Here lies the treasure trove of Web Accessibility Information

Marcy Sutton shared a lot of #a11y insights yesterday, through her answers, in her AMA. Sharing with us, how she came to be a Web Accessibility advocate; she said something awesome, with which we couldn’t agree more on!

Marcy’s AMA page is a treasure trove of information for all the accessibility geeks. Hiking, bike racing, pro-life tips are involved too. 😊

If you’ve missed the AMA; here are ten of the best “accessibility” answers you should absolutely read. 🌟

Click on the questions to read the corresponding, full answers in the main AMA page.


How do you propose for accessibility to occupy more of a central part in developer skill-building?

Education is definitely the missing piece, and each person teaching front-end development skills has a responsibility to cover accessibility basics. That means at least mentioning the need for it in UI-focused classes, articles, books, demos, and conference talks. I don't think every educator has to become an accessibility expert, but they need to know enough to not contribute anti-patterns.

Another way we could move the needle on developer skill building would be to require accessibility in more front-end job descriptions. That way, each of us would figure out that it's something we need to know in order to get the job. That's the goal of the Teach Access organization: http://teachaccess.org/


What are a few of the best books on Accessibility?

Here are a few books I would recommend, there are absolutely many more but most of these are on my bookshelf:


What are some guidelines for getting started with accessibility testing?

There are quite a few! The biggest one is WCAG 2.0, the standard guidelines for accessibility compliance: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ That can be a bit hard to digest, though, so there are additional tools that may help.

I work on aXe, an accessibility auditing tool that includes browser extensions and various APIs. aXe can audit any local or remote webpage and provide you with a list of issues that map to WCAG success criteria and best practices.

Check out my videos on Egghead.io, which may help with various accessible development topics: https://egghead.io/courses/start-building-accessible-web-applications-today


What are your thoughts on Accessibility-first design?

Of course, as an accessibility advocate, I would hope accessibility would be first, but the challenge is that everything can't be first. Security-first, mobile-first, offline-first...which one is actually first depends on how the learner got there.

For that reason, I try to speak and write about how accessibility is relevant to other topics, since there are always interesting points to be made–hence my talks on Mobile Web Accessibility, Accessibility and Performance and Accessibility of the Shadow DOM / Web Components.

As new technologies come about, we will always have the opportunity to highlight their impact on accessibility. Always. Despite being told "accessibility has been solved" by a conference CFP early in my career, it hasn't been solved. We get to keep bringing it up, and that's what makes it interesting.


What’s the importance of ARIA in the age of semantic web standards?

My egghead video on Intro to ARIA might answer that question: https://egghead.io/lessons/html-5-intro-to-aria

Short answer: you should always start with semantic HTML because of what you get for free (keyboard focusability and semantics, style and behavior built-in). Sometimes, though, ARIA is necessary to expose accessibility information on custom elements. It doesn't add any behavior to the DOM, though, it only impacts assistive devices. It's one tool to have in your toolbox, knowing that you should reach for native elements first so you aren't having to recreate what browsers give you.


What are your best tips for creating the required empathy to get people on board with web accessibility?

Two effective approaches I've found to creating empathy are 1) making it about people with disabilities by showing examples of how someone is impacted, and 2) appealing to their own sense of humanity with a bit of "selfish accessibility".

Make designers and developers aware that they or someone close to them could be impacted by a lack of accessibility–there is a wide spectrum of possibilities, from senior citizens to low vision to a new baby occupying one arm.

The Microsoft Inlusive Design Toolkit does a good job of articulating these points: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/design/practice#howwemake-section


What are some of the sites that you love which meet the modern accessibility standards?

Great question! There are some really good examples these days–I catalog them on my blog, Accessibility Wins: https://a11ywins.tumblr.com/

It's a bit unfortunate that it took a legal guideline to get there (the Air Carrier Access Act update), but US airlines are doing a better job with accessibility these days. Alaska Airlines is a great example: https://www.alaskaair.com/

Simply Accessible's website is a fantastic example of accessible RWD: http://simplyaccessible.com/


What are your thoughts on accessibility impacting performance?

Performance is something to optimize after all of the basics are in place, including (but not limited to) accessibility. It seems premature to optimize something without basic keyboard and screen reader support.

There are some improvements and optimizations that can be made for accessibility early on, however, such as using native HTML elements to limit the amount of code that gets sent over the wire.

My research and conference talks might be relevant as I go into what can impact both keyboard and screen reader users:
https://marcysutton.com/accessibility-and-performance/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkbyP-OJRgw


Is Modern CSS making web less accessible?

As far as I know, sadly the answer is yes (right now). I think browsers need to do more work to make flex and grid layouts more accessible by default.

For example, if you reverse the order of flex items they will impact the reading order but not the tab order. So a keyboard or screen reader user might be confused about the order of content on a page.

There has been some discussion around this recently, and I think Firefox even did the right thing at one point–I'm unsure of the status without doing some testing myself. But here are some links for further information:


How important is accessibility in the IoT era?

Accessibility is always important, and it provides innovation opportunities! The Internet of Things is a really new area; we definitely need more accessibility research on it. IoT devices should be multimodal so many people can use them, like providing audio output on a Nest thermostat. I suppose many of these devices are paired with mobile apps which can be made accessible in various ways. A mobile app is an interface a person with a disability can use if designed and built accessibly, opening doors to all kinds of IoT devices. It's interesting, and I'd like to learn more about it.


You don’t need to scroll up, here is a link to the AMA page, again. 😃