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Clifford Ouma for CodeLand 2022

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[On-Demand Talk] Inclusive Web Development

About this talk

Close to 13% of the world's population are faced with some form of disability. This means that many people cannot access our websites and web tools with real ease as others.

Complicating things, there is a rise of self-taught developers who fail to learn key fundamental topics like accessibility. This leads to the creation of many websites and web tools that excludes those who are differently-abled.

Web accessibility is crucial. It helps us build while being intentional and deliberate in building for the margins. Building for the margins ensures we take everyone and their abilities into consideration. This makes sure the needs of everyone are catered for, a 'tide that lifts all boats' situation.

With the help of accessibility guidelines and tools to test and fix accessibility issues, it is possible to build more inclusive web products.

Accessibility promotes inclusivity and lets those of us who are usually excluded feel cared for and considered.

Talk Recording

Slides

🌈 Comment below and ask me questions β€” I might just answer them during my live speaker discussion!


About me

Hi! I'm Clifford Ouma β€” an undergrad student at Moi University in Kenya. I'm a front-end web developer, a User Experience Designer in training, and an introvert who strives to show empathy and understanding in everything I do. I consider myself a champion for tech communities and enjoy taking part in community-building to foster connection, learning, and growth β€” both in terms of skills and growth in network and experience.


This on-demand talk is part of CodeLand 2022 β€” a virtual conference brought to you by CodeNewbie & DEV on June 16 & 17, 2022.

Discussion (37)

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dennistobar profile image
Dennis Tobar

Thanks for sharing your talk =)

As I see, the web development is generally oriented to some "actors" or "personas" (men 30+ years, credit card, etc...). How do think we can create personas less identified who interactuate with our site: Google Analytics, group chat, support lines?...

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author • Edited on

Hi
Could you provide more context to your question? Not fully understand it.
However, let me try to answer based on how I have understood it. There are indeed some 'common personas' that people think of when they are considering a11y. Personas like the old, persons with permanent disabilities, etc. But truth be told, a11y is constantly evolving and changing rapidly. Nowadays, we have to consider situational/temporary disabilities too. We even have to consider the 'Next Billion User' too. Those who have started using the internet face barriers like connectivity.
This is why I talked of inclusivity which extends to cover accessibility. Accessibility compliments inclusivity, which is why making your product inclusive makes it accessible.
To answer the second part. How can we change this 'default persona setting'. Read, interact, listen and learn more. Interacting with more content and listening to more people changes our perspectives, changes how we view things, and helps broaden our view and we begin to see other considerations that we had not thought of earlier.

Hope this answers your question. If not, just reach out. But hey! I'm also interested in listening to your views also.😊

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dennistobar profile image
Dennis Tobar

mmm... sorry English isn't my mother language, I'll try to explain better.

My question is how we can reach these people and track how they work with our application?. They could be less than 5% of all traffic sites, but they have the rights to use the apps and think about how we can engage them on our websites.

To write an example, before the pandemic start many apps and some government websites in my country were designed for younger people (35 yo, with a good understanding of tech and apps). With the pandemic, many procedures have become "online", but the elderly and people with disabilities can't do simple tasks (asking for social assistance or health issues), because the websites and apps aren't properly designed for these people. The government and websites run to make some fast changes (bigger letters, better descriptions, welcome tours in apps, etc.) and try to bring these people to websites.

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

English is also my third language. So I understand
But now I can answer this well. So to get to these people, User Experience Researchers(UXRs) are better equipped for these. UXRs are responsible for conducting research for a certain product.

The research done may be primary, meaning that it was conducted by the UXRs themselves. Or it can also be secondary research, meaning that research was conducted using the information someone else had put together e.g. books, journals, articles e.t.c
Now the primary research may be done in a lot of ways including interviews(here you collect people's opinions, thoughts, and feelings), surveys(where you ask many people the same questions), or even usability studies(where you test the product on users, observe how they're interacting with it and then interview them about the experience).

All that info answers the question of how we can get their opinions and improve the product.

