Karl Groves

Tech Accessibility Consultant
  • Web
  • Mobile
  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Policy
Telephone
+1 443.875.7343
Email
karl@tenon.io
Twitter
@karlgroves

What happens when you get sued for your inaccessible website

In the United States, the primary motivator for paying attention to accessibility seems to be risk avoidance. While I’d personally rather see people work to make their ICT systems more accessible because they believe in Universal Usability, litigation (or threats thereof) is what truly gets the discussion (and budget) moving for accessibility. Some argue that its the only way to get things done and they’re quick to point out recent accessibility lawsuit settlements and new “collaborations” between companies and disability rights organizations. Throughout my career, I’ve dealt with a large number of companies who are or have been sued. I’ve done work for plaintiffs and defendants and when you hear the back stories of how these lawsuits happened, each one tends to have the same characteristic history for how they got there. To say accessibility lawsuits are preventable is an understatement. By the time a story about an accessibility lawsuit reaches the media, a whole lot of behind-closed-door meetings and phone calls between both parties have failed to come up with a mutually agreeable resolution. This lack of resolution ultimately turns into a lawsuit.

How to deal with threat of a lawsuit

While each story is unique – and I’m not about to disclose details – most of the cases I’m personally aware of involve a series of silly missteps and failures to take the situation seriously. The plaintiff’s lawyers didn’t just pick the defendant’s name out of a hat. The most active lawyers in this type of action do their homework first and have gathered hard evidence that disabled users’ needs have gone unmet and their complaints to the defendant have not gotten results. In other words, your website didn’t get you sued, your inaction did.

But it isn’t just your inaction that got you here. Your organizational culture and lack of quality processes contributed heavily. This is probably the single universal trait among all organizations that have been sued for accessibility, and it can often be traced up to the C-level executives. Ignorance around accessibility is one thing, but your culture is probably more broken than that. Chances are your organization’s approach to quality, usability, and project/ program management are broken as well. You can probably even verify this by having conversations with your Human Resources personnel, as you’ve likely lost employees due to their frustration at the company’s lack of process.

Ultimately, you are going to end up fixing your website

It is never too early to begin addressing accessibility. Being proactive is far better than being reactive and that’s never more true than when you’re dealing with a legal threat. When it comes time to address these matters in the written settlement, the terms will call for WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the standard of measure for success. Get started on that now, not when the settlement is signed because the settlement will also dictate a date for you to reach that goal.

To paraphrase my former co-worker Elle Waters: "Do you want to do this on your budget and timeline or the plaintiff’s budget and timeline?" This is extremely important. If you wait too long to address this it will be expensive, painful, and extremely disruptive to all other work. Do it now.

You will never be successful in accessibility without fixing your culture and processes

Getting to the settlement is one thing but then you have to meet its requirements. If it is your culture that got you here it’ll be the culture that keeps you from being successful. Chances are, you’ll be told to get an accessibility audit and to fix the things found during the audit. Your settlement will probably also call for requirements that you get your staff trained in accessibility. That’s only the beginning. Broken processes have lead to very serious roadblocks to meeting settlement requirements. In fact, a well-crafted search on Google will turn up one organization that has been sued 9 times for accessibility. Poor program management, poor leadership, and poor processes will mean that accessibility suffers alongside other quality domains.

Chances are there’s nothing in this blog post you haven’t already heard before

At almost every client I’ve had, there’s been at least one person inside the company – either through passion or because it was their job role – advocating for accessibility. That internal person has been saying the same things I’ve said above and elsewhere on this blog for years and haven’t gotten any traction. Suddenly you get sued and I show up to do training and I’m saying what they’ve been saying all this time.

Start paying attention to this person because if not, they’ll eventually get angry about being ignored and quit to work for an accessibility consulting firm. In fact, that’s where a lot of accessibility consultants come from.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

On Certification

At CSUN 2012, the ATIA, Microsoft, and other companies laid forth a proposal plan to create a professional organization around the Accessibility profession. Among the topics of discussion on that day was certification. The next day I posed the question on this blog What does it take to call yourself an accessibility expert?. Cyndi Rowland of WebAIM posted an overview of concerns about a month later in an excellent post titled Accessibility Certification: The Devil is in the Details. In her post, Cyndi also references other blog postings by Sharron Rush and Léonie Watson. Since that time, the IAAP has plodded onward with its plans, including their plans to create a certification.

