A reflection on my 100 Days of A11y

One week ago I sat for IAAP’s (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) certification exam. After 200+ hours of self-guided study, spanning over 100+ days — through sickness and in health — plus 13 Deque prep courses, I met the exam head-on with optimistic yet nervous energy. Would the studying and coursework be enough to pass? Had I actually learned the core principles and technicalities that would allow me to answer confidently and feel as though I qualify as a specialist?

I can’t say for certain if I passed because it takes 4-6 weeks for me to hear back on the pass or fail result. However, I can say with certainty that all of this was not a total fail. I put in the time to learn in-depth about web accessibility principles, guidelines, and technical specifications. I took several chances to teach others about web accessibility. Additionally, I was inspired to keep advocating for accessibility and continue learning so I can create better experiences for people on the web.

Why did I do it?

This is one of the first questions people ask me after they heard about my desire to take the exam or the 100 days I committed to pursue web accessibility knowledge. To this, my reply was simply, “because I want to learn web accessibility at a greater depth than I what I know now. This exam gives me study materials and a goal post.” To add to that, I’ve learned from my two rounds of 100 Days of Code that I could learn a lot and accomplish much if I’m accountable throughout a 100-day period. That type of commitment forced me to be systematic and pushed me into forward motion.

As a matter of fact, Nicolas Steenhout interviewed me about it on his A11yRules podcast:

  1. E76 – Interview with Amy Carney – Part 1 (26 minutes)
  2. E77 – Interview with Amy Carney – Part 2 (16 minutes)

How did I do it? A timeline.

No journey is complete without some sort of pre-planning and external support. My planning began with garnering support and acquiring permission to spend time on this project with the return on investment being improved accessibility for their sites, as well as sharing the knowledge statewide. On November 28, 2018, I approached my boss about taking the WAS exam with the support of my division behind it. It didn’t take long to get his approval, as well as our director’s approval.

Based on that approval, I started Day 1 of my Web Accessibility Specialist journey on November 30, 2018 with the intention to take the exam on April 3, 2019. That plan would allow me four whole months of self-guided study, and address any bumps that may come up along the way. Every single day (except for Christmas Day), I spent 1-2 hours of my time either reading articles, watching videos, delving into documentation, or picking apart accessible code. Each of these were all discovered by using the WAS Body of Knowledge [Word doc] as my guide for topics to explore. Alongside my studying, I took time to journal (blog) each day to keep myself accountable and share with others the discoveries I’d made, hence the very existence of the 100 Days of A11y website you are pulling this article from.

On February 21, 2019, in the midst of my self-guided study, I was awarded a year’s membership to Deque University. This gave me access to all their courses, which included the thirteen courses that would prepare me for the WAS certification exam. Within a few days of enrollment, I started working through the pertinent courses with intention to work through all thirteen in order to fill in any gaps, plus act as review for what I’d already learned.

It wasn’t until February 22, 2019 when I finally finished working through the WAS Body of Knowledge. By that time I’d gotten a good handle on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), discovered the Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) for the first time, and revisited the Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) specification and its recommended practices. Additionally, I had the opportunity to try out new code by creating accessible JavaScript components and create an evaluation report about a website’s accessibility.

On March 3, 2019, I began reading A Web for Everyone by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbury. Though this was by my own choice and interest, rather than a recommended read from a list, it greatly benefited me at this point in my journey. The points they really brought home about the people we design for and the experiences we build were perfect timing. Each idea for inclusive design was well-received, thanks to the knowledge about WCAG and people with disabilities that I’d built up prior to entering into their text.

It was on March 10, 2019 that I completed my 100 days of self-guided study for the WAS exam. For the next 5-6 days I took a break from such a time-consuming commitment. That break period allowed me to take advantage of some sunny weather with my family before diving full-force into the Deque courses that still lay ahead.

April 2, 2019, the day before my exam, I finished the final course on Deque that I needed in order to feel more prepared for the WAS exam. It was a long course, but ever-so-necessary, since it reinforced what I needed to know about testing sites for accessibility.

At last, exam day had arrived. On April 3, 2019, I sat for the exam with my designated proctor. In under an hour, I was able to answer all 75 questions, some of which I may have missed. I walked away with much relief, mixed with a sense of affirmation that I had indeed learned something over those last four month. To me, it had all proven to be a success.

