Accessibility: The Forgotten Piece You Need to Know to Become a Complete Developer
No one likes to be dependent on others to deal with the necessities of life. The web created opportunities for many disabled folks to become far more independent. Developers can commonly be heard talking about wanting to change the world. But if you don't build your sites and apps accessibly, are you effecting the kind of change you meant to?
This talk was interesting and was a good introduction of the issues around web accessibility but it didn't really attempt to solve any specific issues. I think the workshops that are put on by GAAD probably do a better job of this. This is definitely a topic that needs more attention in the development community. Joe did a great job for his first keynote and I would probably attend another talk he gave in the future.
Personally I have been pushing a lot for accessibility at my work, mainly by trying to enforce the use of progressive enhancements and graceful degradation but I have not had a lot of success. I don't think it is a topic many of the other developers care or think much about and it is definitely not something anyone else in the organization is thinking about. I don't think there is any kind of malicious intent to ignore accessibility but there also hasn't been any driving factor to encourage us to be thinking about it. As far as I know there is no one in our organization that either suffers from or has a family member who suffers from a disability that inhibits the use of the web. Not a good excuse at all but that is the way the world works. For most people if there is no driving factor then there is no reason to do something. Out of sight our of mind.
Below are my notes from the talk:
The talk started off with a brief overview of disability statistics in the US. He then introduced us to an event he created called Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).
He showed a video of a Yahoo developer named Victor Tsaran who is visually impaired himself. The video is an introduction to screen readers which are used to interact with computers and the web without the use of a screen or mouse.
Joe worked at American Idol on their website americanidol.com. His father was getting older and becoming visually and hearing impaired and began having trouble with things like online banking.
Joe wrote a blog post titled CHALLENGE: Accessibility know-how needs to go mainstream with developers. NOW. that became the inspiration for creating GAAD.
The first GAAD event was tweeted by Stephen Fry and sponsored by Yahoo. By year two GAAD ended up on FCC blog and .Net Magazine cover. By year three the gaming community got involved and some more articles on big PHP community websites. Finally coming full circle the bank that inspired the event contacted him about their efforts to address accessibility internally.
Apple most accessible company over Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
Accessibility is the law. Section 508 requires government websites to be accessible. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies more and more to the web all the time.
Don't incorporate accessibility because it is the law, do it because it is the right thing. This will inevitably result in a better experience and less things being missed.
Visual Impaired Users:
- Blind people can't see the screen or use a mouse.
- color blindness or contrast impairment.
- Some people need to use magnifying tools or decrease screen resolution.
- audio with no subtitles locks out deaf users.
- videos can become useless, unless you caption.
- Don't rely on audio captchas
He showed another video with the same YouTuber interviewing engineers from the Yahoo accessibility lab.
Other disabilities include cognitive issues and motor impairment. He showed a video of a person with cerebral palsy using a “Sip and Puff” interface to interact with his computer and of another person using the same technology to interact with a mobile phone.
ARIA is a W3C spec for creating Accessible Rich Interactive Applications.
Standards that already exist tend to be far more accessible than going against the standard to create some “cool” visual interactivity.
Q & A
- Accessibility vs Freedom of Speech.
- Legally it is a bigger concern if you are a commercial or government/public entity targeting
- How do we get a client to pay attention to accessibility
- Make it part of how you work. Graceful degradation. Use the SEO angle.