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Getting to the Heart of Digital Accessibility

Quick! Think of the word “developer” or “coder” — what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe a whiteish male in his twenties lives here in a hectic metropolis, wearing a nerdy t-shirt and hoodie? Someone a bit like Mark Zuckerberg? Or maybe a younger Bill Gates or Sergey Brin? Any of the busters from the HBO series Silicon Valley, perhaps? Certainly no one like me.

By tech standards, I’m old-fashioned. I’m likewise female and a baby. I live in a midwestern city you’ve never heard of and will never see — a town where the kine enormously outnumber the people. My hair color is( approximately) natural and is no longer part of the ROYGBIV collection, so I have no realized meeting street cred. I own about a thousand geeky T-shirts, but never actually wear them in public, opting for more “girly” attire( or so was pointed out by a male collaborator ). On the surface, I appear more suited to taking notes at a PTA meeting than writing system. I’m a bit of an foreigner. A tech misfit.

So when my 11 -year-old daughter finished her recent coding tent and excitedly swore, “Now I’m a real developer, Mom, just like you! ” there was the usual parent pride, but likewise a small piece of me that cringed. Because, as much as I support the STEM disciplines, and want the next generation of girls to be coding wizard-unicorn-ninjas, I really don’t demand my own daughter to be a developer. The motivation behind this forceful( and maybe contentious) announcement comes from a sit of shelter. The tech nature we live in today is far from perfect. I’ve abode my share of misogyny, self-doubt, and sexual harassment. Why wouldn’t I want to protect her from all of that?

The( diversification) elephant in the( computer) office

You’ve heard this story before: there is not enough diversity in tech. This puzzling direction seems to continue year after year, even though innumerable studies show that by including more beings from underrepresented societies, a company can increase its innovation, employee retention, and bottom line. Even with the recent push and expected support for diversity and inclusivity from many Fortune 500 business, women and female-identifying parties still exclusively hamper 20% of all top tech enterprises.

The data from FY 2018 had indicated that the number of women in technical roles at three of the top tech monstrous was 24% for Adobe, 26% for Google, and 22% for Facebook. While these quantities show that there is still not enough representation for women, these digits do reflect a slight increase from the previous year( FY 2017: Adobe 22%, Google 25%, Facebook 15% ). But even with this upward trend of hiring women in tech roles, the marginal growth rate has not caught up with the real world. The tech workforce is gravely out of touch with reality if, in 2019, a demographic( maidens) that represents more than half the “worlds population” is still considered a minority.

Sometimes this lack of diversification at the top level is accused on a “pipeline” issue. The reasoning being: “If there are not enough girls who learn to code, then there will not be enough women who can code.” However, curricula aimed at teaching girls how to code have skyrocketed in the past few years. Girls now even up about half of the enrollment in high-school coding class and are tallying almost identically to their male classmates on standardized math and discipline exams, more, young women make up only 18% of all Computer Science stages. I have to wonder if this drench drop in interest has more to do with lack of representation in the tech globe, than with girls and young women simply not being “smart enough” or “not interested” in working with code? At the very least, the lack of representation certainly doesn’t help.

Of course, the diversity image becomes even more abysmal when you consider other underrepresented radicals such as people of color, people from the LGBTQ community, and parties with physical disabilities. And while I genuinely don’t like interpreting over these deeper diversification issues in tech, because they are abundant and are much more grotesque falls than the male/ female fraction, I too don’t feel qualified to speak about these issues. I spur you to look to and price the expressions of others who can speak with higher arbiter on these deeper diversification concerns, such as Ire Aderinokun, Taelur Alexis, Imani Barbarin, Angie Jones, Fatima Khalid, Tatiana Mac, Charlie Owen, Cherry Rae, and so many others. And for those books who are new to the topic of diversity in tech, watch Tatiana Mac’s recent seminar talk How Privilege Defines Performance — it’s well worth the 35 times of your life.

The four stagecoaches in the digital accessibility outing

However you look at it, the numbers don’t lie. There are some fairly substantial diversity issues in tech. So how do we secure this issue before the next movement of young developers attach the tech workforce? Simple: teach developers to write accessible code.

This may seem like a joke to some and elongate to others, but hear what i just said out. When we are speaking of accessible code, what we are really talking about at its core is inclusiveness. The actual process of writing accessible code involves rules and standards, testing and tools; but inclusive development is more abstract than that. It’s a shift in deliberation. And when we rethink our approach to development, we go beyond exactly the locate position of simple code functionality. We instead see, how is this code consumed? How can we make it even more intelligible and easier for parties to use? Inclusive development conveys impelling something valuable , not just accessible, to as many parties as we can.

That line of seeing is a bit synopsi, so let’s go through an example. Let’s say you are tasked with updating the colour oppose between the textbook on a webpage or app and the background. What happens at each stage in the accessibility passage?

Stage 1: Awareness — You are brand new to digital accessibility and are still trying to understand what it is and how you can implement changes in your daily workflow. You may be aware that there is a set of digital accessibility specifications that other makes follow, but you are a bit hazy on what it all means in a practical sense.

Stage 2: Knowledge — You know a bit more about digital accessibility and feel cozy expend a few testing implements, so “youre running” an automated accessibility assessment on your website and it signals a possible controversy with the color contrast. Based on your awareness of the guidelines, you know the color contrast ratio between the text and the background needs to be a certain number and that you need a tool to test this.

Stage 3: Practice — Feeling more self-confident in your knowledge of digital accessibility rules and best patterns, you use a tool to measure the hue contrast ratio between the text and the background. Then based on the output of the tool, you revise the hex code to meet the shade comparison ratio guidelines and retest to confirm you have met the accessibility requirements for this issue.