What did I take away from all this?

People are the reason

As I mentioned in one of my journal posts, the point of all of this comes down to people. Accessibility is specifically aimed at people with disabilities. Without that core understanding, the resources I tapped into would have been un-relatable and useless. The biggest thing I gained from this was the expansion of my perception. My accessibility mission starts first with understanding who is accessing the web and how they may interact with it. It’s important for me to grasp that we do not all share the same contexts, environments, and experiences. Nor do we all respond the same way to the same website.

Resources are ripe for the Googling

Over two years ago when I was digging around the Internet, trying to figure out were to start on web accessibility with only WCAG in mind, I felt so lost. I think that was partly due to the fact that I found some websites very unfriendly and uninviting. Any time I googled “WCAG” it brought me to the normative documentation or the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) site. Both made me leave rather quickly.

That being said, I am happy to report that several things have changed since then, and more homegrown contributions have popped up on the web. For one, the WAI website‘s recent redesign is so much more inviting to someone like myself. Additionally, I’ve found a whole community on Twitter that hashtags accessibility (#a11y). Those people led me to personal blogs or other people’s articles and online talks, including Inclusive Design 24 and A11ycasts on YouTube. Later, I was able to join a Slack group centered on dedicated topics of web accessibility. All of these things have been fabulous, informative, and inviting. I am grateful that so many conversations and open knowledge-sharing is happening online that I can partake in or at least lurk around to listen.

Web accessibility is no different than any other part of front-end development. We can’t possibly memorize every single detail. The critical part comes down to building up the right toolbox for ourselves, and bookmarking the resources that we need to consult often.

Don’t re-invent the wheel: use code examples

To fill up that toolbox, look back at the resources that I tapped into, which were also generous in offering up code examples. What’s one thing we designers and developers crave the most when learning accessibility? Code snippets! We want to see how someone else successfully made their component or pattern accessible in real life. I like to play with code and try to build things creatively myself (as do many of us), but I also draw comfort from knowing others have worked on this and found a good solution that provides an equal experience for a wider audience.

Thank you to anyone who has unabashedly shared what they’ve learned and how they made it work. Your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are much appreciated.

Also, I should mention ARIA as being relevant to my code endeavors and improvements, since I was forced to learn much of it during my self-guided study and Deque courses. It was the kick in the pants I needed to dig deeper into it’s documentation suite and get to know it’s full use and purpose. ARIA can still feel a bit complicated, but at least I understand it so much more than I did four months ago.

Testing and evaluation are a necessary skill

Not only have people offered up their code snippets, but some dedicated individuals have also presented what they’ve found when testing on specific platforms and user agents (browsers) with various assistive technology. This is truly the step forward that I think people like myself have been missing out on.

Studying for the WAS exam really pushed me forward in this area. It’s a skill, and it’s an important one. As someone who is deeply invested in providing a good user experience (for everyone), I was lacking in full understanding of how to test the sites I was building or maintaining. The WAVE toolbar and other automated tests were just not enough. The WAS Body of Knowledge not only made clear that I needed a fuller understanding of testing tools, but also that I needed evaluation methodologies, which I was completely clueless about beforehand. Thanks to their suggested list of various testing tools and techniques and WCAG-EM, I feel a lot better equipped to scrutinize each experience I’m providing to the public. It’s become part of my own workflow in design and development now.

I can’t turn back

It’s too late for me. I’ve swallowed the red pill and now I can’t go back to living in blissful ignorance and the illusion that everyone can easily use the sites I make. No longer can I be happy with un-semantic HTML elements, poor CSS design choices, and it-works-with-my-mouse JavaScript. To make matters worse, I may be alienating myself because I can’t help but bring it up and point out current problems. My Twitter feed is a prime example of my web accessibility knowledge and opinions running over a once placid profile. If that’s too overwhelming, you could ask my co-workers about me, but you’re bound to hear the word “accessibility” in that conversation.

What exactly is a Web Accessibility Specialist, again?