Do we need a certification?

Large companies and government agencies have a legal obligation to ensure ICT systems are accessible to employees, customers, and citizens. Meeting this obligation requires that the organization employ IT staff with extensive skills and knowledge in accessibility, but the requisite level of knowledge is rare. Validating experience level of employees/ potential employees is difficult when executives and HR personnel also don’t know much about accessibility. But is the answer to this question “an exam”?

On September 8, 2015, Glenda Sims of Deque will be presenting a talk during the Accessibility Summit titled “Accessibility Professional Certification”. In the description of her talk is this: “Is there a way to establish an exam that could reliably weed out impostors from experts?”. Is this the goal of a certification? To “weed out imposters”? This sounds a bit like Leave Accessibility to the Experts Please. Certainly there are a lot of cases where unqualified people are working in Accessibility. But am I crazy to be offended by the idea that they’d be called “imposters” who need to be “weeded out”? Or, perhaps that’s exactly what needs to happen.

We’re reaching a point in technology where it is evolving at a breakneck speed and that requires an accessibility professional to not only understand the special use cases of technology for people with disabilities but also requires them to understand the technologies themselves. Many people who had traditionally been able to work in this field are now faced with out-of-date knowledge, to say the least. You can no longer “fake it until you make it” without doing a severe disservice to your employers, customers, and end users. Instead of “weeding out” those who lack the advanced knowledge necessary in today’s tech industry, I vote that we seek to mentor and educate others. I think pushing a certification is a backwards approach at solving a much bigger problem than so-called “imposters”.

What is the worth of certification?

In order to have any worth, a certification must meet 4 criteria: Validity, Reliability, Fairness, and Defensibility.

  • Validity: Does the test measure what it is intended to measure?
  • Reliability: Will different test sessions against the same test-taker yield the same results?
  • Fairness: Is the test free from bias?
  • Defensibility: Have professionally recommended guidelines been used to create the exam?

The above topics are far more in-depth than is necessary here, but they are important to consider when determining if a certification is worth having. Frankly speaking, I don’t see anyone (other than possibly Paul Bohman) on IAAP’s Certification Committee who may have any experience in this area. There are additional names listed on the IPD Committee that provide hope, and I may just be ignorant of the existing skillsets behind these efforts. Regardless, there’s nothing on the IAAP’s site which indicates any effort at pursuing or documenting their approaches to address Validity, Reliability, Fairness, and Defensibility. During her presentation, Glenda will discuss IAAP’s future inclusion of Dr. Reed Castle, a specialist in Psychometrics, to assist the IAAP. It is unknown the extent to which Dr. Castle will be involved, but I hope the IAAP closely heeds his guidance because that will help considerably.

The IAAP Certification page states:

The IAAP proposes to align its requirements for CEUs with the standards created by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training.

“Aligning its requirements”, however, is not at all the same as becoming accredited as a CEU provider under IACET. Furthermore, there’s no discussion of becoming accredited as a certifying organization under an independent body such as ANSI.

As an “Accessibility Professional” myself, I would find holding a certification useful if it increased my ability to gain employment by virtue of having it. In other words, the certification has to be valuable to the potential employer. The potential employer must feel that the certification exam validly and reliably measures skills and competency in accessibility. The potential employer must believe that the exam itself was rigorous enough to truly prove that the certificate holder really knows what they’re doing. In other words, absent any other obvious differentiation between two applicants, the applicant with the certification should have an advantage over the non-certified applicant. Due to the current lack of publicly available information on the IAAP certifications, its hard to say whether this will be the case.

What about those “imposters”?

While I disagree with the language, I don’t disagree with the sentiment that accessibility has a pretty huge ignorance problem. There are people working in accessibility-related job roles who are seriously under-qualified for their jobs. There are so-called “thought leaders” in web accessibility who have never professionally designed or developed a website. But this isn’t unique to accessibility. It happens in virtually all professions that don’t require professional licensing.

The mission of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) is to define, promote and improve the accessibility profession globally through networking, education and certification in order to enable the creation of accessible products, content and services.

