Update on the State of Accessibility
Preety Kumar - Deque Systems, CEO, Founder & Board Member
Dylan Barrell - Deque Systems, CTO and Author
This talk gave a great overview for the direction of the talk this year. With an increase in digital lawsuits, the main focus seemed to be on automated testing and the accuracy of axe-core testing. Automated testing alone is not enough to ensure accurate testing results and that a product or website is fully accessible. This isn't to say that automated testing shouldn't be used because it can quickly identify areas on a site that do not pass accessibility standards. Combining automated testing with axe DevTools or other guided testing can help test products faster and without the need to manually test everything. There was also talk about testers being able to utilize AI in their testing. I'm interested to learn more about the new axe Developer Hub, and about existing tools that I can utilize in my own process for testing.
Whose web is it, anyway?
Speaker: Bruce Lawson - Independent, Web Standards and Accessibility expert
Bruce's talk felt very all over the place to me. Being a front-end developer, it was difficult to follow what he was saying about React vs progressive web apps. I can see the appeal of a progressive web app and how much smaller they are. This is something we focus on a lot for new and existing sites. We often run page speed tests and implement things like lazy loading for images to get our websites to load faster for users who may not have access to the latest high-speed technology.
What’s new in axe
Speaker: Dylan Barrell - Deque Systems, CTO and Author
Here's an overview of the tools that were discussed and the improvements that have been made in the past year. Also introducing the new axe Developer Hub.
axe Developer Hub
This beta tool was designed with the development team in mind and is the first automated accessibility and reporting system. It's a free tool that allows developers to know whether a pull request will make accessibility better or worse and doesn't require any extra maintenance.
axe DevTools Extension
They modified the default settings to be what is most used in the industry. For usability they made improvements to utilize the extension real estate, and also implemented a two week update cycle which results in more than 26 updates a year.
axe DevTools Pro
This is a paid tool, but is going to have added support for WCAG 2.2. Users will now have the ability to share a full test record with links to individual issues with screenshots. This sounds really useful for finding small issues that often get overlooked.
I haven't had the opportunity to use many of these tools, but I'm interested to learn more about them and see how they work.
Ageism in Interfaces
Speaker: Alex Tait - AT Fresh Solutions, Accessibility Consultant
Ageism is such a broad topic, but Alex was able to combine key takeaways with research that she conducted into a presentation that I really enjoyed. Ageism is prejudice or discrimination agains a particular age group but is especially seen with people who are past retirement age. We see signs of this everyday all framed around the idea that aging is a problem that needs to be fixed. Alex goes on to discuss the social and knowledge gap associated with technology. This generation didn't grow up with technology like younger generations and often find themselves excluded from it by researchers, designers and developers.
In her survey, Alex asked about pain points these users experience when using websites. They listed everything from AI chatbots that aren't helpful to using standard patterns and easy navigation so that users don't have to relearn how to use a website. There was also confusion on the use of icons without labels and requests for dark mode which isn't required for WCAG, but I'm happy to say that we try to do both of these here at RDG.
I suggest checking out Alex's full presentation it really opened my eyes to the way that we exclude this generation from technology even unintentionally.
Beyond Compliance: Best Practices for Designing Inclusive Products
Speaker: Hannah Wagner - General Motors, In-Vehicle Accessibility & Inclusive Design Lead
This was another great talk and I would suggest watching the full presentation. Hannah covered three main topic in her presentation. The first was to focus on exceptional cases. We tend to design for the average person and what they need, or want. Users are dynamic and need products that can change over time. Instead of designing for the average person we should be designing for the edge cases because that can help us innovate.
The second topic was designing with and not for. She talked about the need to co-design and to actively include those with lived experience into the design process. If we make the effort to learn about others needs them we can create products that they actually want without creating inaccurate stereotypes.
The last topic she talked about was slowing down and working on design principles. Having multiple ways to do something can be helpful for users and customization is key to creating better experiences. One thing Hannah said towards the end that really stuck with me was to approach accessibility with a learning mindset.