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draft post on a11y

A while ago I read Karl Grove’s Barriers to improving the accessibility game plan. Probably the best post on a11y I’ve ever read. I really liked his approach in evolving the a11y strategy and left my thoughts. Reposted here, with some edits, for fun.


As a developer, the people who are most helpful are the ones explaining what the actual affects are of making sites more accessible… Most people I know that saw Yahoo’s Victor Tsaran use a screenreader on video just dropped their jaws instantly (no pun intended). People like Jason Kiss and Steve Faulkner who detail the behavior and support in browsers and screenreaders are providing the developer community with invaluable knowledge, stuff that is far more worthwhile than publishing a yet another list of you-should-do-these-things. (See also my list at the end of the recent semantics post).

Most developers have no idea what effect adding ARIA markup to our documents has on people using screenreaders. We need that. Actual before-and-after video stuff makes this topic real. See zomigi’s recent post: videos of screenreaders using ARIA, for great examples.

Most developers have no idea how to implement ARIA. The W3C Primer that looks like a spec is just.. laughable.. not at all appropriate for a web developer audience.

Screenreader developers need to man up and get with the program. I don’t know how the a11y community feels about it, but to me it feels like yelling at a fucking brick wall with JAWS and Window Eyes. We just kinda hope and pray their support for things improve. As a pragmatic approach, I tell developers that if it works in NVDA, good enough. We have a mess of browsers we need to support already, dealing with ATs that lag years behind is not at all feasible.

Just like it’s valuable to witness an a11y usability session where you see how disabled people use your site, I think it’d be useful for the accessibility community to see how developers build, because thus far there has been a disconnect in communicating effectively. I don’t think we need more on the ground evangelism yet. There is a dearth in online resources at the moment. We need stuff on

  • how to do this stuff well
  • what the browser/screenreader support is (ARIA, HTML5, longdesc, etc)
  • videos of screenreaders in use ([Thanks Zoe!][http://zomigi.com/blog/videos-of-screen-readers-using-aria-updated/])
  • what are the top priorities for developers to implement (no one has a lot of time, as you know)
  • what one thing can i do as a web developer to my sites and apps that dramatically improves the UX for my otherly-abled users
  • effing focus rings. how do they work? Someone please show a demo.
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paulirish commented May 20, 2012

i guess only thing i want to add is that we do not know what abilities are
and how we can better cater to that
and one more about how it needs to be browser level
and less developer level
like if you use the already subscribed standards and stuff
it should work out of the box. mostly*
and get more of the people we are targeting to speak up
and bring them to the front.

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paulirish commented May 22, 2012

  1. move prologue to epilogue.
  2. hook up to wordsbyf.at/2012/05/21/jsconf-argentina-2012/
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