What the accessibility community needs isn’t a certification, but rather education, and IAAP’s messaging going all the way back to 2012 suggests to me that they’ve gotten this backwards. While some people may believe we should “weed out” those “imposters”, I’d rather see those “imposters” become educated. If there’s any value at all to IAAP’s efforts at creating a certification, it is that it should lead to the development of a body of knowledge that can help bridge the knowledge gaps that exist. The more rigorous the certification process, the more such a body of knowledge will be necessary.

At every accessibility consulting firm I’ve worked at, the ability to recruit quality staff was extremely difficult. I can guarantee that every accessibility firm in North America is hiring right now. The workload, when measured against available consultant time, is massive for all of these companies. The lack of available talent will not be addressed by a certification but must be addressed through mentorship and education opportunities similar to those seen among other professional organizations like PMI, SHRM, UXPA, or IAPP. While all of these organizations also offer certifications, they also offer a wide array of educational and mentorship opportunities. In other words, they seek to grow their profession, not “weed” people “out” of the profession.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

Five Lessons Learned from the IEP Process

May was a really big month for the Groves family. We got our county school system to agree to place our daughter in a non-public school to address her unique educational needs. She’s never been happier and more enthusiastic about school, which I largely attribute to a combination of better atmosphere and finally feeling like she can be successful in her education.

Throughout what has been a 2 year process, I’ve felt compelled to write about what was happening, but also felt it was too early to talk about. I also didn’t want emotions to drive too much of what I want to say. But this topic, and our experience, is also too important not to share. Over time, my wife and I have joined groups on Facebook, Reddit, and elsewhere specifically oriented toward learning disabilities. Among the most popular topics in these groups is the IEP process. For those who don’t know, IEP is Individualized Education Program which is defined as:

In the United States an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Wikipedia

Countless posts appear in these forums discuss the frustrations and despair that parents have with the IEP process. Over and over parents in theses groups complain that their child’s needs aren’t being met by the schools. I don’t know whether that is consistently the case for all of those complaints, but what I can say is that our experiences have been vastly similar to all of the primary themes you see throughout those other parents’ complaints. I want to share mistakes and lessons we’ve learned along the way.

There’s no “we” in IEP.

The first mistake we made was believing the school staff were on our child’s side. This was not the case and we were incredibly naive for believing so. The school Principal and/ or Assistant Principal are employed to administer the business of the school and manage the school’s personnel. That’s why they’re referred to as Administrators. They may have a background in education but their responsibility is to achieve the mission of the school, not your child. They will tell you that it is their duty to look after the well-being of all of the kids in their school – and that’s fine – but that is not the same as looking after the specific needs of your child. In short, they’re not on your side, they’re on the school’s side. Know this and remember this at all times. Don’t be fooled by their claims to the contrary. The only people truly on your side are you.

The special educators are, at least in my opinion, much more likely to care about your child’s specific needs. People typically don’t choose to specialize in special education if they don’t feel empathy for children with special needs. The problem is that they’re responsible for every child with special needs in their school. In a school with possibly hundreds of children, there may be only a couple of special education staff on hand and they have to handle all of the children in the school who have special needs. As is often the case in the realm of accessibility, this specialized staff is often spread thin. And, as before, while they may be more likely to care about your specific needs than anyone else, they also have their own individual goals to achieve with respect to all of the children they’re responsible for. They’re also unlikely to buck the system to advocate for your child.

Understand your rights and responsibilities

All children in the United States are entitled to a “Free and Appropriate Public Education” – whatever the heck that means. The subjectivity in that phrase is probably the source of a lot of confusion and frustration surrounding the IEP process. For the most part it means that your child is entitled a free education by the public school system and that the quality of the education must meet the quality that all other children receive. For children with special needs, this latter point can be pretty hard to define, but that’s what the “Individualized” part of “Individualized Education Plan” aims to address. Children with special needs must be given the necessary adjustments to their education necessary to allow them to learn.

Given the above, you have the right to expect any & all accommodations necessary for your child to learn. You have a right to expect that the school will define measurable goals to track your child’s success. You have the right to revisit the substance of the IEP as necessary to adjust goals or adjust the plan to ensure the goals are being met. You don’t have a right to expect anything extraordinary for your child.

