Web of Tomorrow

A podcast about the web and the people who build it.

Web of Tomorrow

In each episode Adam interviews somebody who works in the web world as a designer, developer, manager, advocate, or founder. These are people who have built something awesome or are experts in something awesome. Together we're all building the web of tomorrow.


Adam Garrett-Harris


49: Jen Luker - Accessibility (a11y)


Jens shares what accessibility is, why it's important for everyone, and how it can increase your business revenue.




(Intro music: electric guitar)

0:00:13.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Welcome to Web of Tomorrow, a show about the web and people who build it. I’m Adam Garrett-Harris and this time my guest is Jen Luker.

0:00:21.9 Jen Luker


0:00:23.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Jen is a lead software engineer at Formidable Labs and a host on BookBytes Podcast, and also The Modern Web Podcast. So, she’s going to be talking about accessibility today, something that you’ve talked a lot about before. So, welcome to the show.

0:00:39.9 Jen Luker

Thank you.

0:00:41.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, first off, I’m going to say I don’t know a lot about accessibility, but I think it’s really important and I want to learn more about it. So, that’s one of the reasons that I want to talk to you about it.

0:00:52.5 Jen Luker

Fantastic. My favorite subject.

0:00:55.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, actually a while back I had been seeing A-1-1-Y, all over the place and I actually thought it was A-L-L-Y, I thought it was Ally.

0:01:05.9 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:01:06.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Like, I thought Ally was some sort of library that helped to help you with accessibility, and I didn’t realize what that stood for, at all. Can you explain that?

0:01:13.9 Jen Luker

Yes, it’s actually A-11-Y, and it’s because you start with A and then there’s 11 letters, and then there’s a Y in “Accessibility”. So, you know, it’s similar to other ones like Kubernetes, which is K8S.

0:01:30.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, okay.

0:01:31.8 Jen Luker

The reduction is mostly due to Twitter, back when we only had 140 characters, spending 11 characters where you could just spend 2 was really important.

0:01:47.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, the only other one I think I’ve seen which is internationalization, as I18n.

0:01:52.9 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:01:53.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

I guess there’s also localization, I forget the number on that one.

0:01:58.0 Jen Luker

I think it’s 13.

0:01:58.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah. Anyway, it’s interesting. So, what is accessibility?

0:02:04.8 Jen Luker

Accessibility is actually a really, really broad topic. So, I believe what you’re asking me about today is more closely related to web accessibility, but I will give you a little bit more of that generic definition. Accessibility in the sense that I appreciate it, is technology and tools, assistive technologies that allow you to access and interact with the web in the same way as everyone else, or as close to the same way as everyone else can.

0:02:47.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay. So, it’s kind of enabling everyone to be on an even playing field?

0:02:52.6 Jen Luker


0:02:54.6 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:02:55.4 Jen Luker

And then something that I found really interesting, if you think about it this way, many people have contacts or glasses and it’s no longer considered a disability to have vision that’s correctable by contacts or glasses because of the fact that the use of that assistive technology is so common, so accepted, and so widely available, that there’s really no way to call it a disability anymore.

0:03:27.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, I mean I guess you would be temporarily disabled if you lost your glasses.

0:03:32.3 Jen Luker


0:03:32.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:03:34.9 Jen Luker

But at that point, the assistive technology makes it normal. So, the interesting thing that I took from that is that accessibility has less to do with the disability, and more to do with the tools that make you disabled. So, for instance, if you’re in a wheelchair and you go into a building that does not have an elevator, but does have stairs, you are very clearly disabled in this building; but, if you go into that same building and it now has an elevator, you can get to the 3rd floor, then you are no longer disabled.

0:04:16.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, yeah. That’s interesting. So, the wheelchair’s enabling you, but then the building is disabling you.

0:04:20.4 Jen Luker


0:04:23.6 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:04:24.4 Jen Luker

So, when it comes to the web, we have the same-

0:04:25.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, that’s an interesting way to think about it.

0:04:27.6 Jen Luker

Yeah. So, when it comes to the web you have a lot of the same technologies, the same assistive technologies, more specifically. Things like screen readers, you know, JAWS is a very common one that allows people with like, visual acuity issues or mental or interactive issues to be able to work with the web, and access the web, and interact with the web in the same capacity as the rest of us.

0:05:01.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, can you explain JAWS a little bit? I just looked it up to see what it was like.

0:05:05.9 Jen Luker

Hmm! Jaws is the Windows screen reader. It’s used a lot for the web, there are multiple screen readers that are all used and it’s kind of like browsers in that none of them are exactly the same. The technologies that are implemented are also not exactly the same. So, we are kind of dealing with like, a browser conflict, just like we’re dealing with a screen reader conflict when we’re trying to code things for the web, but they are essentially screen readers.

