In this wrap-up for State of A11y, we will talk about the key points presented by our hosts and panelists. I'll lay out who our hosts were and who was a part of our list of speakers. Our experts spoke about how we can improve developer tools like CMS' to improve the accessibility development process for those who use no-code tools. They also gave their thoughts on the top 1,000,000 homepages from an accessibility perspective; you can view that report here.
In case you missed the event or want to rewatch, you can head over to Youtube to rewatch State of A11y otherwise, keep reading!
First, here is a list of everyone who attended State of A11y:
Rob Ocell, Team Lead, and Software Architect, @robocell
Jesse Tomchak, Senior Software Engineer, @jtomchak
Anna E. Cook, Senior Accessibility Designer, Northwestern Mutual, @annaecook
Adrián Bolonio, Accessibility Software Engineer, GitHub, @bolonio
Amy Carney, Accessibility Specialist, Digilou, @click2carney
Amina Aweis, Accessibility Advocate and Founder of RecipeMate, @yeahshewrites
Albert Kim, Accessibility Lead, Korn Ferry, @djkalbert
Crystal Preston-Watson, Senior Digital Accessibility Analyst, Salesforce, @ScopicEngineer
Beatriz González Mellídez, Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion, Central Europe at Atos, @b_atish
🔗Accessibility is an after-thought for most, but why?
In recent months, WebAIM released a report named "The WebAIM Million" which focuses on the state of accessibility for the top one million homepages.
This report indicated a few key points that our panelists spoke about.
Most websites being built in recent years are by those who might not be entirely technically inclined. The developers building these web pages might be using no-code solutions that don't entirely support the creation of web elements with accessibility in mind.
On the other hand, out-sourcing development is not an uncommon practice. You might run into working with developers who haven't made web accessibility, a priority. This goes hand-in-hand with how accessibility has taken a back seat in development.
The most common reason behind accessibility not being important is largely due to ignorance. If there was a focus on educating developers and creators (not excluding managers either), there would be a greater focus on making sure your websites work for every kind of person. A lack of education is one of the larger theories on why accessibility is lacking in most cases.
The web does move fast; faster than it has in recent points in history. So many tools and websites are being created on a daily basis that often things like accessibility get left behind in favor of development speed and lack of priorities.
The problem doesn't explicitly lie with developers. "Blame" (for a lack of a better word) can also be attributed to individual users too. For example, when posting images on social media websites, alt text isn't used nearly enough. To be a champion for web accessibility, one might take advantage of such opportunities to improve the overall integration of accessible tools.
🔗How culture and complexity impact accessibility
There's a growing gap between accessibility and usability - you need one with the other. If you don't have accessibility, you won't have usability because, without accessibility, you limit the usability of your website for users who require accessibility. It sort of goes full circle.
Designers and developers must keep the entire scope of usability in mind when creating their designs and developing their websites. But, it's not easy to keep these aspects a priority, so how do we do that?
Some would argue that we need a culture shift that emphasizes user empathy. If you have empathy for all users of your site regardless of their limitations or not, you will consider all types of people.
When you have empathy for your users, you will consider those who might require accessible features.
With a culture change, comes compassion, empathy, and a greater focus on prioritizing those aspects that may have been left aside.
Similarly, an increase in homepage complexity has also contributed to the fall of accessibility. While the number of elements and interactions increase on any given webpage, the state of accessibility falls or is largely forgotten. However, while these complexities increase, so should a focus on accessibility.
🔗How Twitter is helping normalize accessibility
Twitter has, for the most part, always had the ability for you to add ALT text to your images. However, you could only see this ALT text (or see if a particular image had ALT text to begin with) if you were using a screen-reader.
They've added a small badge to each image to show that ALT text has been added. This lets you know if the image you're about to retweet has accessibility in mind.
By putting this feature in front of the eyes of every user, they are helping contribute to the normalization of accessibility features which in turn will encourage others to do the same.
If you need a little accessibility accountability, check out this fun bot on Twitter named: Caption Clerk.
🔗When should I think about it?
In short: from the start.
It should be a priority during the early design and developing stages of whatever you're building. Rather than have it as an afterthought, make it a priority from the start and ensure it never loses focus.
You might consider hiring people with disabilities to gather valuable feedback from them and allow them to contribute to the overall growth of your product.
Having people with disabilities directly involved in the building or designing of your product ensures that accessibility will always be impactful.
🔗Building a career in accessibility
Being in this space can be boring. There's a lot to learn and while it is universally helpful, it's not too thrilling. While lacking in the entertainment department, it emphasizes a deeper, human aspect: integrity.
Designing with integrity is crucial for making the web more accessible. It forces you to account for users who might benefit greatly from accessible components. When you design and develop with integrity, you automatically include accessibility on your priority list.
Teaching accessibility to others is not an "us vs. them" situation. We need to come alongside each other and prop each other up to teach us the importance of accessibility and growing in the areas we lack. It can be taught, and likewise, it can be learned. But it needs to happen in a team environment.
Furthermore, prioritizing accessibility goes further up the chain than just developers and project managers. It goes all the way up to the C-Suite level (CEOs / CTOs). If they make it a priority, then it will trickle down to the rest of the teams.
However, as a developer, don't feel forced to learn accessibility. Instead, lean on those who are experts in the space already to help you develop more usable applications. If needed, you might also look to find an accessibility mentor.
In the end, accessibility should always be a priority for you and your teams. Designing and developing with integrity allows you to provide a greater usability experience for all kinds of different users.
Usability without accessibility isn't very usable at all.
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