OpenID & Accessibility

Nate Angell nate.angell at
Mon Nov 3 17:33:15 UTC 2008


I've been tracking the development of OpenID, a user-centric identity/ 
authentication system that I believe may be the best way forward in  
this complex area. I'm not sure how closely any of you are tracking  
this work also, but in case you aren't, I wanted to bring your  
attention to recent discussion in the OpenID community centered on two  
accessibility-related concerns:

1) The accessibility of the OpenID authentication process.

2) How users might be able to tie accessibility preferences to their  
central OpenID identities, which could in turn be recognized/respected  
by third-party sites.

While the first is certainly important, the second I feel is exciting.

I wanted to extend an invitation to you all who are so well-versed in  
accessibility issues to join the discussion (see below). The OpenID  
list admits a lack of expertise and is looking for accessibility  
experts to weigh in.

If you want to stay informed and/or get involved, I recommend joining  
OpenID's General and UX discussion lists:

Begin forwarded message:
> From: Martin Atkins <mart at>
> Date: November 2, 2008 10:10:22 PM PST
> To: OpenID user experience <user-experience at>
> Cc: diso-project <diso-project at>, OpenID List <general at 
> >
> Subject: Re: OpenID Accessibility
> Reply-To: OpenID user experience <user-experience at>
> I think in this case you may be starting at the wrong end.
> Rather than thinking "how can we use AX to transmit accessibility
> information" we should be starting with what problem we're trying to  
> solve.
> Therefore I'd like to suggest that we figure out what practical  
> problems
> exist today accessibility-wise and only then try to figure out whether
> OpenID can solve those problems. A good place to start would be to try
> to get some accessibility experts involved in this discussion, since I
> don't think any of "us" (the active posters on the OpenID mailing  
> lists;
> I'm not sure who's on diso-project) are really qualified to be doing
> this. Do correct me if I'm wrong, of course!
> It's probably worth reaching out to the folks in W3C's WAI group, who
> have done lots of research into the problems various folks have with  
> the
> web, and are familiar with various kinds of assistive technologies and
> so on.
> Chris Messina wrote:
>> I'm reluctant to write about this, because I've been afraid of the
>> answer, but I wanted to broach the subject of OpenID Accessibility.
>> Google tells me that this issue has only been raised once before [1]
>> and it didn't seem to dredge up much of a response.
>> With IIW coming up, I thought I might put in a request that
>> accessibility be considered.
>> To this end, I'd like to throw out an idea on serving user  
>> preferences
>> according to accessibility needs... namely through the use of AX. I
>> can imagine an AX schema for accessibility that would allow an OP to
>> request that a high contrast version of a site be displayed, or  
>> that a
>> certain stylesheet be used for forms... While I imagine that much of
>> these issues should be handled by the user's browser, it seems to me
>> that OpenID through AX could make more specific requests of RPs to
>> alter themselves to the needs of a given user.
>> I also wanted to bring up the issue around user flows, language and
>> the like... and what the experience is like for blind people when
>> they're bounced from one site to another in the OpenID flow... and  
>> how
>> we could make that flow better.
>> Interestingly, I'd like to point out (and Derek can attest to this)
>> that better and more accessible designs often improve the usability
>> for typical users without special needs.
>> Chris
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