Stage 4: Understanding — You understand that the accessibility guidelines and implements are created with people in thought, and that code is secondary to all of that. One is the entails, and the other is the end. In the emblazon differ pattern, you understand that people with low-vision or colorblindness need these hue differ changes in order to actually determine the words on your web page.

This is a bit of an oversimplification of the process. But I hope you get the gist — that there are different stages of digital accessibility knowledge and understanding. True beginners may not be to even theatre one, but I am locating that group rarer and rarer these days. The word about digital accessibility seems to be out! Which is great; but that’s merely the first hurdle. What I’m seeing now is that a lot of parties stop at Stage 2: Knowledge or Stage 3: Practice — where you are aware of the digital accessibility specifications, have some testing implements in your back pocket, and know how to fix some of such issues reported, but haven’t relatively connected the dots to the humans they impact.

From the standpoint of getting daily trash done, stages two and three are okay stopping points. But what happens when the things you need to do are too complex for a quick fix, or you have no buy-in from your peers or control? I feel that once we get to Stage 4: Understanding, and really get why these kinds of changes are needed, beings will be more motivated to make those alterations regardless of the challenges involved. When you arrive at stage four, you have gone beyond knowing the basic settles, testing, and coding. You recognize that digital accessibility is not just a “nice to have” but a “must have” and it becomes about quality of life for real beings. This is digital inclusion. This is something you can’t unsee, you can’t unlearn, and you can’t ignore.

Making digital accessibility their own priorities — not a requirement

In my character as an accessibility teach, I like to kick-off each period with the question: “What are you hoping to learn today about digital accessibility? ” I ask this question to establish a rapport with the gathering and to understand where everyone is in their accessibility journeying, but I am also evaluating the level of corporation and individual buy-in too. There is nothing worse than establishing up to teach a group that does not care to be taught. If I discover the words “I am only now because I have to be” — I know it will be an uphill battle to get them anywhere close to Stage 4: Understanding, so I mentally regroup and aim for another stage.

In my experience, when companies and their leaders say “Digital accessibility is a requirement, ” nine times out of ten there is a motivating factor behind this expansive proclamation( for example, impending litigation, or at least the fear of it ). When modifies are enclose as obligatory and packaged as ordinances from on high with little additional context, people can be resistant and will find excuses to fight or challenge the written declaration, and any alteration can become an uphill battle. Calling something “mandatory” exclusively speaks to Stage 1: Awareness.

By swapping out one word from the original declaration and saying “Digital accessibility is a priority, ” companies and their leaders have reframed the conversation with their employees. When alters are framed as “working towards a solution” and discussed frankly and collaboratively, beings feel like they are part of the process and are more open to embracing change. In the long run, embracing modification becomes part of a company’s culture and leads to innovation( and, yes, inclusion) on all levels. Calling something their own priorities speaks to Stage 4: Understanding.

Some of the self-justifications I often hear from purchasers for not prioritizing accessibility is that it is too difficult, too costly, and/ or very occasion downing — but is that really the action? In the same accessibility training, I pass an exercise where we look at a website with an accessibility testing implement and revaluation any issues that came up. With the group’s help we plot out the “impact to user” versus the “remediation effort” on the part of the team. From group to group, while the plans are somewhat different, one commonality is that close to 80% of the mistake planned fall into the quadrant of “simple to fix” for the team, but they also fall under “high impact” to the user. Located on this empirical data, I won’t buy the argument from consumers who say that accessibility is too difficult and costly and era expending anymore. It comes down to whether it’s a priority — for each individual and for the company as a whole.

What the hell is your coding gift be?

The infinite monkey theorem states that a ape reaching keys at random on a typewriter for an infinite amount of season will eventually type any given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. So by that same reasoning, a programmer hitting keys at random on personal computers for an infinite amount of term will almost surely create a website that is accessible. But where is the thought process? Where is the human element? While all the things we’ve once talked about — awareness, education, and prioritization of accessibility are important steps in establishing the digital macrocosm more inclusive to all — without goal, we are just going to keep arbitrarily sounding away at our computers, recurring the same mistakes over and over again. The meaning behind the code has to be part of the process, otherwise accessibility is just another task that has no meaning.

Maybe I’m naive, but I’d like to think we’ve come to a point in our society where we want our effort lives to have implying. And that we don’t want to just hear about the positive change that is happening, but want to be part of the change. Digital accessibility is a place where this can happen! Not exclusively does understanding and writing purpose-driven code help people with disabilities in the short-run, I strongly believes that is key to solving the overarching diversity issue in tech in the long-run. Developers who reach Stage 4: Understanding, and who prioritize accessible system because they understand it’s basically about beings, will also be the ones who help create and cultivate an inclusive environment where people from most diverse backgrounds are also prioritized and is able to accept the tech world.

Because when you divest away all the styles, all the mark-up, all the cool peculiarities from an internet site or app — what’s left? People. And candidly, the more I learn about digital accessibility, the more I realise it’s not about the code at all. Digital accessibility is rooted in the user; and, while I( and countless others) can certainly teach you how to write accessible code, and build you tools, structures, and libraries to use, I recognise we can’t teach you to care. That is a choice you have to manufacture yourself. So recall for a moment — what are you leaving the next generation of developers with everything that impassable system you haven’t given much thought to? Is it the coding gift “youve been” want to leave? I challenge you to do better for my daughter, her peers, and for the countless others who are not fully represented in the tech society today.

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