The WAS Body of Knowledge says that to be considered a Web Accessibility Specialist, one must understand how to:

  1. create accessible content, using WCAG, ARIA, and ATAG,
  2. identify accessibility issues, utilizing manual and testing tools, and
  3. remediate accessibility issues by offering evaluation and reports.

But what about assumptions we make when deeming who is an expert and who is not? For instance:

  • Can she recite any WCAG success criteria by number when quizzed?
    Maybe, if she spends every day evaluating with those success criteria.
  • Does she have every ARIA pattern memorized, ready to compare on examination of another’s source code?
    It’s possible. A few people are code geniuses.
  • Are all screen reader keystrokes memorized and performed fluidly by this alleged specialist?
    Doubtful, but some native screen reader users might be apt at this.
  • Will her site evaluation and report say the same thing another specialist’s report says?
    Unlikely, but miracles do happen.

Is a certification necessary? Maybe so or maybe no. In short, I think that IAAP is on the right track. There are a lot of things to understand, know, and consider in order for someone to be valuable as an accessibility consultant. It heavily depends on the direction a person is going with this certification. Consultant work for web accessibility is very important work, and it requires someone who is serious and committed to that subject matter. Certification is just one way to show that commitment.

So, what about the rest of us who just want to be better web designers and developers? Is there value in learning all these things with or without the certification? Yes! Becoming better at those three things (creation, identification, remediation) will make you better at your craft. It already has made me better at mine.

What’s next?

Perhaps I did (or didn’t) pass the exam. When the results come back, I will be excited if I did pass, and disappointed if I did not. But all is not lost. I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to become more knowledgeable about the why and the how of web accessibility.

On that note, I want to reiterate that it doesn’t end here for me. There is still so much I haven’t explored, tests that I haven’t run myself, and fixes on personal and business sites that I haven’t corrected yet. And if that weren’t enough, I plan on sitting for the Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) certification exam this Fall so that I can earn credential as a Certified Professional in Web Accessibility (CPWA).

In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do. Find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Github if you are interested in or want to talk web accessibility.

Day 100: WCAG and Motor Disabilities

Last official study day! I’ll continue to review my notes, WCAG, screen reader shortcuts, and work through Deque courses, but I will not feel obligated to post everyday after this. Summary of 100-day journey still to come.

A couple days ago, I covered WCAG and hearing impairments, so today I reviewed WCAG again to so how it benefits people with motor impairments that want to use the web.

Things I accomplished

What I reviewed

  • WCAG success criteria that benefit people with motor impairments;

What I learned from it

The following lists target WCAG success criteria that benefit people with motor impairments.

Level A

  • 1.3.2 Meaningful sequence
  • 2.1.1 Keyboard
  • 2.1.2 No keyboard trap
  • 2.1.4 Character key shortcuts (v2.1)
  • 2.2.1 Timing adjustable
  • 2.2.2 Pause, stop, hide
  • 2.4.1 Bypass blocks
  • 2.4.3 Focus order
  • 2.5.1 Pointer gestures (v2.1)
  • 2.5.2 Pointer cancellation (v2.1)
  • 2.5.4 Motion actuation (v2.1)
  • 3.2.1 On focus
  • 3.2.2 On input

Level AA

  • 1.3.4 Orientation
  • 1.4.13 Content on hover or focus (v2.1)
  • 2.4.5 Multiple ways
  • 2.4.7 focus visible
  • 3.3.4 Error prevention (legal, financial, data)

Level AAA

  • 2.1.3 Keyboard (no exception)
  • 2.2.3 No timing
  • 2.2.4 Interruptions
  • 2.2.5 Re-authenticating
  • 2.2.6 Timeouts (v2.1)
  • 2.5.5 Target size (v2.1)
  • 2.5.6 Concurrent input mechanisms (v2.1)
  • 3.2.5 Change on requesst
  • 3.3.6 Error prevention (all)

Day 99: Semantic Elements and Their Quirks

Today I worked on finishing a Deque course about semantic code. All my time got wrapped up in the fascinating aspects of which HTML is read aloud and easily navigable, and which elements are ignored by screen readers.