As the parent, you are ultimately the one responsible for making sure that the school is doing what is necessary to ensure the success of your child’s IEP. Never assume that they are doing everything they should be doing or even what they said they’d do. You can – and should – ask for regular progress reports including objective measures toward your child’s goals. Missing IEP goals is an excellent reason to demand an adjustment to instructional times or approaches.

This isn’t what you do, so find someone who does this stuff

While I might know a lot about web accessibility, I don’t know anywhere near as much as I needed to know when it comes to special education. As a consequence of my ignorance I was far too willing to trust that the school knew what was best for our daughter. When it became clear that our daughter wasn’t successfully learning under her IEP, our ignorance became our #1 enemy. We had no idea how the process was supposed to work and no knowledge of what sorts of accommodations were appropriate or possible for our child.  Considering the volume of information out there on the web, we expected to be able to learn about this rather easy but it just wasn’t the case especially when it came to our county’s specific processes. Our school and our county wasn’t terribly forthcoming with this information and when it came to accommodations they claimed they were doing all they could. The best thing we did was hire an advocate. In our case our advocate was also a lawyer with a lot of experience and success working with our county.  She knew far more about special education, our county’s processes, and the law.  Unfortunately, affording a lawyer is out of reach for a lot of people. Don’t feel dissuaded by this, because there are often local advocacy groups, foundations, or disability rights organizations that can provide assistance and some attorneys may take on pro-bono work.

Get support for you

My wife is incredibly strong, organized, and assertive and together we make a great team. In addition to each other, we also have people we can turn to for emotional support. My boss, Mike Paciello and my coworkers at The Paciello Group have been extremely supportive. This stuff is very emotionally draining. If you don’t have your own support network, you need to find one. You are not alone in this and there are a lot of other people, possibly in your own network of friends or neighbors, who have gone through this as well. Reach out for support when thins get too stressful.

Never give up

If your child needs an IEP, chances are they’ll need one throughout their education. You owe it to your child to never give up in your efforts to ensure they get a proper education. The benefits of becoming educated speak for themselves and it is crucial that children who learn differently are able to do so.  Do whatever you can to make that happen and know that you must keep fighting no matter the setbacks you may face along the way.

My testimony at the CSUN 2015 Access Board Hearing: Make Haste

My name is Karl Groves. I’ve been involved in Web Development, Usability, and Accessibility since the late 1990s. Living in the Washington DC area, and working in accessibility my professional career in this field has always involved Section 508.

In 2006 I was excited to hear about the Refresh process. As a web developer, the advent of technologies like Asynchronous JavaScript blurred the lines between software and web and the rapid changes in mobile computing meant that the technologies that drove the old standards were quickly made obsolete. The Refresh was exciting to me because the standards could be made more relevant.

The TEITAC committee’s membership included representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, and government agencies, among others. Members were selected from applications received in response to a Board notice published in April of 2006. In the spirit of international cooperation, the Access Board also included representatives from the European Commission, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

In 2008 I was also excited to hear that the TEITAC committee had delivered their report.

[long pause]

2008.

[long pause]

2008

The same year this nation saw its first Black President. Since that time, we’ve seen the overthrow and creation of governments in the middle east. The US Economy dove into and crawled out of a massive economic crisis.

Congress approved and implemented the Affordable Care Act – including all of the years of partisan fighting and surviving a challenge at the US Supreme Court and to date 7.3 million people had enrolled through the marketplace and paid their premiums.

Osama Bin Laden was successfully brought to justice for 9-11

Barack Obama was re-elected for his 2nd term.

And the Section 508 Refresh has still not made it to Final Rule.

Why is it that we can see the creation and implementation of the most sweeping change to our nation’s healthcare system in roughly 20% of the time it has taken to get to this hearing?

NOT having a new Final Rule has resulted in chaos within the compliance space at the Federal, State, and Local levels as well as higher education institutions. While only the Federal Executive Branch is required to adhere to Section 508, these others have often adopted Section 508 and use it to guide their own ICT procurements. It has resulted in chaos for contractors who are told by their public sector clients that they have to conform to grossly out of date standards while their private sector clients want conformance to WCAG.