Now to answer the question of how we can reach them. It depends on the project budget or company size.
In smaller companies and even small team projects, there might not be a research team. In this case, I would advise one to conduct secondary research and utilize it to their advantage. Scour the web and learn as much as you can about the different types of disabilities, how different assistive technologies work, and even how various big tech companies implement accessibility for different products and people. This will help in making your product accessible.
For primary research, you might only reach out to those within your networks; family members and friends. You might also reach to them online, in their interest groups or physically in areas where you are likely to find them.

In medium/ large companies, a research team can get the help of a third-party recruiting agency to get a hold of their target users. This makes it easy for the research team to conduct their primary research.

Now, what is my advice to you? Do both primary and secondary research. If you are conducting a project and want to reach out to these people to get their views, you can reach out to those you already know and are within your networks. You can also reach out to places where you can find them. For example, if you want to know how the old folks would use your app, you can reach out to care homes to have a chance to speak to them.
But also, utilize secondary research too.

Hope this helps. If not, shoot another question.

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faruqjada profile image
FaruqJada

As newbies in development, what resources or documents can you refer us to that explains more about inclusive web dev?

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author • Edited on

For resources, I'd share some of the resources that have helped me out. These are personal preferences:

  • Microsoft Learn Accessibility Fundamentals path: docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/pat... This is a great path for those seeking to just understand digital accessibility and see how Microsft puts it into action in their various products.
  • PluralSight Course Meeting Web Accessibility Guidelines (Section 508/ WCAG 2.1) by Gerard K. Cohen. (pluralsight.com/courses/web-access...). This is a great course that breaks down into detail the various accessibility guideline like WCAG 2.1 and Section 508, interpreting and explaining how they can be implemented. However, some people might not be able to pay for a PluralSight subscription, you can reach out to me, and I'll try and help you get a free 30-day pass (if possible). But also PluralSight usually opens up their library to everyone during PluralSight Free Weekends where you can access their whole content library.
  • Attending conferences and talks on #a11y. I can't stress this point enough. Nothing beats experience. Attending events and listening to other people amazingly enriches you. You get to learn what they know and even get amazing actionable tips and advice from them too. Those different perspectives and ideas will help you find your way and be a good ambassador of a11y. So this should be your go-to place when it comes to learning more about a11y and inclusivity

I would also love to see resources used by others so that I can also continue learning

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ifo profile image
Ifo Ikede

there are tons of resources related to learning about accessibility at testautomationu.applitools.com/

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ellativity profile image
Ella (she/her/elle)

Thanks for this thoughtful and informative talk, Clifford!

Do you have any recommendations for books specifically about developing for accessibility?

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author • Edited on

I don't usually read a lot of books unfortunately, but I remember a friend once told me to check out a book called Accessibility Handbook: Making 508 Compliant Websites by Katie Cunningham
Maybe that can help.
But I'll dig deep into my networks and find better book recomendations to give.
Also, I would advise going to tech twitter and following some amazing accessibility experts/speakers. They might have some good recommendations.

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Sarthak Pati

I am into web dev from last couple of months but just want a startegic roadmap to accomplish the journey for learning skills
Like i have a basic knowledge & idea of what skills should i go up to or what to pursue in the mean time if wanted a change..
But still,maybe i am talking for a mentor,I dont know that,but just wanna get a guidance from someone who's into tech.πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™‚

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

Hi Sarthak
Yeah, I understand what you mean. Web development can be a bit messy. So many changes, and new technologies coming up all the time, and everyone has different opinions on what you should and shouldn't learn.
My best advice to you would be: Build a good foundation. Drill down into the basics right. Get your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript on point. Take your time here. Don't rush into the frameworks, tools, and shiny technologies that are buzzing all over social media
Having a good understanding of the basics will help you. It will make the transition into the frameworks and tools much easier
Also, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the key players when it comes to a11y for the web. So you can start implementing accessibility from the start of your web development journey.

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stk_79 profile image
Sarthak Pati

Thanks for thisπŸ‘πŸ»

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Michael Tharrington

You seem like a very curious and inquisitive person. Do you have any advice for asking good questions as an early-career software developer?

