So this past week, I've been hammered with a project that was "beneath muh skillz"... hand fscking editting HTML. A lot of HTML. It had to be done by hand because it was one of those situations where there wasn't a repeating pattern to latch onto. Each change needed human judgement to determine what the right thing to do was.
The mission at hand was rescuing a federal agency from a Congressional mandate. As of June 30th, federal agencies are expected to have their websites "508 compliant", which means that they have to be "accessible". Accessibility is generally the practice of making software or content available to someone who has a handicap such as being deaf (or maybe just partially deaf) or blind. Blindness is the big one because a website has to be convertible into text that can be read by a text-to-speech program or a braille terminal.
We managed to get a lot of the site fixed, but there was still the fundamental problem that certain content was just designed in a way that it's nearly impossible for someone stuck having to read a page from top-down, text only to use. Stuff where you click on a button and hidden caption text magically coalesces back into existence under an image in the middle of a page presents a real problem.
This isn't a call to arms or anything. I'm not demanding that we scrap Web 2.0 and head back to black-and-grey pages. But I do think that designers need to start thinking about it more and keep it in mind as they do their thing so that when they make choices the exclude entire segements of the population it's at least a conscious decision whose consequences can be noted (and possibly addressed later on).