I’m pleased to provide my voice to this process and want to encourage you to the best of my abilities to make haste. There will be plenty of people today who will say that the new standards aren’t enough. Incorporating WCAG by reference means, to many, that it doesn’t go far enough for persons with low vision or cognitive disorders. As the father of a child with severe learning disabilities, this resonates with me. But we must remain aware that the “perfect” is the enemy of the good. We must commit ourselves to the pragmatic understanding that what the Refresh proposes now is far far better than what currently exists in Subpart B and Subpart C of the Section 508 we now have. The lack of a final rule is, in my opinion, a failure on the Access Board’s part to achieve its mission to protect citizens with disabilities.

You must not delay this process any longer. You must make haste. Finish what so many people have worked so hard on. Make haste toward an actual Final Rule.

Thank you.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

18 Years in: The basics still matter

I got into web development in the late 90s. By that time, the Web Accessibility Initiative was well on its way to trying to make the web more accessible. In that time we’ve seen the rise (and fall) of many new technologies on the web and many new devices used to consume and create web content and yet accessibility is still an area that sees little attention in the mainstream.

For me, seeing accessibility talks at conferences that present the basics really bums me out. I often tease my good friend Billy Gregory for doing "basic" presentations. I’ve seen those types of presentations a gazillion times and personally wish there were more presentations on bleeding edge tech like JavaScript MVC frameworks and Web Components. I shy away from them myself and shy away from writing about things that are "basic" on my blog. Maybe it is a little egotistical, but I’d rather focus my time on answering hard questions.

On February 28, 2015, at Accessibility Camp Bay Area I will be doing a talk on the basics

Why? Because the basics are still a big deal. By the time Accessibility Camp Bay Area rolls around, Tenon API will have tested a half-million distinct URLs. The data we will have will be statistically significant and it shows quite clearly that web developers still get the basics wrong.

Join me February 28, 2015, at Accessibility Camp Bay Area where I will discuss the 10 most frequent accessibility issues and how to avoid them.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

To Hell With Compliance

A few weeks ago, Asa and I added a page to Tenon’s documentation that lists What Tenon Tests in reaction to questions about “How much WCAG coverage” Tenon has. I had already covered, at a high level at least, what can be tested and how quite a while ago and, while Tenon only tests a subset of that, it also serves as a useful reminder of what sort of coverage you can expect from an automated tool. The page is really cool – it is driven by the actual tests inside Tenon so that it is always up to date and accurate. The process of creating that page on what Tenon tests also reminded me of my general disdain for the word “Compliance”. Compliance, you see, is synonymous with doing the bare minimum for users.

Here’s an image that comes to mind whenever I hear “Compliance”. Sure, this ramp has a pole in the middle of it, but hey, its a ramp right?

Many people will see that image and say that the ramp above is not compliant, because the pole is in the middle of it, rendering the ramp unusable. In fact it violates ADA guideline 4.8.3 for ramps, but I still love the analogy with WCAG “compliance”.

1.1.1 Non-text Content: All non-text content that is presented to the user has a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose, except for the situations listed below. (Level A)

The above quote, from WCAG 2.0, discusses non-text content. The actual success criteria content is longer but not any more detailed. Of course there’s also the Understanding SC 1.1.1 and How to Meet WCAG 2.0. These last two documents are only informative in nature, anyway. Regardless, they’re all written in standards-speak and none of them explicitly state what I think is the most important part of this Success Criteria: that the equivalent to the non-text content must approximate, as closely as possible, the purpose and meaning of the non-text content! There are no failures listed that say “failure due to using a non-equivalent alternative” though admittedly G94 does discuss equivalence. In any case the normative information doesn’t discuss the quality of the alternative. Normative content on conformance contains no discussion of quality user experience, either. In fact, WCAG’s own introduction says:

Note that even content that conforms at the highest level (AAA) will not be accessible to individuals with all types, degrees, or combinations of disability, particularly in the cognitive language and learning areas.

