Chris Ashton

fortnight11y issue 7

Due to a scheduling error, this is coming out almost two weeks late – apologies!

Your fortnightly frequent11y newsletter, brought to you by @ChrisBAshton:


Progressive React

  • A surprisingly quick read despite its length: Houssein Djirdeh details several techniques for improving performance and accessibility of React applications. Use pre-rendered or server-side rendered (SSR) React, ideally hydrated in Node ‘streams’ rather than en-masse. Use streams for extracting critical CSS too. Various DevTools profilers help identify unnecessary component re-renders: override shouldComponentUpdate or inherit from PureComponent to mitigate. Split components with React.lazy (or with a library like loadable-components if SSR’d). A worthy read if you ever dabble with React.

Why GOV.UK content should be published in HTML and not PDF

  • A GOV.UK article from 2018 that is still relevant today. It highlights the problems with PDFs (not designed for screens – particularly on mobile, hard to track and to update, and often inaccessible to assistive technology) whilst acknowledging their advantages (control over design, easy to create from many applications, predictable printing behaviour). The comments are worth reading too: some argue that static PDFs are better than dynamic HTML for archival reasons, as well as easier offline access that doesn’t require “Print to PDF” technical knowledge. These are areas GOV.UK could do better at while still advocating for a HTML-first approach.

aria-label Does Not Translate

  • Interesting post by Adrian Roselli, highlighting that for users who rely on built-in translation services in their browser, aria-label markup often isn’t translated. For this reason he recommends tweaking your design to use native HTML (label, etc), or otherwise using visually hidden text or aria-labelledby which do not have the same issues with auto-translating. He also highlights a new aria-description property that is coming to ARIA, which solves the messiness of aria-labelledby requiring additional nodes in the DOM that could be accidentally read out twice. However, it will have the same translation issue as aria-label until auto-translators get better.

How Glasgow’s clubs try to be accessible for everyone

  • Not necessarily what you’re expecting to read from the title (it’s not all “installing a lift for wheelchair users”, writes Kamila Rymajdo). Kamila highlights the efforts a number of clubs are making to become more inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ community, such as briefing clubbers at the door about what the night celebrates (including financial assistance for travel and reduced entry fees for some), and a representative present throughout the night for people to talk to if they are encounter any problems. Others are taking steps to not dim lights to an uncomfortable degree, to have visuals that are suitable for epileptic individuals, and to always have somewhere to sit and water visibly available.

Memes Are Still Inaccessible to the Blind

  • Time article sharing the impact of memes being unreadable to the blind. Accessibility is often about providing the bare essentials – making the workplace or transportation accessible – whereas leisure or silly activities are overlooked. The result is a lack of inclusivity, with many unable to join in the conversation. Researchers are experimenting with using AI to identify memes via templates, and rendering these memes in less deadpan ways than your typical screen reader. For instance, “success kid” would have the beginning of the meme, then upbeat dance music speeding up to a triumphant finish.

The Universal Page

  • An article about the history of braille, and its early competitors (Boston Line Type). By the 1860s there were a number of competing standards – leading to the “War of the Dots” in 1909, where braille was the standard of choice for the New York Board of Education for its blind schools. Other attempts at enabling blind access to books is the optophone; a scanner that looks at text and converts it into tones representing the shapes of the letters. In theory, mastering the optophone enables the reading of any book; in practice, it’s incredibly difficult to interpret. It’s well worth seeing it in practice.

When to Open Links in a New Tab

  • A short article by Jens Oliver Meiert, with one simple summary: “Always open links in the same tab unless doing so 1) could disrupt a process, 2) could risk data loss, or 3) could confuse the user.” He gives examples of opening PDFs (which should be opened in a new tab, after warning the user), as they are in a non-native environment. He also cites Jakob’s Law: “users spend most of their time on other sites; they prefer your site to work the same way as the sites they already know.” Opening external links in new tabs to increase likelihood of ‘conversion’ is misguided advice and provides a poor UX.

Money in my account, but still can’t pay: Winner of ‘best accessible website’

  • Nidhi Goyal‘s website, Rising Flame, won India’s “Best Accessible Website 2019” award. This article by The Indian Express doesn’t talk about the site (though I highly recommend visiting it and trying its accessibility features) – instead, it talks about how Goyal’s success still does not allow her to fully participate in society. Goyal, who is blind, may have money but she can’t use certain payment platforms to pay for things as they provide a broken screen reader experience. She flies long distance as part of her work, but is unable to use a call bell on flights because they’re on touch screen panels. Goyal says the reason the world lacks universal design is that people don’t yet see the disabled as customers or decision-makers.

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