0:05:40.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, so this runs instead of a browser?

0:05:43.6 Jen Luker

No, it runs in addition to a browser. It reads what’s on the browser window.

0:05:48.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, have you ever used it?

0:05:51.0 Jen Luker


0:05:51.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, what is that experience like?

0:05:54.6 Jen Luker

Depends on the website! (laughs).

0:05:56.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh! (laughs)

0:05:59.0 Jen Luker

The fascinating thing is trying to navigate through a website where you’ve turned down the brightness all the way to zero, or you’ve turned off the monitor, and you try to use the entire operating system and the website in conjunction with each other, with a screen reader trying to find out how to navigate, how to get to information that you want, how to… You know, just how to access and interact with that website, and you’ll find that some website are abominably bad. They’re so bad. (laughs) And then you have other ones that, you know, accessibility has been taken into account but they’re not quite perfect, and you can pretty much do what you want. It can be a little awkward and it can be a little janky, but it still works. And then you’ve got other ones that have really spent the time, and invested in taking that into consideration, how you move around a website, whether you use only a keyboard, whether you use a mouse, you can still use a mouse with a screen reader just fine, but it changes how you can interact with the web, by a lot.

0:07:15.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

How does a mouse work when you’re using a screen reader?

0:07:18.4 Jen Luker

When you hover, it reads.

0:07:21.1 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:07:23.8 Jen Luker

When you click it lets you know that it’s an active element. It’s usually easier to use a keyboard, but a mouse does work.

0:07:32.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, what are some other conditions to think about besides just blindness when it comes to the web?

0:07:39.0 Jen Luker

Ooh, all sorts. So, I like to say that there’s 3 different major types of conditions. You’ve got your permanent disabilities, you have your temporary disabilities, and you have your circumstantial disabilities. So, the permanent disabilities are the things like, you know, vision acuity issues. Not just blindness, but poor vision, or cataracts, or color blindness of one sense or another. There’s a lot of different types of visual issues. You also have audio issues where, you know, you’re deaf, or hard of hearing. You have limb issues, broken or missing limbs. So, if you don’t have an arm, then it makes using a mouse much more difficult, or even a keyboard much more difficult. If you are, you know, paralyzed you have the same issues. So, there’s those to take into account, and then you have temporary disabilities where you have some sort of disability, but you’ll heal from it. It’s not a long-term condition. A broken arm, for instance, or your eyes have been dilated, or you lost your glasses, you know? Something to that effect, and then you also have circumstantial disabilities, such as deafness because you’re in a loud room, or you’re holding a sleeping infant.

0:09:12.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:09:14.6 Jen Luker

Those prevent you from using both hands to use a keyboard and a mouse, and if you’re holding that baby, you’re going to move as little as possible, you don’t want to wake that baby up, but what happens if that baby’s in your mouse hand? You know? You’re going to either, figure out how to use your other hand to use your mouse, or you’re going to use only a keyboard; and that type of limited disability, regardless of whether it’s permanent, temporary, or circumstantial, is going to affect your ability to interact with the web based on how good of a job that website did on working with accessibility options.

0:09:52.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

What about if you’re on an older device or browser? Is that also considered an accessibility issue?

0:09:59.0 Jen Luker

Yeah. Access due to speed is definitely an issue.

0:10:04.3 Adam*


0:10:04.5 Jen Luker

Same thing with language barriers.

0:10:05.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah. Interesting. I’m just trying to think of more. I just think the… All of the different types of conditions that I don’t think of as accessibility issues are just really fascinating.

0:10:24.0 Jen Luker

So, if you only have one arm and you’re trying to use that keyboard, because that baby’s sleeping, that’s definitely one thing you need to consider, but another thing that you may need to consider is if you’re in a loud room and you’re watching a video, you’re not going to be able to hear that video.

0:10:39.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:10:39.3 Jen Luker

You’re going to have to rely on subtitles, or transcripts. And I just shared a video on Twitter of a man who is legally deaf, and blind. He uses sign language to interact, he can see you, but it’s very fuzzy, so he’s trying to watch a conference talk and everyone’s clapping and cheering, but there were no subtitles so he couldn’t read them, and then there was another one that had them, but the subtitles were very, very small and he couldn’t read those, and then they had subtitles that were the right size, but they blended into the background.

0:11:22.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:11:23.2 Jen Luker

So, then there was another that had the correct amount of contrast between the background and the text, and it was the right size, but it was an incorrect translation. So, the words themselves weren’t accurate, which meant that he would get confused what they were talking about at different times.