But this post isn’t about WCAG. I fully believe that it is the intent of WCAG to improve user experience and that by following WCAG the users’ experience will be better than it would had WCAG not been followed. That said, compliance with WCAG is not quite the same as usable by persons with disabilities as evidenced by the quote above. WCAG compliance isn’t “the goal” but rather one of many means toward the goal of an accessible user experience. As a standard that seeks to codify what is quite often subjective in nature, WCAG is excellent. But, it is exactly this subjectivity that makes WCAG so challenging and so different from other standards. This subjectivity is what causes people to do only that which is the absolute bare minimum necessary to achieve what they want to call “compliance”.  This bare minimum attitude misses the point entirely, even if your goal is only to mitigate legal risk.

These express terms of the ADA provide plaintiffs several alternative bases upon which to state a claim regarding the inaccessibility of Southwest’s Web site: (a) the Web site is a service, advantage or privilege of Southwest’s travel service, and the Web site’s inaccessibility constitutes a prohibited intangible barrier to that service, advantage or privilege for persons with disabilities; (b) the Web site is a method of providing the travel service’s information to the public, and the Web site’s inaccessibility constitutes a failure to provide auxiliary aids and services necessary to ensure that the information is effectively communicated to persons with disabilities; (c) the Web site’s inaccessibility imposes a prohibited eligibility criteria because it requires people to be able to see text on a computer screen in order to access benefits of Southwest’s travel service; and (d) Southwest’s practice of posting information on its Web site in an inaccessible manner denies persons with disabilities the right to participate in or benefit from the services, privileges or advantage of Southwest’s travel service. ADA Friend of the Court Briefs Filed for Access Now v. Southwest Airlines

What you will notice if you peruse the List of Web Accessibility-Related Litigation and Settlements is that few, if any, mention WCAG compliance in the complaints. When they do mention WCAG, it is merely used to strengthen the complaint. The bulk of the legal complaints revolve around the fact that real users (the complainant) is prevented from performing core system tasks due to the system’s lack of accessibility. To this point, the site’s WCAG compliance doesn’t matter except as it contributes to bolstering the legal complaint. What truly matters, even when attempting to mitigate legal risk, is how usable the system is for actual users.

What this means is that if you think you can do only the bare minimum and call it “compliant”, you’re mistaken. What you need to be concerned with is the experience of the user: give a damn about what you’re doing, and make it usable. Then you’ll be compliant.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

You don’t have accessibility problems, you have quality problems

On my site and on Twitter, I try to exude positivity and pragmatism. I try to tone down my admittedly strong personality as a way to ensure that what I write is well received. Sometimes I succeed. For the most part I tend to frown upon random bitch sessions about how bad everything is on the web. Complaints do not equate to solutions and solutions are what matter, as I’ve fondly alluded to before:

Today I’ve finally had enough and its time we all face the blunt and honest truth: your code sucks. Yes, yours. Stop looking around, I’m really talking about you. Oh, you’re a hotshot developer from a big company? You have 10,000 followers on Github? Good for you. That plus $3 will get you coffee at the nearest Starbucks while you contemplate how this blog post applies to you.

For the last decade my job has been, in one way or the other, to help make websites, web-based applications, SaaS products, desktop & mobile software, and mobile websites more usable and accessible for all. I love what I do because at the end of every day I feel like I’m making a tangible difference in the world. I get to work with big important clients all over the world and if each of them implements even a few of my recommendations, real users of their systems will find those systems easier to use. Hell yes! To paraphrase John Foliot, what I’m trying to do, ultimately, is put myself out of work. If those of us in the accessibility field are successful, we’ll eventually work ourselves out of a job. And every single one of us will jump for joy. The thing is this: so long as developers refuse to give a damn about the quality of their work we will have unbelievable strong job security.

Many developers, including those working for some of the biggest web agencies and biggest companies on earth, appear to have very little understanding of how HTML, CSS, and JavaScript contribute to how an object is created in the browser. They don’t really understand anything beyond the superficial appearance on screen and whether you can interact with it the way they would interact with it. Everything else is out of sight, out of mind. Most developers I’ve come across in my career are self-taught. They learn what they’re expected to learn for their specific role and that usually isn’t accessibility.  That said, your ignorance doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility of doing a good job and accessibility – like security, SEO, cross-platform reliability, and meeting stated business requirements – is part of doing a good job. You don’t know how to do accessibility? Learn it. This is the same expectation people have of you when it comes time to introduce a new framework, new toolset, new library or whatever into your development environment.  In fact, that’s probably how you’ve developed all of your skills, isn’t it?  Somehow expecting developers to create a quality user experience is seen as an unreasonable extra effort. It isn’t. It is part of doing a good job. It is part of caring about what you do, because you care about how people interact with your work – and if you don’t care about the quality of your work, why bother doing it?

