Chris Ashton

week11y issue 97

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

Accessibility inception: sharing your knowledge (video, 46m)

  • This is a Mischa Andrews talk from #ID24 in November 2017. I’ve had it in my bookmarks for a while, and am so pleased I’ve finally managed to watch it.
  • Mischa talks openly and candidly about how you can effect accessibility change in your organisation, whilst overcoming the inevitable office politics that come with the territory.
  • I liked the idea of creating a “decoy audience”. Let’s say you have a colleague who feels they have nothing to learn about accessibility – they “know it all already” – but they consistently make accessibility mistakes. You can teach them how to do things properly, without bruising their ego, by arranging a talk or workshop about accessibility, and inviting them to present part of it. The theory is that they can continue to feel good about their own knowledge, whilst also opening up to learning from your side of the talk.
  • A common tactic used by organisations is to have a ‘gatekeeper’ for accessibility, e.g. someone doing accessibility testing as part of the acceptance tests at the end of a project. Mischa warns that you have to tread carefully here, as it’s often too late or difficult to do much about accessibility issues if they’re left until the end of the process. You may also find people try to work around you, such as go to your manager or try to argue that their project shouldn’t go through the normal process. It is best to only use this ‘gatekeeper’ tactic if your organisation is already practising good accessibility.
  • Make it as easy as possible to do the right thing, e.g. by adding accessibility information directly as code comments, or embedded in Word templates, rather than expecting people to seek out and find the guidance independently.
  • Practice what you preach. You may be seen as the a11y expert in the organisation, and people will reuse your resources, such as colour choices, etc, on the assumption that they’ve already been accessibility tested.
  • It is useful to memorise a handful of things that can be used as opportunities to motivate people – and to convince people to listen to you. If you know statistics around how many people have particular kinds of disabilities, or how much money the organisation loses through being inaccessible, or what accessibility laws your country has to abide by, or the difference between different versions of WCAG, you’ll look knowledgeable enough for your words to carry more weight. You can also slip these facts into conversations, which can help to inspire the next generation of accessibility advocates in your organisation.

Next is a two-article special, covering accessibility advances by Android and Apple!

Google Improving Smartphone Accessibility

  • Two new features are coming to Android smartphones: “Camera Switches“, and “Project Activate”. These features will allow users to use gestures like smiling, raising eyebrows, or looking in a particular direction, to issue a command such as returning to the homescreen or opening notifications.
  • The gestures are configurable: users can set how long to hold the gesture for, or how big the gesture must be, to issue the command.
  • “The updates are aimed at people with motor and speech disabilities, Google said, and the new tools were developed with feedback from people who rely on alternative communication technology.”

Apple is testing AirPods as possible hearing aids, posture improvers and in-ear thermometers

  • Apple is prototyping to see motion sensors inside AirPods can be used to tell users if they’re slouching. They’re also experimenting with measuring core body temperature, and perhaps most excitingly, whether or not AirPods can be used as “proper hearing aids” (they already come with a ‘conversation boost‘ feature).
  • Under US federal law, devices marketed as hearing aids must “be sold through licensed specialists, who adjust them to the specific user”. However, “in July, President Biden signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter and be adjusted by consumers”; promising news for Apple.

Buttons vs. Links

  • Eric Eggert describes the difference between a link and a button:
    • A link changes what the URL in the browser points to; either a new page, or a file to download, or a frame to update the source of.
    • A button performs an action. Originally only available as an <input type="submit" />, with the sole purpose of submitting forms, then along came the <button> element which allowed more versatility. It’s great for creating things like calculators, where the end result URL is not an important thing to be able to share.
  • Links and buttons have different roles. Assistive technologies announce them as “link” and “button” respectively, and this sets a user expectation as to the behaviour.
  • Screen readers have a way of easily presenting all the links in the page; buttons are harder to surface.
  • Links can be activated with the return key, whereas buttons can be activated with return or space.
  • Context is important. You can style a link to look like a button, and that’s fine, if the button says something like “Read the full story”, which hints that it will take you to another page.
  • Eric concludes that the link vs button debate is a grey area. He’s surprisingly unopinionated in the close: “there is no one true way to code or design something”.

As a bonus for the above article, I also read THE BUTTON CHEAT SHEET (buttoncheatsheet.com). It compares different ways of marking up buttons and button-like things. I don’t really see how useful it can be, but it’s worth a quick look through, if only to see how many different ways it can be done.

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