Things I accomplished

What I reviewed today

  • Semantic structures that screen readers (and sometimes everyone):
    • tables
    • lists
    • iframes
    • elements announced & unannounced
    • parsing & validity
  • Navigation keyboard shortcuts for screen readers;

What I learned from it

I’ve been mixing up the purpose to the caption element and the summary attribute for tables. Caption is the accessible name of the table, so it shows up in a list of tables provided by a screen reader. The summary attribute was deprecated in HTML5. Caption should be short, even when including a brief summary. Summary replacements include:

  • putting the table in a figure element, and using figcaption with table aria-labelledby to associate the table with the summary
  • adding an id to a separate paragraph and adding aria-describedby to the table element to point to that p id.

When using iframes, include a title attribute, and ensure the embedded page/content has a title element. Screen readers like JAWS vary in behavior as to which one they read. Also, as a note to myself, I need to start defining the type of content within tthe iframe title attribute, like starting the title with “Video”, so it’s clear what they are accessing.

HTML elements that we can’t rely on screen readers to read aloud, therefore, should provide additional cues for important information:

  • strong
  • em
  • q
  • code
  • pre
  • del
  • ins
  • mark

These have given me a lot to think about and stresses the importance of testing my sites on a few different screen readers and platforms.

Wrapping a code element with a pre element is appropriate, and helps the visual presentation of code blocks.

Day 98: WCAG and Hearing Impairments

Yesterday’s learning about how WCAG benefits people with visual impairments pushed me forward into more WCAG overview to see how it benefits people with hearing impairments (deaf and hard of hearing). Deafblind benefit from using the combined design techniques of visually impaired and hearing impaired.

Things I accomplished

What I reviewed today

  • Semantic structures that screen readers (and sometimes everyone):
    • links (WCAG 2.4.4, A & 2.4.9, AAA)
    • navigation between pages (WCAG 3.2.3, AA & 3.2.4, AA)
    • navigation on page
  • Navigation keyboard shortcuts for screen readers.
  • WCAG success criteria that benefit people with hearing impairments;

What I learned from it

Tips from Giles Colborne’s book Simple and Usable (as quoted in Web for Everyone:

  • simplicity is good science and good interface design
  • simple designs put complexity in its place
  • observe real people to learn what’s needed
  • designing for multiple devices supports accessibility

aria-describedby and aria-labelledby WILL access content that is inside a container hidden using aria-hidden="true".

aria-labelledby, aria-describedby, aria-label, and hidden text are some ways to let a screen reader user know of current page. Or use aria-current=”page” which has some support.

The following lists target WCAG success criteria that benefit people with visual impairments. The main concern for hard of hearing is to provide text or sign language alternatives to any sound provided.

Level A

  • 1.1.1 Non-text alternatives
  • 1.2.1 Audio-only & Video-only
  • 1.2.2 Captions (pre-recorded)
  • 1.2.3 Audio description or media alternative (pre-recorded)
  • 1.3.3 Sensory characteristics

Level AA

  • 1.2.2 Captions (live)

Level AAA

  • 1.2.6 Sign language (pre-recorded)
  • 1.2.8 Media alternatives (pre-recorded)
  • 1.2.9 Audio-only (live)

Day 97: WCAG and Visual Impairments

Yesterday’s learning about how WCAG benefits people with cognitive disabilities inspired me to look over WCAG again to see how it benefits people with visual impairments (blind and low vision).

Things I accomplished

What I reviewed today

  • Semantic structures that screen readers (and sometimes everyone):
    • page title (WCAG 2.4.2, A)
    • page and parts language (WCAG 3.1.1, A & 3.1.2, AA)
    • landmarks (WCAG 4.1.1, A)
    • headings (WCAG 1,3,1, A & 2.4.6, AA & 2.4.10, AAA)
    • links
  • Navigation keyboard shortcuts for screen readers.
  • WCAG success criteria that benefit people with visual impairments;

What I learned from it

The support among screen readers is better for the simple two-letter language codes (like “en” for English) than for the localized language codes (like “en-au” for Australian English).

Screen readers list forms only if marked as role="form" (the <form> element will be ignored in landmark lists).

