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Learning to be Accessible

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I’m trying to be learn more about accessibility these days. Thinking about it more, reading about it some, and generally being aware as I write code what I should and shouldn’t do in that arena.

I am grateful for the folks in our community who work tirelessly to make sure that I can easily find information about it online. The A11Y Project is constantly getting updates from the community to help me understand what are best practices. I just read Heydon Pickering’s book, Apps For All: Coding Accessible Web Applications, a short, but really good book to remind me of how I should be writing HTML.

I’m also speaking up more in meetings and on my project teams. When I see something that just doesn’t quite jibe with what I’ve been learning about accessibility, I bring it up. I also ask trusted friends about it too, to make sure I’m not crazy, but that it’s actually a best practice; because it matters. Sometimes the little things, such as removing an outline on focus or using empty links instead of button, are the things that can add up to a bad experience for people using the site with a keyboard or screenreader.

Unfortunately, sometimes I get pushback—especially when working on a minimum viable product or a quick project. There is always the answer of, “we’ll fix it later.” But will you? I’ve been working on applications and projects long enough to see that going back to refactor can be even tougher to make time for.

I try, when getting that pushback, to remind people of the fact that it’s hard to make the time for code refactors. Taking a little bit of time to do things right the first time around saves time in the long run. Eventually, I usually share the consequences some companies have faced when they don’t take accessibility seriously. I don’t always win the battles, but often reminding colleagues that there will be a wide range of people using the site—some of whom may not use it exactly as we do—is worth it. Hopefully, next time they’ll be more willing to take the time necessary up front.

I know this has been said before, but as I’ve started reading more and more on accessibility and trying to learn more about it, I’ve found it to be rewarding. Working on a project where all users can access and use it well, that’s satisfying. One of my most satisfying moments professionally was hearing from a blind user who was thankful they were able to use our app. And if you don’t think about accessibility, well, that can just lead to a world of hurt.

 

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