On Learning Web Accessibility: Web Users are nothing like me.

October 2020

Unlike a lot of professionals in this field, I didn’t start learning about Web Accessibility because I was facing a challenge myself, or was motivated to support folks around me who needed the web to be more accessible.

I got into it because of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which stipulates: “as of January 1, 2021, all internet website and web content will be required to be fully accessible under WCAG 2.0 Level AA. Failing to meet these requirements can have severe financial repercussions.”

It’s simply the law and since I claim to be a User-Oriented developer, it just made sense to integrate this into my skill set and career.

Getting started: wanting the web to be a more inclusive place

I was lucky enough to be working in a place where colleagues and management were working to make the company website and product more accessible and compliant with   AODA. Having the support from everyone really was a great start.

A colleague (and eventually a dear friend of mine), identifying herself with visual impairment was the greatest resource for me to start learning about Web Accessibility.

$200 later, graciously financed by my employer’s Educational Fund, I was enrolled in the “Web Accessibility 2.0” course by Deque University.

It’s a 15 chapter online course, with content, quizzes, and videos for you to learn about everything a Web Developer needs to know about digital accessibility geared towards the world of the web. 

14 chapters of the Web Accessibility Curriculum of Deque University
Web Accessibility Curriculum 15 chapters by Deque University

Could I use other resources? Of course, but it was a great place to start and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to gain knowledge in this very important topic. It’s simple, you need to start somewhere so start small, but most importantly get started.

What Did I Learn?

We all know the cost of building new digital products. We might already have an idea of the cost of implementing accessibility into our products and services.

We might not be able to track numbers of missed opportunities due to inaccessible apps nor the growth of the business while having a compliant app, but Accessibility agencies do.

It’s also arguing against basic human rights.

Accessible websites are essential for a great number of people: including the blind, vision impaired, deaf, deaf-blind, individuals with limited motor skills, and those with cognitive disabilities. If we haven’t considered those with vision loss or those that identify as deaf or hard of hearing, we likely haven’t even though about the experiences of individuals with cognitive disabilities, which includes, but are not limited to memory loss, Attention Deficiency, Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Dyslexia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Learning disabilities, etc..

Everybody Uses the Web

Everybody uses the web and users aren’t all like me. I mean, they don’t use the web like me.

For the longest time, I was guilty of not being aware that individuals with disabilities were living a life like everybody else. I was ignorant and exclusive of developing for the web and realizing that they deserved to access the information that I could. 

I made the choice to start educating myself to change my perspective and I am so very glad that I did.

Check out this great comedian who explains how we do not consider folks with disabilities living a normal life.

While following this course, I have been wondering how blind individuals use their smartphone and mobile apps. Which led me to search for t: “Do blind folks use Tinder?” and the search results opened a door to a world I was oblivious to.

Another thing I learned while completing the  Deque Web Accessibility Curriculum was that something considered small and fun, like a video game or TV show/movie can have a massive effect. An example of this would be when a lot of kids went to the hospital after suffering seizures while watching Pikachu going mad. 

Web Accessibility is mainly based on common sense.

Lastly, I’ve learned to be a more inclusive, compassionate Web Developer, and most importantly, an empathetic, kind, and aware human being.

What’s Next?

The Curriculum was an extensive source of knowledge to get started and have a better understanding of what to do and to think of when building a web product or service.

Am I an expert? No. 

Do I include my new knowledge in my development? As much as I can. 

Is my development now fully compliant? No, unfortunately, not yet.
Gaining the knowledge I have so far has been a great start, but the practice is the most important thing to remember. Having clients, managers, teammates willing to discuss and find solutions that are accessible for all is still, to me, the only way to get a fully compliant and accessible website.

I really believe that we can get there through education, empathy, awareness, passion, and dedication.

Graphic of individuals using accessible technology