July 25, 2018

Adventures in Accessibility

Accessibility is something that I didn't really give much consideration in the past. I've always thought that since I didn't know any people who were blind or disabled that I didn't have to worry about it at all. In my mind, people who were disabled were such a small part of the population that it's best to just build things for people who are just like me.

But my thinking started to change around the time when I ran into this wonderful site called Microsoft Inclusive Design. A lot of us think about disability as being permanent: being blind, being on a wheelchair, or being deaf. But inclusive design says that it can be temporary and situational as well. For example I could be at a noisy bar or be sitting inside a library where I can't listen to the video that I'm watching. I could also be outside at the beach where the glare makes it hard for me to read things on my tablet.

It was an eye-opening concept for me—almost literally in fact because I noticed that it's hard for me to read anything whenever I wear my contact lenses. Unlike my glasses, my contacts don't correct for astigmatism so I have to zoom in to websites most of the time.

As people move through different environments, their abilities can also change dramatically. In a loud crowd, they can’t hear well. In a car, they’re visually impaired. New parents spend much of their day doing tasks one-handed. An overwhelming day can cause sensory overload. What’s possible, safe, and appropriate is constantly changing.

This pictures show how people can be disabled permanently, temporarily, and situationaly. For example in the first column it shows that people having one arm is a permanent disability, an arm injury would be a temporary disability, and a new parent carrying a baby as a situational disability.

Since then I've been trying to educate myself, and I started off with the book called Accessibility for Everyone and trying to apply the things that I learned to audit my work.

I've also been running into a lot of excelent content on the web recently:

Thinking about accessibility and inclusivity doesn't only make it better for some people but for everyone. My friend Mikey just mentioned elevators the other day and how they make it easier for both abled and disabled people to go up the building. My apartment building doesn't have any elevators and climbing four flights of stairs after a leg workout isn't fun.

A screenshot of a website called Empathy Prompts. It says: "Exercise strenuously: Try a full body workout, then try and prepare dinner from scratch. Remember to stretch and hydrate! This prompt helps you understand what it’s like to have a motor condition like Multiple Sclerosis."

I've gotten the chance to work on two websites that I'm particularly proud of recently. I'm not good at it yet, but I've been working on making websites work well with keyboard navigation and screen readers.

One is a marketing page:

A GIF of me navigating the marketing page using the tab key.

And the other is a blog theme:

A GIF of me navigating the blog using the tab key.

In these projects I learned how to create accessible carousels, accessible side menus, <dl> lists, sweet-looking skip navigation, and making accessible font icons.

I also learned how to use VoiceOver on macOS and iOS!

A GIF of me going through a page while using VoiceOver.

Next I'd like to learn how to use NVDA and get my hands on TalkBack. ~Stay tuned~