I was speaking about accessibility at PHP[tek], and I spoke to a few of my workshop attendees what they think about accessibility.
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Nic: Welcome to the A11y Rules Podcast. You’re listening to a special episode from PHP[tek]. I’m Nic Steenhout, and I talk with people involved in one way or another with web accessibility. If you’re interested in accessibility, this show’s for you.
Nic: Note that a transcript for this show is available on the podcast website at https://a11yrules.com. Thanks to Twilio for sponsoring the transcripts. Twilio: connect the world with the leading platform for voice, SMS, and video. http://twilio.com
Nic: I was invited to talk about accessibility at PHP[tek] 2018. Eli and Heather put together a wonderful event. For my listeners that haven’t been to PHP[tek], I can only recommend you figure out a way to come next year, because you won’t regret it.
Nic: Anyway, I gave my talk about accessibility and security, and I held a tutorial about accessibility testing. One of the things I’m always curious to know is the impact these kind of workshops or presentations have on attendees, so I asked a few of them about it. They were gracious enough to let me record our short conversation for the podcast.
Nic: I spoke to five people. Their take-home messages included realizing that accessibility benefits everyone, that you can do little things to make big differences, that they now know how much they need to explore, and their new awareness about the technologies to test for accessibility. But let’s hear it in their own words.
Nic: Bradley, can you introduce yourself first? Tell us who you are, and what you do, in a nutshell.
Bradley: Hi. My name’s Bradley Coudriet. I work at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in one of the colleges there, doing application development. RIT’s unique because it also houses the NTID, which is the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. That’s what I do. I work there doing web application development for infrastructure support for students.
Nic: Okay. So you had some awareness of accessibility before you came to PHP[tek], right?
Bradley: Yes. It’s a culture thing at RIT. It’s always in our minds.
Nic: Right. You took a workshop about accessibility a couple of days ago. How has your perception of accessibility changed before and after the workshop?
Bradley: Before the workshop, it was one of those things that’s always in the back of your mind, and hate to say it, it’s one of those, “I’ll get to it” things. Then afterwards, you realize exactly what the impact is. How little changes, which don’t require a lot of work on my part, can make a big difference for a lot of people. That’s important. It was very eye-opening.
Nic: Okay. Can you give us a “for instance” that really struck you?
Bradley: The thing that really struck me is the use of header tags. Just realizing that … Just use them right, so you don’t screw everybody up. We did a couple of examples where we showed some bad sites with header tags that made no sense, and realizing how bad that makes things for people with screen readers, and stuff like that. That was a big takeaway for me, was just do your content right.
Nic: Thank you. If you were to ask one question about accessibility that you’re still curious about, what would it be?
Bradley: The one question I still have, and this is more of a technology that we’re getting to, is this idea of captioning on the fly of videos and video sources. It’s something that some technology companies are getting into, and they’re helping … Google, Microsoft … but when will that be available for everyone to use at a reasonable cost? We’re paying out of the arm and the leg to caption videos that we make. So if we can get to that point as a community, I think we’d be much better off.
Nic: Wonderful. Thank you very much, Bradley.
Bradley: Great. Thank you.
Nic: Brooke. Tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and why you came to PHP[tek].
Brooke: Yeah. My name is Brooke Bailey, and I work at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and I’m a web developer there. I actually manage a team of two web developers that are students, to manage our whole entire sites.
Brooke: I’m a web developer for a department called University Unions. My specific task is to manage all of our WordPress installations. Along those lines means all of the accessibility, all of the updates, all of the content changes, developing new features, training our clients, the whole gamut.
Nic: How much accessibility experience did you have before coming to tek?
Brooke: I had very little accessibility. In college, I learned about accessibility, and we learned how to make forms accessible. We learned some of the pros and cons to alt-text, title-text. I did 508 compliance with my first job in the private sector, out of college. But outside of just the very basics, I didn’t really know a ton, but I loved learning about accessibility and the importance of it. Because it is important.
Nic: Yeah, it is important. After attending the workshop, what strikes you the most? What’s the take-home lesson that you got from that?
