Accessibility Advocate

The past few weeks, I have been primary focused on preparing a submission for a workshop for the Agile2023 Conference. The purpose of the workshop is to get folks thinking about incorporating accessibility into software development early in the development process rather than waiting until the end or if someone files a complaint.

Most of the time, accessibility and compliance with ADA Section 508, is seen as a hindrance to getting development projects done on time or as a nice to have item. We need to get out of this mindset and challenge others who think this way.

One thing that I had heard elsewhere is that ‘we are all only temporarily fully enabled’. We will all face a disability challenge at some point in our life. As we age, our eyesight, hearing, response times, etc. start to diminish. Accidents and illnesses can happen at anytime and may result in one or more disabilities as a result.

If someone has a hard time thinking it is important to help others who are having challenges with technology, then have them think of themselves in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years from now. If they won’t do it for others, perhaps they will do it for themselves.

I propose that people should become the Accessibility Advocate on their team by speaking up when they see accessibility is not being addressed. Recommend performing accessibility testing, even there is no one or no budget available to bring to the team to do the testing. There are some tools that team members can utilize to perform some quick tests to identify areas that need more attention.

I’m not an accessibility expert but I’m an Accessibility Advocate for my project teams. It is a role that anyone can take on and is not as scarry or challenging as one may think.

Below is a list of some helpful information and resources. I hope you are interested in becoming an Accessibility Advocate on your project teams. Lease a comment if you find this interesting and would like more posts on accessibility.


A bit of background of why I’m interested in accessibility

Admittedly, I do not have day to day contact with anyone who has challenges with technology but throughout my life, I have encountered a few folks that gave me pause to think about it. I was also working in industry when it started to become a real concern in the early 2000’s. I also worked on one project that was very concerned with ADA Section 508. My work on that project was one of the most challenging and most rewarding work that I’ve done.

My first encounter that I recall with someone with an accessibility challenge was a lady that I worked with who was having a problem with her monitor and asked if I could help her. She had a very large CRT at the time, I believe it was 21″ or 24″. I had not seen one that huge at the time (~1997). She had the resolution set to 640×480, which I felt was a waste for such a large monitor. I asked her if she would like me to increase the resolution so she had more area to work with. She said, no, if I did, she would not be able to see a thing.

Since that time, I had the opportunity to work with another individual who was loosing their eyesight and had special software to enlarge areas of the screen and other equipment such as a document camera so they could read printed text. I also worked with an individual who was deaf and required an interpreter during meetings.

When you see how some folks work with technology, when they have a disability, it does give one pause to think, how can their experience be better.

The one project that put accessibility front and center was one that required a video player that was fully accessible. I believe it was around 2008 and flash player was still the standard for incorporating video on web pages. Flash Player was not at all ADA Section 508 competent. I had attempted various things to make a video player compliant but could never get it to pass by the accessibility testers on the team. I finally found some work that was done by a professor at a university. I believe it was Ohio University but I may be mistaken. He had an open source video player that used an HTML wrapper and some JavaScript to interact with the flash player. It was claimed it was ADA Section 508 compliant so I gave it a try but the accessibility testers still found faults with it. I was able to modify the code to address the issues that the testers has uncovered and finally received their acceptance of the player. I was able to go back to the professor and provide him with the changes, which I believe he incorporated into the project. It was nice to be able to meet the challenge that the client presented and to give back to the community.

I’m hopeful at some point that I will be able to combine my love for electronic projects and my desire to work with the accessibility community to do some work such as what Bill Binko’s does with ATMakers,org. Besides Bill, someone who inspires me is Chris Young. He is disabled, with limited mobility but is able to do quite a few projects to give him the ability to do more things. Here are a few videos of Bill Binko, Chis Young, and ATMakers.

By richteel

Software and hardware developer who likes learning new things with a passion of sharing knowledge with others.

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