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Why web accessibility matters now more than ever

If you design or develop websites for a living,  more than likely you’ve heard about the importance of web sites which are accessible and usable for everyone. So, what’s new and newsworthy today and why should you care?

Accessibility has a far reach

In a nutshell, today’s Web Accessibility and Usability best practices reach beyond the blind, the disabled and the hearing impaired to include today’s busy power users and a multitude of mobile devices. People want access to information. The web is the de facto “go to” location these days. This is why it is so important to make certain everyone has equal access.

 

Why does that matter? Accessibility is a civil right.

 

  • Monetization – if your site is not accessible, you may face a number of issues (from complaints to lawsuits). It is so much easier to incorporate accessibility into your site development process.
  • Differentiation – accessibility helps in other aspects (including helping with search engine rank and overall user experience).

Web Accessibility Summit findings

To better understand the value of what this means to today’s Web professionals, I participated in the Environment for Humans Web Accessibility Summit in early September, 2016. Here are some of the key take-aways:

 

  • Accessibility helps the overall user experience for many who do not have a disability (consider those working in bright sunlight/ experiencing screen glare).
  • It takes a team (know what aspects of accessibility you are good at and where you need help – and it is sometimes important to know when you need to ask for help).
  • Individual experiences vary significantly and the way we perceive a site often has to do with the context while we experience said site (for example, consider your willingness to tolerate page loading delays while you are trying to re-book a flight because you are at the airport and yours was just cancelled).
  • Some groups are working very hard to develop new technologies to assist those with disabilities.

For project managers

If you are reading this (and manage projects), it is important to champion accessibility because it improves the overall user experience at your site. One should not think of accessibility in terms of edge cases; think in terms of those who have temporary issues (whether holding an infant and trying to look up information about your product or suffering some motor impairment due to a stroke). As a project manager, you may need help developing a business case for accessibility. There are sites which can help (such as http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/Overview.html).

For accessibility testing

If you are testing for accessibility, it is important to include screen captures in your report. Identify the exact problem (including the snippet of code). Also provide examples of how this problem may be repaired. Keep in mind that when multiple people report a problem, they will likely word it differently. This is why screen captures are important to include. It may also be helpful to include video of you interacting with the site using tools like VoiceOver (Mac), NVDA (Windows) or ChromeVox (for Chrome browser and ChromeOS).

Smart Charts Project

During the Summit, I learned about the Smart Charts project (for example, http://describler.com/#intro is a prototype data visualizer) from Doug Schepers. Surprisingly, if you are using a screen reader, you can gain more information from a chart than is presented visually. The above site should be examined visually and with a screen reader to experience the difference.

Resources

There are many resources which one can use to test for accessibility and to better understand how to code properly. At a minimum, you should be aware of the ADA site – https://www.ada.gov/access-technology/. We are developing a list of accessibility resources which will be available via our SchoolOfWeb.org site for our members. A couple of short courses at our SchoolOfWeb.org site will soon be offered covering the fundamentals of web accessibility.

 

We encourage you to strive to make your sites accessible, not just for legal reasons, but because it is the right thing to do.

 

Mark DuBois

Community Evangelist and Executive Director

The post Why web accessibility matters now more than ever appeared first on Web Professionals.

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1st ever MDN Hack Day in NYC

stickers, swag, rockets!

So what’s an MDN Hack Day, you ask?

The intention is to host a day of talks, hacks and demos that first introduces the participants to Mozilla and our various open web projects, then invite attendees to shift into participant mode and start hacking. Another way I like to think of it is that we are enshrining the ‘hallway track’ from your favourite tech conference into its own space, giving people the chance to hang out, hack and exchange ideas without feeling guilty that they should be in a room watching a talk.

We wanted to try this out, so last week(end) an epic number of Mozillians from the Developer Engagement and MDN Webdev teams converged on New York for an epic 2 days of meetings, strategy and demos in Brooklyn. On the third day we headed into Manhattan to stage the first-ever MDN Hack Day hosted at the excellent New Work City co-working space.

So what happened?

We’ve got a rough template for these things, and I was pleased that everything went according to plan. We arrived early at the fabulous New Work City space and helped nwc member Peter Chislett get things organized with snacks, coffee & seating. At this point the morning’s main entertainment became watching Christian Heillmann battle with his Macbook trying to get it to boot ( I immortalized this on Mozilla Memes ). People trickled in, ate some tasty bagels, talked tech and took seats. Luckily, Christian managed to get his laptop to boot as well!

Robert, expounding to a packed crowd.

The morning consisted of 4 main talks:

We also had a quick presentation from John Karahalis on MDN’s dev derby competition ( and why you should be submitting demos! ) followed by an awesome pizza lunch from Saluggi’s:

mmmm, pizza

During lunch intrepid MDN Web Developer Luke Crouch took charge of the whiteboard and people posted their ideas for projects:

After lunch, everyone spread out across New Work City’s amazing space and got down to some serious hacking for several hours:

Here come the hacks!

When 5PM arrived our hackers got to show off some great demos, including:

  • Luke Crouch demo’d an offline-capable HTML5 app that offers fast search of MDN content, based on the great work of dochub.io. Github Repo
  • Brian Stoner showed off Instinct, an HTML5 app that uses Audio apis to help teach people guitar, and base on his work that afternoon is now a Mozilla Marketplace-compatible app! Online Demo
  • John Young showed off his mobile app called ‘Testflip’ which a implements an easy way to contact emergency services in adverse situations. Landing page
  • Paul Sawaya implemented the gamepad API into his html5 game ‘Sokoban’ using a custom build of Firefox and one of Rob Hawke’s demo gamepads. Play Now! ( the online version does not currently support gamepads )
  • Jordan Santell & Brian Hassinger got hacking with HTML5 audio apis and Three.js to create this awesome dance party! ( sub-woofer recommended ) Github Repo
  • Thiyag hacked on ‘readability’, an SDK-based add-on that takes the current text selection and calculates text readability. Github Repo

I was pretty floored by the demos we saw and the amount of work people were able to get done in a few hours. I want to thank everyone who came out and took the time to do some web hacking on such a beautiful warm Saturday in NYC. I’d like to particularly thanks Peter Chislett and New Work City for providing a great space just steps away from the crowds of lower Broadway. I know I can speak for everyone on the team when I say that we’re very excited by what we saw going in NYC, and we can’t wait to go back!

So what’s next?

We’re not stopping here, in fact the next MDN hack Day will be in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 20th, partnering with Mozilla Hispano, the Buenos Aires Hacks/Hackers group & Blue Via. Look for more dates coming up!

More photos!

Rob Hawkes brought by some gamepads for testing the Gamepad API with.

The bathrooms at NWC are not only unisex, they’re also Android-inclusive.

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