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gracie profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

Hi Clifford! I noticed that you are a GitHub Campus Expert as well as a Microsoft Student Learn Ambassador. Can you explain both of these programs during your panel later today?

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

Hi Gracie
Yes. I answered it in the panel session. But I'll still share it here for those who might not have heard the panel session.

  • GitHub Campus Expert program is a community of amazing students all around the world who are passionate about building great communities. Communities are the heartbeat of tech. They build capacity, nurture talent, and provide amazing experiences and collaborations. It is because of this that GitHub stands at the forefront of supporting them through GitHub Campus Experts. So as a GitHub Campus Expert, you get support and training from GitHub to grow and support communities around you and their activities. You can find more about the program using this link: education.github.com/students/experts
    Applications for new GitHub Campus Experts open up in August.

  • Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador(MLSA) program. MLSAs are students interested in building their tech skills and teaching others. They evangelize about tech and become agents of change in their communities. They learn through a wealth of resources to skill up. Once you learn, you now share and teach others around you and on your campus; you organize events and share content and resources with your peers. All this is done with the help of the Microsoft team. So they got your back. To learn more, check this link: studentambassadors.microsoft.com/
    Applications are always open and reviewed on a rolling basis

I'd be more than happy to help anyone applying to the programs. Just reach out. My DM is always open

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TJ Phan

I think that your talk about web accessibility is so important to bring more empathy to our world. What inspired you to focus on this aspect of the web? Voices from those who benefit from accessibility designs seem to be a very marginalized community, so where could one find their voices and connect with their stories?

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

Hi TJ
What inspired me was that after about a year or two of doing frontend web development, I felt that II needed to see things from the user's side. So I pivoted towards User Experience design. There I learned more about empathy, and user research to better understand things and met accessibility for the first time. Now in my UX design journey, a11y was emphasized and I got curious about it. After all, UX is all about the user so they had to emphasize inclusivity and a11y. This was contrary to my engineering journey. Here a11y was only mentioned once in a while.
So I did what I do best, followed my curiosity, and came to find out that a11y is in both worlds; engineering and design. I decided then to learn more about a11y and evangelize it to the engineering world.

To the second part of your question. I believe everyone has a story to tell. So the best way to find these stories is through interaction with others. Join a11y communities, listen and talk to others. Sure enough, you'll get some amazing & diverse insights and stories

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anyanka profile image
Anja

I appreciate the "accessibilty first" thought! Thanks Clifford, great talk.

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author • Edited on

Thank you for your feedback
One of the best quotes I've ever heard about a11y is "a11y should not be an afterthought; not bolted on our products; rather having a11y built with the product from the start"

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devencourt profile image
brian bethencourt

I'm brand new to coding and I have a ton of questions about accessibility! This might be a silly question, but I'm wondering how folks with disabilities factor into the testing process. Is it a common practice for teams to loop in folks with disabilities to give feedback/do beta testing? If so, how is this process initiated?

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

First of all, there is no silly question. All of them are valid and important😊

Yes, they can and should be factored into the testing process. First, it depends on the company, product, and teams present at your company. So let me break it down into scenarios

  1. Startup/Small-scale company. This might not have the luxury of having so many teams and employees. So there might not be a UX team. Therefore, the engineering team members might have to put on different hats when required. So in the part of usability testing, the team might have to include People With Disabilities(PWDs). The testing should have a representative fraction of your users
  2. Medium and Large-scale companies. These companies might have a dedicated UX design and UX research team. Therefore they'll do all the heavy lifting for the engineering team when it comes to things like usability testing. QA testers might also help in crafting out some test cases that help ensure accessibility is considered and is tested.

