When I invited folks to become calendar curators for the elmcity project, the person who stepped forward in Prescott AZ was Susan Gerhart, whom I interviewed here. One of her great insights about web design is that the right thing for a vision-impaired user is almost always also the right thing for everyone. She calls this the curb cuts principle:

Curb cuts for wheelchairs also guide blind persons into street crossings and prevent accidents for baby strollers, bicyclists, skateboarders, and inattentive walkers.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Susan noticed that the HTML rendering of the calendar need some curb cuts. Within each day, the events show up as a long undifferentiated list. She suggested that subdividing the list by time of day — morning, afternoon, evening — will be helpful to folks using screen readers. But in fact, it’s just plain helpful. So I’m testing a version of that idea now.

Ionically I was just thinking about this same principle in another context. The new version of Oakland Crimespotting, which I raved about, segments incidents using this vocabulary:

light, dark, commute, nightlife, day, night, swing shift

In that spirit, I’m trying this:

morning, lunch, afternoon, evening, night

This of course leads to the question: When do these times begin and end?

I was fascinated to see that both Google and Bing return the same Yahoo answers page for the query morning afternoon evening.

For now, though, I’m going with this ruleset:

  Morning:  5:00 AM to 11:30 AM
    Lunch: 11:30 AM to  1:00 PM
Afternoon:  1:30 PM to  5:30 PM
  Evening:  5:30 PM to  9:00 PM
   Night:   9:00 PM to  5:00 AM

But I’ll make these rules — and maybe even the time-of-day names — configurable on a per-location basis.