoto: I’d say accessibility benefits everyone, including you.

Nic: That’s a very good statement.

Makoto: Thank you. I prepared this one.

Nic: Yes, but it is very good, because it’s very short, it is very to the point, and it is very true. Thank you for phrasing it that way. I appreciate that. I would like to thank you again for taking the time to talk with me today. It’s been a real pleasure.

Makoto: It’s my pleasure, and I had a really good time to talk with you.

Nic: Wonderful. To everyone out there listening, thank you for listening. Until next week, that’s all, folks. Before I go, I want to thank my patrons once again. Remember that if you need a hand ensuring your site’s accessibility, I am available. Contact me on my website at incl.ca.