The name of a link is calculated as follows (in order of precedence by screen readers):

  1. aria-labelledby
  2. aria-label
  3. Text contained between the opening <a> and closing </a> elements (including alt text on images)
  4. title attribute (note that this is considered a last resort method for screen readers to find something; it should not be considered a primary technique for giving names to links)

If headings have images, the alt text will be show up in the headings list. Linked images (whether HTML img or CSS background image) can be assigned aria-label or aria-described by. Spans can hide extra meaningful content for screen readers. All these alternatives make me wonder how that impacts people with cognitive disabilities or people who use speech recognition. It’s so important to design for more than one disability.

There are so many success criteria for this disability, compared to cognitive disabilities, but I imagine that’s because it is more objective and measurable. The following lists target WCAG success criteria that benefit people with visual impairments.

Level A

  • 1.1.1 Non-text alternatives
  • 1.2.1 Audio-only & Video-only
  • 1.2.3 Audio description or media alternative (pre-recorded)
  • 1.3.1 Info and relationships
  • 1.3.2 Meaningful sequences
  • 1.3.3 Sensory characteristics
  • 1.4.1 Use of color
  • 1.4.2 Audio control
  • 2.1.1 Keyboard
  • 2.1.2 No keyboard trap
  • 2.1.4 Character key shortcuts (v2.1)
  • 2.2.2 Pause, stop, hide
  • 2.4.1 Bypass blocks
  • 2.4.2 Page titled
  • 2.4.3 Focus order
  • 2.4.4 Link purpose (in context)
  • 3.1.1 Language of page
  • 3.2.1 On focus
  • 3.2.2 On input
  • 3.3.1 Error identification
  • 3.3.2 Labels or instructions
  • 4.1.1 Parsing
  • 4.1.2 Name, role, value

Level AA

  • 1.2.5 Audio description (pre-recorded)
  • 1.3.5 Identify input purposes (v2.1)
  • 1.3.4 Orientation (v2.1)
  • 1.4.3 Contrast (minimum)
  • 1.4.4 Resize text
  • 1.4.5 Images of text
  • 1.4.10 Reflow (v2.1)
  • 1.4.11 Non-text contrast (v2.1)
  • 1.4.12 Text spacing (v2.1)
  • 1.4.13 Content on hover or focus (v2.1)
  • 2.4.5 Multiple ways
  • 2.4.6 Headings and labels
  • 2.4.7 Focus visible
  • 3.1.2 Language of parts
  • 3.2.3 Consistent navigation
  • 3.2.4 Consistent identification
  • 3.3.3 Error suggestion
  • 3.3.4 Error prevention (legal, financial, data)
  • 4.1.3 Status messages (v2.1)

Level AAA

  • 1.2.7 Extended audio description
  • 1.2.8 Media alternatives (pre-recorded)
  • 1.3.5 Identify purpose (v2.1)
  • 1.4.6 Contrast (enhanced)
  • 1.4.8 Visual presentation
  • 1.4.9 Images of text (no exception)
  • 2.1.3 Keyboard (no exception)
  • 2.2.4 Interruptions
  • 2.4.8 Location
  • 2.4.9 Link purpose (link only)
  • 2.4.10 Section headings
  • 2.5.5 Target size (v2.1)
  • 2.5.6 Concurrent input mechanisms (v2.1)
  • 3.2.5 Change on request
  • 3.3.6 Error prevention (all)

Day 96: WCAG and Cognitive Disabilities

Even as I’m learning about design, it still comes down to me focusing more on people, their abilities, and the way they interact with the web. As usual, some learning leads to more questions, and more discoveries.

Things I accomplished

What I reviewed today

  • WCAG success criteria that benefit people with cognitive disabilities;
  • overview of ATAG, Part B (Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines):
    1. Fully automatic processes produce accessible content
    2. Authors are supported in producing accessible content
    3. Authors are supported in improving the accessibility of existing content
    4. Authoring tools promote and integrate their accessibility features
  • design considerations for various disability categories
  • accessibility-first mindset:
    • avoid exclusive design patterns
    • embrace diversity
    • create inclusive design

What I learned from it

The following lists target WCAG success criteria that benefit people with cognitive disabilities.

