Accessibility Technology

Do We Need to Change the Web Accessibility Game Plan (Redux)?


Trend this hashtag, people!  #GamePlan2015

This is the fourth presentation I attended on Wednesday, March 4 at the #CSUN15 conference.  A cast of the usual suspects:  one of them wears a cowboy hat so he can be picked out in a crowd.  All of them are veteran #CSUN attendees.  The hashtag this motley crew wants to trend?  #GamePlan2015  Give them some love!

Disclaimer:  these are personal opinions

Don’t call it accessibility anymore, call it “information experience”

Have attitudes to accessibility changed within the tech industry over the past four years?  Does web accessibility still have an image problem?  If so, can we fix this and how?

  • Leonie:  yes, it’s improved.  With the exception of the CSUN conference, nearly all the conferences I’m asked to attend are mainstream.
  • Jennison:  I think there’s still a problem, most people think accessibility = blind people.  They don’t understand costs, and there’s a huge emphasis on the price tag.
  • Glenda:  it depends on us.  Are we being a pain in the neck, or are we helping?  There may be an image problem because a lot of professionals don’t necessarily agree on mitigation approaches.  We need ot make sure people fall in love with doing this.
  • Jared:  Perfect can be the enemy of good.  We shouldn’t let legalistic approaches to accessibility scare us…it’s a journey.

What is driving progress today:  awareness, technology, or legislation?

  • Jared:  all of the above.  Technology seems to be the area that continues to get short shrift.  New stuff coming out isn’t necessarily built with accessibility in mind.
  • John:  Leonie, is the UK more mature in terms of accessibility?  I think we may have a different attitude with respect to litigation, but our law is quite a bit more comprehensive.
  • John:  Jennison, what about Canada?  I think fear of legislation – specifically AODA – is driving a lot of the work that’s being done up there.
  • Glenda:  US experience, legislation doesn’t drive innovation, but it often drives the accessibility reality, especially in specific areas like purchasing airline tickets (note the difference between this task now and after December 12, 2015).

Is there a best place for accessibility to be anchored in an organization?

  • Jennison:  it should be driven from within IT.  Accessibility folks need to be embedded within the people building products, i.e. designers, developers.
  • Jared:  building it into the process is the key.  Building architects now build accessibility features directly into their plans.  There are still accessibility specialists out there, but by and large they’re called in to deal with special cases.
  • Glenda:  in life in EDU I was in an IT unit and I built relationships with many areas.  You need to build this into annual review process.

How can we further expand web accessibility into mainstream web design and development education?  What is working, and what isn’t?

  •  Jared:  we’re not really there yet.  We’re making progress, but we’re not there.
  • Glenda:  there needs to be a degree for web experience.  We need to look at building this into the K12 and junior colleges.  Many of us learned by “viewing source.”
  • Jennison:  I think that accessibility camps (these are a bit like a meetup crossed with a hackathon) are a piece of the solution.  We ask questions “how do you score yourselves with accessibility.”  Many companies hire developers out of development bootcamps.  We need to get into those bootcamps (i.e. go where the devs are).
  • John:  Are we making advancements in education globally?  Leonie:  we’re going to be firefighters until it’s baked into education programs.  I experienced this while testing getting a degree in computer science.

Outside of teaching accessibility at schools, how do we attract more tech professionals to come work with us?

  • Jared:  attract them with money!  Practitioners who have these skills can make more money.  You won’t become a millionaire doing this, but you can do well.
  • Jennison:  we need to find opportunities to speak about our field on panels at mainstream conferences and events.  To attract more professionals, we need to be a bit more gracious to people getting into the field.  The “pile on” mentality is still prevalent in many areas.
  • John:  is the money thing a new development?
  • Jared:  it’s been a slow process, but this is definitely a place where legislation has had a significant impact, especially with respect to job titles.
  • Glenda:  there’s something innately meaningful about this work.  Developers at a Fortune 50 company shared how much they loved doing this kind of work (i.e. “I can’t remember the last time I cared about doing my work”).  Mentors are an important part of this process.
  • Leonie:  drawing people into the profession requires a defined profession for them to walk into.  It’s a bit like web development was back in the 90s.
  • Jennison:  if you have an internship program, teach them!  Get them on the accessibility/development team.

What has the emergence of the mobile platform had on our successes and failures?  What lessons have we learned from the mobile revolution?

  • Jared:  giving up on pixel-perfect designs has been extremely helpful in moving accessibility forward.
  • Leonie:  SDKs by major companies (Google, Apple) for native accessibility has helped a lot.  It’s not perfect, but it helps.

What are the biggest things that are still broken in web accessibility efforts today?

  • Leone:  lack of education
  • Jennison:  text only sites
  • Glenda:  testing
  • Jared:  legislation has helped; focus on users matters

What is the single most effective thing our community could do to change the course of accessibility over the next four years?

  • Glenda:  needs to be done by more than just one person
  • Jared:  I think we’re on the right track…keep up the passion!
  • Jennison:  focus on practical, not perfection.
  • Leonie:  stop going on about guidelines, encourage the creative side of this.



By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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