The Web and Media Accessibility Group AMA 🎉

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Bolaji Ayodeji's photo

Hi Jen, Obinna, Segun and Tatiana ;) Thanks for this AMA.

IMO, I think accessibility is hard because most of its concepts are not included in the basics. Most of us had to learn how to make our applications accessible after building them for a very long time hence most developers see it as stress. Why do you think accessibility is not included in fundamental courses just like you're taught "forms" in every HTML course?.

Do you think this is changing and how can we embrace this?

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Segun Ola's photo

Thanks, Bolaji.

The reason accessibility hasn’t made it into most coding tutorials is because the authors of such content mostly do not have limiting disabilities, therefore it’s easy to ignore needs that do not affect them. This doesn’t mean they’re evil, it’s just human nature. We tend to focus on things that affect us. I dare say a blind web developer wouldn’t create web content that excludes screen reader users.

This is why we must embrace an INCLUSIVE approach when designing/building software. It is possible to build a technically accessible product that is barely usable because it was not designed for inclusion. For example, giving every item on a website a positive tab-index makes it technically accessible to tab/switch users but not inclusive. Actually, that would be frustrating to these users because that’s not how they interact with pages. They expect to jump through a handful of focusable elements, not spend their entire day tabbing through every item on the page.

Do I think this is changing? Yes, thanks to the advocacy being done by people like Jen, Tatiana, Obinna, and many other accessibility experts in the community. There’s still a long way to go but we’re seeing progress.

Tatiana Mac's photo

I think that accessibility is not included into fundamental courses because the industry in which we work and the society in which we live systematically focuses its attention on the majority, and operates under an inherently ableist model. The majority tends to be able-bodied and neurotypical. Able-bodied and neurotypical people build things that work for them. People who are disabled and neurodivergent are excluded systematically at the top tier of every single system, which trickles down.

So, when we build technological systems that interface with banking systems, we're fighting against two systems that were not set up to include all. The education of building tech and banking systems is also intrinsically not accessible. Inaccessible systems compound other inaccessible systems, and exclude how to make things accessible for all.

What can we do about it?

  • We can start infiltrating our educational systems, encouraging atraditional systems in particular (e.g., self-taught folks, code bootcamp students). I try to spend time visiting (by video these days) university courses for designers and developers, teaching them to think about accessibility first.

  • Speaking about accessibility more and making it an acceptance criteria rather than nice-to-have in all of our projects.

  • Daring to do things differently. Part of what perpetuates an unjust and inaccessible system is that we are complicit when we don't question why things are inaccessible.

  • Showing our colleagues across all disciplines how their roles impact accessibility (content strategy which impacts h tags and content structure; designers how colour palette choices impact downstream contrast, etc)

  • Trusting and centring disabled people who are most impacted by inaccessible technology. Putting them in power and holding space for them as core users of our products.