Brooke: Absolutely. There’s actually a lot. I think just being aware of the different technologies to use to test a site, such as … Even though I don’t need a screen reader, where I can go and get screen reader technologies. Where I can go and get extensions for my browser to do testing for high-contrast situations.
Brooke: Where I can go and challenge my counterparts at my university to use their keywords and not use their mice, to see our sites aren’t super accessible, or they are super accessible, depending on what it is. And really allowing that to inspire our students who are working on our sites, and also my full-time, professional staff that I work with, to show them that it is an issue, and that even if we don’t encounter this, there are students on campus who do.
Nic: If you had a challenge to give your co-workers or colleagues, what would it be?
Brooke: It would definitely be to go an hour without using their mice.
Nic: Excellent! That’s really eye-opening, normally, to do that.
Nic: Last question: if you had one burning question that you still have about accessibility, what would you like to know about?
Brooke: Yeah, I think that would be where can you get more training, or more certifications, if that’s even possible, for accessibility, so you can become more aware of the issues and how to make your sites better?
Nic: Right. Certification. We will talk about that in the next podcast.
Nic: Brooke, thank you so much.
Brooke: You’re very welcome. Thank you.
Nic: Good morning, Doug. Can you tell us who you are, what you do, what brings you to PHP[tek]?
Doug: Certainly, yeah. I’m Douglas Early, and I work for a company called OneBookShelf. We’re small enough that most people wear a couple of hats, but my hat that I most often refer to would probably simply be project manager, while I also do a bit of development on the side. I primarily do web development and project management for them. We’re here all together as a company, just to be at PHP[tek] and learn as much as possible.
Nic: Right. You attended my accessibility workshop, and you were telling me about a concept yesterday that I found really intriguing, in terms of what you learned and what you took out of that workshop. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Doug: Yes. That’s right. The orders of ignorance. It’s something I like to think about when I’m addressing a problem-space that I’m not very familiar with. I realized, as I was going through the workshop yesterday, that I was at the second order of ignorance, which is not knowing how much or what I don’t know. I had no idea.
Doug: For me, accessibility was another checkbox on the list, right? It’s a good concept, and something you want to do, but so is vacuuming the living room, sweeping the floor, it’s just a box that you need to check off. But going through your workshop took me from that level all the way to zeroth order ignorance, which is finally, probably knowing something.
Doug: To contextualize that, for me, that was taking it from a checkbox, and sort of a vague idea of “there may be some things that we want to do” to … especially when trying to use the screen readers, watching you use the screen reader, navigating via keyboard only, the horrifying realization that our and many other websites can just be completely unusable to a segment of the population. That was a transformative realization for me. It changed my perception of reality.
Nic: So from now on, everything you do will be fully accessible, right?
Doug: I mean, it’s easy, especially as a project manager, to idealize things, but I took your mention that … Hopefully, I can get this right, but “20% of the effort can net you 80% of the results.” I think that’s the bar we’re going to shoot for.
Nic: Yeah, and I think that’s a good bar. You will never get your site fully accessible, but if you get it mostly there, it’s a good start.
Nic: If you had one question you wonder about accessibility, what would it be?
Doug: Sure. And that’s been bubbling around in my mind probably since yesterday, when it was partially answered during the workshop. That’s just that nothing ever stands still. Everything has to evolve. And a lot of the techniques that I observed yesterday I felt were very appropriate for a stage in the evolution of web where things were mostly concocted on the server-end, and then sent statically to the client. Web pages. Much easier to do that way.
Doug: But as we did discuss, there’s a lot of movement towards front-end Java-script client frameworks where those same techniques are more complicated, I think, to implement. I’m just wondering what the next phase of making sure things are accessible will look like in that world.
Nic: Okay, so basically how can you adapt to moving technologies and things that are changing?
Nic: I will try and do a podcast on that, as well. Doug, thank you very much.
Doug: Thank you very much, Nic.
Nic: Mark, tell us a little bit about who you are, what you’re doing, what brought you to PHP[tek].
Mark: All right, well I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that paid for me to be here, so I came to help brush up on my skills as a web developer.
Nic: Cool. And you attended the same workshop about accessibility that Bradley attended?