However, I'd like to point this out, accessibility is a really wide and deep topic. There is accessibility in terms of design and also there is accessibility in terms of engineering and I'm sure there are other fields involved. So depending on whichever field you are in a11y is a key concept that should be explored

Also, let's view disability differently. There are 2 types of disabilities:-

  • Permanent disabilities. These include things like blindness, locomotor disabilities e.t.c. These are the common ones and what people mainly consider
  • Situational/Temporary disability. These are based on a person's current situation/environment and change after some time. Examples include a mother carrying a child and trying to use the phone, Someone with a broken arm, someone using your app in bright sun to even someone having low internet bandwidth. These are the ones people don't focus on and are still part of the disability.

Sorry for the long message but to summarize and answer your question straight to the point. Yes, it is a common practice to loop in PWDs. The process can be initiated by recruiting testing participants that are a representative sample of your users. By this, I mean people who represent the whole pool of users your product will have. This will give great inclusive insights that will improve the product overall.

Hope this answers your question. If you need more clarification, just reach out. I'd be happy to help

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ifo profile image
Ifo Ikede

you might find the learning resources about accessibility from Test Automation univeristy testautomationu.applitools.com/

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carolineschettler profile image
carolineschettler

As a student, how do/did you balance your coursework as a university student with your participation in communities, side projects, self-directed learning, etc?

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author • Edited on

Hi Caroline
This is an amazing question and one that affects a lot of people. Including me sometimes.
However, I have a few words of advice that I can share, things that helped me out:

  • Perspective matters. I found it helpful to view both coursework and community/project work as important. Don't see them as either this or that, rather view them as complementing each other. The course work is the foundational basis and the community/project work is exploration. In coursework, you don't have much room for mistakes, mistakes mean poor grades. But in the community/project work, it's a free and open world. Here making mistakes makes you better and more innovative. So take advantage of both worlds
  • Intentionally and deliberately make plans for you. You are the most important thing; without you, there are no grades or course work, and without you, there is no community/project work. So, in the same way you can set goals for your study work and projects, set goals for yourself; block your calendar for activities that build and grow you. Not in a career/professional way but in a health/relationship kind of way. Build your life outside school work and career. Have time to dwell on your hobbies, spend time with family and those you love, and do some exercises and meditation to keep your mental and physical health in shape. This helps you better deal with the pressure that comes with school and community/project balancing.

But these are just but a few tips I can give. I haven't found the best way to deal with this and I'm eager to learn how others deal with it.

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talib1996 profile image
M.Fahad Imtiaz

Yes you said right that.
we should always prioritize margins during development.

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

Yes. It is much easier to build while considering the margins than to finish the project and then start trying to fit in inclusivity. In the latter, you end up doing some shoddy work than won't help at all

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Valeria Cerpa Salas

It is interesting that the web projects we develop also include accessibility to people and be inclusive. It is a very good point to take into account.

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phaveey profile image
Phaveey

Thanks so much, Clifford!

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author • Edited on

Thank you too for listening. Hope it helped.

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vickish11 profile image
Victoria Adedayo

Thank you, Clifford.
This was enlightening!

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

Glad to hear you found it useful. Thank you for the feedback

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yuridevat profile image
π•π•¦π•π•šπ•’ πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ’»

Great talk. Thanks for spreading the word on accessibility!

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Aigars PluΔ£is • Edited on

One of topics what I wanted (or had huge interest) to listen!
Definitely taking notes from this talk as I want to grow up on this.

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cli4d profile image
Clifford Ouma Author

Thank you for the feedback. Glad to see you are learning from it.

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Kat Fay

Hi @codenewbiestaff πŸ˜ƒ πŸ‘‹πŸΌ Just wondering if the Panel chat with Ramon and Clifford is available on demand? Apparently they discussed a question I asked on the discord (but then slept through - damn time difference) so I am super keen to listen to it ☺️ Thanks! Loved CodeLand22 πŸ’š

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Hussain Codes

Hi CliffordπŸ‘‹
Really liked your talk. It gave me a feel of why accessibility is so important, where we often fail to provide it and how we can improve that.

Also, happy to see a fellow East African 🌍 at this amazing conference. Greetings from Uganda πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¬

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Clifford Ouma Author

Happy to hear that you loved it and it was useful. Thank you for the feedback.
Greetings received. Sending greetings from Kenya too.