Accessibility Technology

Accessibility in an Agile World

Presenters:  Jesse Hausler and Cordelia McGee-Tubb from @jessehausler@cordeliadillon

This was my fifth session at the CSUN conference on Thursday, March 5.   Interested in this session because of my home institution’s use of Oracle/PeopleSoft, and I expect this session may provide an interesting counterpoint to that platform.

How Agile Fails Accessibility

  • Decentralized product ownership
  • Teams control their own backlog
  • Balance: bugs/accessibility
  • Balance:  feature enhancement / Enhancements
  • Separate accessibility features; mountain of accessibility debt
  • Unless a proper system is put in place, accessibility – under agile – will always take a back seat to the creation of new features

Executive Support

  • “The email” is not the solution.  It can’t do the work that needs to be done.
  • Executives remove blockers and help us build an environment in which accessibility can thrive

Building the Environment – Culture

  • Gain allies and raise awareness.
  • Build the base of passionate people.
  • Spread knowledge about accessibility
  • Build empathy through examples
  • Frame accessibility through your company’s core mission
  • Make it contagious (get other people talking about it)
  • Embed on a scrum team:  teach how to ship accessible features, learn at a micro level how agile works at your company.
  • Knowledge of your company’s brand of agile
  • Success building an accessible feature
  • Prove to the team that it’s not a big hurdle
  • Allies in UX, scrum leadership, development, and quality
  • Path to embed on another, larger, more influential team
  • Create an award that recognizes excellence; publicize winners, generate incentive to build accessible


  • Create reusable components:  use your contacts to join the appropriate scrum team, guide them toward the development of accessible components
  • 3rd party components:  know which ones are used, gauge level of accessibility, catalogue functionally equivalent alternatives for inaccessible ones, work with stakeholders to enlist accessible alternatives
  • Grassroots marketing campaign:  dropdown / throwdown poster was a classic (lots of great comics in this preso)
  • Take advantage of redesigns:  product redesigns are common, be prepared with a set of accessible, reusable components, beware of redesigns (they could pull out good stuff)
  • Testing Framework
  • Quality Engineering does not normally include accessibility as a traditional part of quality testing.
  • Automation is key to accessibility; build test automation that is specific to your environment.  Opt everyone in, automatically issue test failures where possible, test for patterns that indicate accessibility bugs, perform manual spot checks, track everything.
  • DOM test the simple things (WAVE-testable stuff)


  • How does your company implement a new process?
  • Develop a plan:  problem statement, teams/groups impacted, proposal detail, tracking / success metrics, exception policy, release sign-off process, communication plan
  • Get an executive sponsor:  their main job is to believe in your idea.
  • Example meta process:  define problem > ID impacted parties > engage forum (present proposal, gather feedback) > go/no-go > re-socialize revised proposal, get alignment, final buy-in > go/no-go > visibility to executives > communication and rollout


  • Cultivate Support
  • Provide Good components
  • Leverage your test framework
  • Institute process change
  • Keep it going


Accessibility Technology

Agile and Accessibility Case Study

Karl Groves @karlgroves

Agile and Accessibility:  Theory and Reality

Ceiling Cat and the SDLC (he watches you as you do waterfall project management – Google this meme…not as good as Cat-Breading, but still funny)

The further you get down the path, the less likely you are to get accessibility into the plan (if it’s not part of the plan to begin with).

The agile manifesto:  “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.  Through this work we have come to value…”  Go here and read it yourself:

How do agile and accessibility work together?

  • Definition of done:  do tests pass?  If yes, we’re done!
  • Inherently user focused (as a user x, I should be able to do y, so that I can accomplish z)
  • Inherently quality focused
  • Inherently collaborative (pigs and chickens story, referenced here: )
  • Tools and techniques (Test Driven Development)
  • Daily standups
  • Definition of done
  • Fortune 100 Healthcare Company, 36.5 billion, 40,000 employees
  • SDUF (Some Design Up Front), some spec work done up front
  • 95 initial renderings
  • 9 page types
  • 10 sub-page layouts
  • Slicing up designs and assets into working HTML


  • A11y team members assigned to several scrum teams
  • Development and testing
  • We deviated from the process (triple quality constraint Cost, Scope, Time)
  • We underestimated the scope and resources, untrained resources
  • Executive staff unwilling to adjust to meet evolving needs
  • Agile fall?


  • William James: A chain is no longer than its wekest link, and life is after all a chain
  • You need the knowledge and skills, or you can’t be effective
  • You CAN integrate accessibility into any process
  • Time spent up front building accessible components and patterns is good accessibility ROI (still expect to refactor); that is, the 95 initial renderings


  • One way to get accessibility win, create an accessible.css file that contains all the stuff you need
  • Develop a detailed User Interface Model up front, which helps to standardize the interaction model.
  • Ratio of accessibility members on a team:  at least one should be functioning as a SME.
  • Why can’t we standardize on a particular framework / approach?  Start contributing to those projects that have made the most progress.
  • Leonie talked briefly about the UK government’s success with their site rebuild