Mark: I did. It was very enlightening. Very eye-opening. Wonderful presenter, by the way.
Nic: Yeah, thank you.
Mark: No names mentioned, but definitely it was well done. It was … how do I say? Accessibility has always been something that I’ve been aware of. It’s always nice to have it brought to the forefront of your mind, rather than just something in the back that you’ll remember three days later, “Oh, maybe I should have done something about that.” It’s nice to have it front and center.
Nic: Now, you were telling me yesterday that one of the things you noticed was how improvement for accessibility benefit other people. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Mark: During the training class, one of the things that was brought up was how people who do not have any disabilities can find themselves in situations that, from a technical perspective, we can solve the same way we help out people with disabilities. For instance, someone who has low-vision, someone who needs high-contrast mode, solving that problem can be just as advantageous for people who are sighted, but are having to be in bright daylight, in the sunlight, and they can’t see very well on their phone’s screen because of that.
Mark: Doing things with an eye towards helping people with disabilities can help all of our customers. Can help all of our users. That really struck me. That gave me a wonderful new piece of ammunition that I never had before, that I can go to my boss and say, “Hey, this is something we need to be doing. Look, this isn’t just going to help 15-20% of our users. This could help all of our users.”
Nic: Yeah. Thank you. That’s one of the things that I like people to remember about that. Cool.
Nic: Now, if you had one question that still runs in the back of your mind about accessibility, what would it be?
Mark: What can I do to make it easier for myself to incorporate the design practices to be accessible-friendly?
Nic: Okay. An accessibility workflow in the design phases of a project?
Nic: Cool. Thank you. I will use that to create an entire podcast about that very question. So thank you very much.
Mark: Thank you.
Nic: Tell me who you are, what you’re doing, what brought you here.
Clarke: I’m Clarke Huhta. I do PHP development for OfficeSupply.com. I came to PHP[tek], because I went when they were in Chicago four years ago, and it seemed like another good opportunity that … not sure why we didn’t go in between, but just seemed like a good opportunity now, so we did.
Nic: Fair enough.
Nic: So you took my accessibility testing workshop a couple of days ago, and then you did the accessibility and security as well. What is your perspective on accessibility … how has that changed from before you took that workshop to now?
Clarke: I think the primary thing that’s changed is, before, I was aware of, “You need to take accessibility into account. There’s just a number of people that this can be affecting that we really don’t have any idea, because we have no way to directly reach out to our customers. It’s just a good idea for the future.”
Clarke: Then the fact that I think you had mentioned, as well, it helps with SEO and things like that. I was aware of those things, but not really aware of just the experiences that people had, just the way that we should be taking them into account.
Clarke: Especially, the workshop helped a lot, because it was very eye-opening to be able to see some real-life examples of what those experiences would be like, even if you, yourself were not the people that would need those things you were demonstrating, just seeing them happening on screen was very helpful.
Nic: Cool. Thank you. Do you have one question about accessibility that is still burning to your mind, that you’d like to ask about?
Clarke: I think the biggest thing I have is … which, I don’t know if you have the answer for, because it might just be I need to do more research, but it seems like screen readers, especially, are a very important thing to take into account, because if someone needs a screen reader, it’s probably their only way to access the site. I’m not entirely sure about how to go and get that setup in our work environment.
Nic: Okay, so trying to figure out how you set up a screen reader in your work environment to be able to do your own testing, kind of thing.
Clarke: Yeah, yeah.
Nic: All right. I’m going to try to answer that in a future podcast for you, so we can get you sorted. Thank you.
Nic: You’ve heard me say that I was going to create new shows with answers to the questions they had. And there you have it. I’m taking this opportunity to announce the A11y Rules Technical Show. The first episode of that is a few weeks away, but I’m hoping to produce a few episodes that address questions developers or designers have about accessibility.
Nic: But without waiting for a new show, there’s Brooke’s question about certification, that can be answered quickly. The best place for English-language certification is the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. You can find them at http://accessibilityassociation.org.
Nic: On that note, thank you for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please do tell your friends about it. Don’t forget you can get the transcript for this and all of the shows at https://a11yrules.com. Thanks again to Twilio for supporting the transcripts for this episode.