Is Accessibility Hard?

Well, no. And yes. Let me explain.

Every now and then, I see something like this from someone in the web community:

But I’m just gonna be honest here… for most developers, coding for #a11y (especially screen readers) is might as well be voodoo

I get it. I still remember the first time I turned on a screen reader. What a foreign experience! I felt so lost. But remember, when users visit a site that isn’t as accessible as they need it to be, that’s how they feel too. I’m not trying to guilt you into accessibility, but show you that we can all have similar experiences that fuel empathy.

The entire Web can feel like voodoo at times. A blur of fast-paced, “what should I learn next?” – “oh no, I feel so left behind” – “I don’t know this all that well” pile of voodoo. Accessibility is no different than learning anything else. Like responsive design, Sass, React or whatever comes next. You can learn accessibility. That’s the “no” part of my answer to “Is accessibility hard?”

So what’s the “yes” part? Accessibility is hard because you have to take that first step. You have to be willing to try. Feel lost. Make mistakes. And of course, like anything else, the deeper you go – the more complex it all becomes. But then you remember, you know a little voodoo, and you’ve got this.

Hidden Expectations

Over the years I’ve come to realize that most difficult part of making websites isn’t the code, it’s the “hidden expectations”, the unseen aspects I didn’t know were my responsibility when I started: Accessibility, Security, Performance, and Empathy.

Dave Rupert in Hidden Expectations.

Dave Rupert writes about the responsibilities that come with building websites – the ones that often matter more than you know.

Accessible Zen: Version 1.2

I just released version 1.2 of Accessible Zen. It’s the first update in a year, and features some bug fixes and improvements. The biggest improvement includes the use of WordPress.org language packs.

Grab the theme in the official theme directory.

For full details, see the changelog below:

May 5, 2016 Release: Version 1.2

Happy blogging!

Don't Use Slack? (Or Why Aren't We Better at Accessibility?)

In Don’t Use Slack, Christian Heilmann raises some critical questions about why accessibility doesn’t happen more in modern-day apps and startups, highlighting some issues he observed when a former  colleague who’s blind needed to use Slack. He also touched on why Slack is a fantastic tool, and has some on-point conclusions about the nature of open source and proprietary development, and the advantages of each:

… [O]pen and accessible doesn’t beat usable and intelligent.

Agreed.

Diving deeper into the real problem, Hint – it’s not that Slack’s app has some accessibility issues:

As the people who love open, free, available and accessible we have to ask ourselves a few questions: why is it much easier to create an inaccessible interface than an accessible one? How come this is the status quo? How come that in 2016 we still have to keep repeating basic things like semantic HTML, alternative text and not having low contrast interfaces? When did this not become a simple delivery step in any project description? It has been 20 years and we still complain more than we guide.

Heilmann says that we (Slack’s users) should just talk to them. Communicate. It makes sense. Accessibility is hard because it’s everywhere when you think about a web product’s lifecycle: planning, research, user experience, design, code, delivery, maintenance, etc. Everyone has to be involved, and everyone shouldn’t be afraid to talk about accessibility. It’s a people problem above all else, and most people don’t realize they already have the skills to make what they work on accessible.

Ensuring a High Performing Web for the Next Billion People

Bruce Lawson gave a keynote talk recently at Velocity Conference in Amsterdam called Ensuring a High Performing Web for the Next Billion People that you should watch. He’s written a blog post discussing the talk a bit if you’d like more information.

It’s fantastic because it touches on all the parts of the Web that we know have nearly limitless potential, but that we haven’t yet figured out how to do well consistently. These are things like performance, accessibility, progressive enhancement, embracing a multi-device world and more. We have much to do, so it’s hard not to be excited about bringing the Web to a truly global audience.

Accessibility Weekly: One Month In

More than a month ago, I launched Accessibility Weekly with the hope of making the field of web accessibility easier to learn and follow. I’ve had a blast watching the list steadily grow and receiving a handful of emails and tweets with positive feedback.

That said, I want to keep experimenting with Accessibility Weekly and hone in on one of the biggest reasons I started it in the first place. To give those new and/or interested in accessibility a way in.

So if you’re a subscriber, expect some tweaks in format. The first thing I plan to do is expanding the “New to A11y” section, making it a short article or a series of links with a theme. Fear not though, I still plan to mix in valuable tips and links for veterans in the field.

Newslettering vs. Blogging

What’s it like writing a newsletter now that I have a few to my name? Like most writing: it’s hard. Hard most days, really hard other days. I’ve relied on a handful of evergreen posts from this blog to help fill the gap when I don’t have the energy to put something original together. I feel guilty about that, but I’d rather send something of value than something that’s too rough around the edges. Granted, I don’t have to put much original writing in Accessbility Weekly, but the curating of links takes time too. I see it as just as important as any original tip I share. I want to provide both knowledge and share other’s knowledge. As the newsletter goes forward, I see it as an extension of my writing here. One fuels the other to fuel the other, so to speak.

Send Feedback

If you have ideas or something you want to see in Accessibility Weekly, just let me know on Twitter or send me an email via my contact page.

A11y Weekly Launched

About a month ago, I started chipping away at a simple idea: launching a weekly newsletter about accessibility. I put it live quietly over the weekend. If you’re interested in getting to know and keeping up with the accessibility world, you should sign up.

Just visit a11yweekly.com and fill in your email. I’ll send out the first issue next week. I also have the code available on Github, if that’s your thing.

I imagine the site and newsletter will evolve quite a bit over time, but more on that in future blog posts. If you have suggestions, send me a note via my contact form, Twitter, or to hello@a11yweekly.com.

The Year of Accessibility in WordPress

In The Year of the WordPress Accessibility Team, Drew Jaynes pays a big compliment to the WordPress Accessibility Team and many of its members. He says:

I think as we progress in further asserting accessibility in WordPress as a priority, we’ll see even more new faces make appearances in future releases. It’s a testament to the quality of work coming out of this team that makes, for me, 2015 the year of accessibility in WordPress.

Aaron Jorbin also highlighted Drew’s post and said:

Drew is completely on target here. The WordPress Accessibility team has been rocking it lately. It wasn’t long ago that the question of if the Accessibility team should exist was floating around. They were the only team without a product, but instead focused on things across many teams. Since then, the team has stepped up big time and really is making WordPress better for everyone.

Drew led the release for 4.2 and Aaron is a Contributing Developer, longtime accessibility advocate and recently earned permanent commit access. I had a huge smile on my face when I read both of the posts because I know how far our team has come. We’re better organized, more focused and always ready to collaborate with the WordPress community. It’s showing!

But we’re just part of the reason for the successes Drew and Aaron point out. The bigger impetus for our progress belongs to the community. Everyone. All of you! When I talk to people in the community, the conversation has been less about “What is accessibility?” and more about “How can we work together to make WordPress more accessible?”

So thank you to everyone who took the time to think about, design for and implement accessibility in their workflow. We’re all making WordPress better for everyone, and I can’t wait to see what we do next!

A11y Weekly

Today, I asked a simple question on Twitter about starting an accessibility newsletter.

I received a few positive responses, so I’m going to try it. I’ve registered the domain, and signed up for a newsletter service. Now to create a sign-up page, and start writing some content. I’m calling it A11y Weekly.

The idea didn’t come out of nowhere – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. Except today, the words of encouragement on Twitter gave me the nudge I needed.

If you have any thoughts to share for the first issue, send me a note on Twitter, or via my contact form.