Level A

  • 2.5.1 Pointer gestures (v2.1)
  • 2.5.3 Label in Name (v2.1)
  • 2.5.4 Motion actuation (v2.1)
  • 3.3.1 Error identification
  • 3.3.2 Labels or instructions

Level AA

  • 1.3.4 Orientation (v2.1)
  • 1.3.5 Identify input purposes (v2.1)
  • 1.4.10 Reflow (v2.1)
  • 1.4.12 Text spacing (v2.1)
  • 1.4.13 Content on hover or focus (v2.1)
  • 2.5.6 Concurrent input mechanisms (v2.1)
  • 3.2.3 Consistent navigation
  • 3.2.4 Consistent identification
  • 3.3.3 Error suggestion
  • 3.3.4 Error prevention (legal, financial, data)

Level AAA

  • 1.3.6 Identify purpose (v2.1)
  • 2.2.6 Timeouts (v2.1)
  • 2.3.3 Animation from interactions (v2.1)
  • 3.1.3 Unusual words
  • 3.1.4 Abbreviations
  • 3.1.5 Reading level
  • 3.1.6 Pronunciation
  • 3.2.5 Change on request
  • 3.3.5 Help
  • 3.3.6 Error prevention (all)

Day 95: Designing an Accessible User Experience, Part 3

Today’s dedicated accessibility time was spent finishing walking through the topic of designing an accessible user experience, per continuation of Part 2.

Things I accomplished

  • Continued Deque’s “Designing an Accessible User Experience” course. 85% complete.
  • Continued reading A Web for Everyone. 8% complete.

What I reviewed today

  • Ability + Barrier = Disability;
  • Design + Accessibility = Inclusive Design;
  • UX for blind: audio-structural experience and interaction;
  • JAWS keystrokes (Insert + F3, Insert + Ctrl + R);
  • UX for deafblind: tactile-structural text-only;
  • UX for deaf: silent-visual;
  • Cognitive disabilities

What I learned from it

It’s usually best to keep the number of landmarks to a relatively short list, because part of the point of landmarks is to make it faster and easier to find things. The more landmarks there are, the less they help make things faster or easier

The most unique challenge for deafblindness is multimedia content. Solutions:

  • think text-first
  • create a simple design
  • use semantic structure
  • offer control over timing
  • use common words/phrases
  • apply screen reader techniques

WebVTT is one of the most versatile caption formats because users can set preferences like color, size, and font at system-level, which can trickle to browser-level.

WCAG 2.1 adds in some consideration for cognitive disabilities, but there is so much more to be considered, yet can’t be quantified as success criteria. Challenges to understand when considering a variety of traits under the cognitive disabilities category:

  • complex concepts
  • abstraction
  • sarcasm and satire
  • self versus others
  • problem-solving and critical thinking
  • speed
  • memory
  • attention
  • reading
  • speech and language
  • math
  • behavior
  • visual perception

Horton & Quesenbery constructed 9 design principles for incorporating accessibility into a website or application:

  1. people first: designing for differences
  2. clear purpose: well-defined goals
  3. solid structure: built to standards
  4. easy interaction: everything works
  5. helpful wayfinding: guides users
  6. clean presentation: supports meaning
  7. plain language: creates a conversation
  8. accessible media: supports all senses
  9. universal usability: creates delight

Best statement of the day

“The more you can think in terms of the semantic structure, the more successful you will be at creating a good user experience for screen reader users.”

Day 94: Designing an Accessible User Experience, Part 2

“Learning directly from users with disabilities can be one of the most valuable things you can do as a part of the design process.”

Today’s dedicated accessibility time was a continuation of Part 1 on the topic of designing an accessible user experience.

Things I accomplished

  • Continued Deque’s “Designing an Accessible User Experience” course. 67% complete.

What I reviewed today

  • A barrier is exclusion. Exclusion is the failure to meet an accessible design challenge;
  • Plan for accessibility from the beginning and throughout the project;
  • Common design failures:
    • no semantic markup
    • custom widgets without ARIA
    • custom widgets without keyboard focus management
    • poor color contrast
    • visual-only cues for form validation;
  • Test with real users;
  • Disability is a spectrum;
  • Accessible design is often inclusive;

What I learned from it

Referring to statistical probability in math, if you were to target your design at users who fall in the middle of the normal bell curve, you would meet the needs of only 68% of your users. Admittedly, designing for the edge cases requires more skill and planning than designing only for the normal user, but the return is much greater, too.

