Presented at: PyOhio 2017 in Columbus, OH

“Accessibility: It’s Not Just a Client Side Problem” is aimed at anyone in tech who has only a basic familiarity with accessibility and who might think that it’s something only front end developers need to concern themselves with.

In this talk, I explain the basics of accessibility, why it’s important, guidelines for creating accessible technology, and the adaptive technologies that many people use.

Before diving into the talk, here’s a bit of background…

What is accessibility?

It’s the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities. It’s the practice of removing barriers that might prevent people with disabilities from accessing the above.

Technology shouldn’t be a barrier to people, and instead should make their lives easier. There are many different kinds of disability, and just as many forms of assistive technology to help people live their lives.


Why should we make our technology accessible?

As of the 2010 census, one in five Americans have a disability, and one in ten people have a disability that directly impacts their computer use. That’s 56.7 million people! This is a huge portion of our potential users, and we have an ethical duty to help all people who will use the technology we create.

Also, building your website with accessibility in mind is the law, and you might have different requirements for legal compliance depending on your funding source and who your users are.


How do we know if we’ve made an accessible website?

The most important thing you can do when building accessible technology is to involve people with disabilities. Not only should you involve people with disabilities in the discovery process and user testing, but people with disabilities should also be represented on your team.

In addition, there are established best practices for building accessible technology, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the Open Accessibility Framework. It’s important, though, to remember that guidelines are tools, not solutions you can rely on entirely.

Guy building a website


How can we advocate for accessibility?

First, collect baseline information about your technology to determine how accessible it is right now. There are a bunch of automated tools you can use for this, and a trained auditor will catch even more than a tool can. Then, gather support within your organization and convince stakeholders of the value that accessibility adds to your product.

It’s almost always cheaper to build technology accessibly from the beginning than to retrofit your product or be sued! Next, define an internal standard for accessibility, train other people on it, and monitor conformance over time.


Watch the full talk here

Transcript available here.


If not you, then who?

If after watching this talk (or just reading this post), you’re convinced that accessibility is important, but you’re still on the fence, consider who else will fight for accessibility if not you.

Start an initiative within your organization if one doesn’t already exist, or join a small one and make it bigger. We’re all responsible for improving the lives of people who use our technology.