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

Ridiculously easy trick for keyboard accessibility

One of the more frustrating things about accessibility is how ridiculously easy most things are to do. While most developers tend to see accessibility as nebulous and time consuming, the truth is some of the most impactful issues are actually easy to deal with. As a case-in-point: consider simple keyboard accessibility for custom controls otherwise activated by click. For the <button> element, you get free accessibility. It appears in the tab order and reacts appropriately to both click and keypress via the enter and spacebar. This is not the case for custom controls, such as those created with DIV and span. Typically you’ll see developers do something like this:


$('#fake-button').on('click', function() {
    //do stuff
});

The problem with the code above is that it only works when the user clicks the mouse button. So for whatever this button does on click, it absolutely does nothing when the enter key (or space bar) is pressed, which is how one expects to interact with buttons via keyboard. The solution is, obviously, to check for keypress too. BUT don’t do this:


$('#fake-button').on('click keypress', function() {
    //do stuff
});

That will trigger on any keypress, including the TAB key. For a keyboard user that would be a bit like triggering on mouseover. Instead, you need a function to check the specific key(s):


function a11yClick(event){
    if(event.type === 'click'){
        return true;
    }
    else if(event.type === 'keypress'){
        var code = event.charCode || event.keyCode;
        if((code === 32)|| (code === 13)){
            return true;
        }
    }
    else{
        return false;
    }
}

That function returns TRUE on either click or whenever the space bar or enter key have been pressed. Now all you need to do is this:


$('#fake-button').on('click keypress', function(event){
  if(a11yClick(event) === true){
    // do stuff
  }
});

Given how simple this is, developers really have no excuse for using only ‘click’ on controls.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

The no-CURL way to submit a request to Tenon API

A few months ago, I posted Tutorial: Creating a PHP class to use with Tenon.io. Someone asked me “What about servers that don’t have CURL? Here you go. Use the class in that post, but swap out the submit() function for this:

function submit(){

    $content = http_build_query($this->opts);

    $options = array(
        'http' => array(
            'method' => 'POST',
            'content' => $content
	));

    $context = stream_context_create($options);
    $this->tenonResponse = file_get_contents($this->url, false, $context);
}

In fact, using streams may even be faster than CURL!

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343

This one secret will save you $100,000 on accessibility

I’ve historically been very critical of the various Business Case arguments for accessibility given their lack of actual evidence. There’s one business case argument that I think is rock solid: The cost of remediation.

The cost of remediation actually has two faces: The actual time-on-task it takes to fix issues, of course, but also the lost opportunity dollars that come from development staff time being diverted to bug fixes rather than being spent on new features. We’ll skip past the opportunity cost for now because the actual remediation cost is enough to get our point across anyway.


average cost per defect = ((number of devs * number of hours ) * fully loaded dev cost per hour) / total bugs to be fixed

The above gives us the average cost per defect. It is mostly dependent on two factors: time to fix the average bug and the number of bugs fixed. The fewer bugs fixed will raise the cost-per-bug, as the typical case is that developers can (and will) be able to fix multiple bugs of the same type rather quickly. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the more bugs to fix, the more money it will cost.

So what’s the cost? That depends a lot on how accessible you are starting off! Across 800,000 tested URLs, Tenon.io has logged an average of 42 accessibility issues per page. This number is statistically significant and automatically-testable accessibility issues don’t make up the entirety of possible issues. This indicates that the full sitewide remediation of all issues could be very expensive and time consuming. In fact, the $100,000 number in this post’s title isn’t made-up. It is actually an estimate of the cost to fix bugs on a project I’ve worked on.

Of course, there’s the option of not fixing the bugs. There may be instances where, through effective prioritization, we decide not to fix some issues. The overall truth remains that avoiding the bugs in the first place is by far the cheapest. The ROI argument here is easy: how many bugs we can/ should avoid, what are their costs to fix and – while we’re at it – what amount of Risk are we avoiding?

Doing it right the first time has instant ROI.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343