Best statements of the day

“Knowledge is power… and opportunity… and responsibility. ”

“People with disabilities are in the minority, but that doesn’t make their characteristics irrelevant to the majority.”

Related resource

Day 93: Designing an Accessible User Experience, Part 1

Now that the party is over (my presentations have been given), I’m back on track to going through WAS certification courses on Deque and reviewing information that’s pertinent to my upcoming exam in April. As of today, I’m officially one month away from taking IAAP’s Web Accessibility Specialist certification exam.

Things I accomplished

What I reviewed today

Websites that don’t follow accessibility guidelines and principles are often inaccessible, but they can still be inaccessible (unusable) if only the guidelines are followed and usability testing is not implemented.

Guidelines are a mix of objective (easily testable) and subjective (harder to test).

What I learned from it

Consideration of cognitive disabilities is most neglected when it comes to content creation and website development. Why? Measuring successful access is hard because it’s subjective.

Universal (Inclusive) Design

In 1997, a set of universal principles [PDF] was developed by architects to encourage inclusion of everyone’s needs in the design of buildings and products. Each principle has its own guidelines. The seven principles are:

  1. Equitable use: useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities;
  2. Flexibility in use: accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities;
  3. Simple and intuitive use: easy to understand, regardless of user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level;
  4. Perceptible information: effectively communicates necessary information to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities;
  5. Tolerance for error: minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions;
  6. Low physical effort: can be used efficiently, comfortably, and with minimum fatigue;
  7. Size and space for approach and use: provides appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility;

These sound a lot like Web Content Accessibility Guidelines principles and criteria, don’t they?

After reading these, I’m reminded of why it can be so easy to confuse the terms “inclusive” and “accessibility”. Accessibility usually does benefit everyone, but is specifically focused on including a particular group of people (those with disabilities). However, inclusive design is a loftier goal that takes advantage of the fact that designing universally, or with a wider audience in mind, does benefit everyone. I, personally, need to correct myself to use each term appropriately.

An A-ha Moment

Content creators, designers, and developers (all creative people) must be open to feedback about their creation. If not, their product will always fail to be inclusive or accessible. Even people who have been mastering their craft need feedback. Otherwise, the product is just for them and no one else.

I still need to check myself and not take feedback or perceived criticism as a personal attack. Receiving another person’s perspective is actually a building block. My confidence lies in being adaptable and open to revisions for a better end-product, and mastering my craft of design. The joy of creating ultimately relies on the joy of sharing it with others. Very rarely am I a creating art for me, but rather I am hoping to design something that’s usable, beneficial, and enjoyable for other people.

Best statement of the day

“Setting a goal of making things “good enough” for compliance isn’t always good enough for real people. Push the boundaries to create experiences that people with disabilities actually enjoy, not just experiences they merely tolerate.”

The runner up quote from Deque

“Accessibility problems are the result of biased design decisions.”

From A Web for Everyone

“Instead of pretending that hidden away in a vault somewhere is a perfectly “normal” brain, to which all other brains must be compared … we need to admit that there is no standard brain…”

Day 92: A Day of Two Presentations

Whew, what an exhausting day! After presenting two different accessibility sessions at the Alaska Library Association conference today, I’m beat. The amazing part was the active engagement from participants, and the ability to still learn something from the co-presentation I was a part of.

Things I accomplished

  • Co-presented about accessible workstations in libraries, with my part focused on people with disabilities who may come into their library.
  • Presented about creating Word docs and PowerPoint slides with accessibility in mind.
  • Completed Deque’s MS Word Accessibility course.

What I reviewed today

  • U.S. law for people with disabilities
  • accessible electronic content (Word and PowerPoint)

What I learned

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was written in a such a way to benefit everyone. Whether born with a disability or acquired later in life, it’s there to serve us all.

I knew about the Word’s export to HTML feature, though I don’t like it. What I didn’t know is that there is another save for web option: Web Page, Filtered. This removes all that excess (ugly) code that forces formatting as inline styles. Styles are separated. I haven’t given it a try yet, but will give it a try later on this week.