0:11:45.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, I see that problem all the time on YouTube because YouTube does its best to automatically transcribe it, but it doesn’t do such a great job.

0:11:55.1 Jen Luker

Hmm, AI is very difficult when it comes to speech recognition. Not only that, but you know, (mumbling) if you mumble it can be really hard to figure out what they’re saying.

0:12:06.2 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:12:07.4 Jen Luker

So, speaking clearly when you’re trying to record something, such as a podcast, really helps the screen readers be able to translate. So, those are some of the problems that are going on with… Like, video and audio transcripts and subtitles there.

0:12:34.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, and I guess another temporary condition is you’re in bed, and your partner is asleep and you don’t want to wake them up with audio.

0:12:41.7 Jen Luker

Uh-huh (affirmative), same deal.

0:12:46.8 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:12:46.6 Jen Luker

Another thing that you need to think about is not just audio and visual, but also mental capacity.

0:12:53.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, okay.

0:12:55.2 Jen Luker

So, if you’re dealing with a child they’re not going to be able to understand things as complex as someone who’s much older, or if you’re dealing with someone who has seizures you’re going to have to take that into account when you’re talking about things that are flashing on the screen. You know, there’s also other things like ADHD. If it’s really large blocks of text, the chances of someone hanging on that long is very, very unlikely. So, keeping things brief and to the point can be extremely helpful for everyone. Also, the more difficult words you use, the higher barrier it is to people that are learning a new language.

0:13:41.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, and I assume even if you try to translate, it would be harder to translate.

0:13:47.2 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:13:50.3 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:13:51.0 Jen Luker

Even if you are using Google Translate, which is, as we all know, not the best yet.

0:13:57.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

(laughs) No. Okay, so what’s the best thing to do to evaluate how well you’re doing? How well your website or app is accessible?

0:14:11.5 Jen Luker

Well, there are a few different tools that can help you. For instance, there is Lighthouse which is built into Chrome at this point, it’s contained within your dev tools on the audit tab; and then you also have Axe-core, or aXe, that is a Chrome and Firefox plugin that you can utilize. These test for ARIA labels and they test for like, alt tags, and various other technological ways in which you can try to encourage screen readers to be able to navigate through your site, but this is only about, approximately, an average of 30% of the problems that you can find on the web, but those are a lot of the low-hanging fruit. That will cover a lot of your use cases. After that, you actually have to audit your site and learn as much as you can. The very, very best way is to have someone with those inherent disabilities test your site.

0:15:17.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, yeah. Yeah, because I could try using a screen reader but I’m not proficient at it.

0:15:24.2 Jen Luker

Not yet.

0:15:25.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

So- Yeah, that’s true.

0:15:27.5 Jen Luker


0:15:28.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

I definitely do want to become proficient at it, and I’ve tried using the one built into macOS.

0:15:33.8 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:15:34.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

It’s pretty difficult for me, as a sighted person, to even go through the tutorial. I think part of it is it’s really slow, and I know you can speed it up, but I didn’t get to that part where I could speed it up, or I can’t really listen to it that fast, yet.

0:15:56.5 Jen Luker

It takes time to adapt just like it does take time to adapt to a new language. It’s a new way of interacting, something that you’ve never needed to do or have done before; and the more you use it the easier it gets, the quicker you can move around and understand what’s happening.

0:16:11.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, are you pretty good at using a screen reader?

0:16:15.0 Jen Luker

On and off. I try to test it as often as possible, I don’t say that I’m an expert, but I do use it as often as possible. Something else as a sighted person is that when you’re using it with your monitor visible…

0:16:30.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:16:31.7 Jen Luker

It’s not a true test.

0:16:33.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:16:35.2 Jen Luker

So, it does help you when you’re trying to navigate and you expect something and you don't see what happens, or you don’t see that it does happen, but at some point you do have to turn off your monitor to do an actual test. The questions that you ask yourself are then, “Can I find the information that I’m looking for here? How long does it take me to get there? Is that average?” But the more you use it the easier it gets. It is a little bit difficult to get started, just turning it on and getting through that tutorial, but once you do it gets easier.

0:17:10.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, I just ran an accessibility audit with Chrome dev tools on orbit.fm

0:17:16.7 Jen Luker


0:17:17.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

And it got a 68. I’m assuming that is out of 100?

0:17:20.7 Jen Luker

Yes, out of 100.

0:17:22.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Is that, is that pretty bad?

0:17:23.7 Jen Luker

Yeah, that’s not awesome.

0:17:25.2 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:17:26.0 Jen Luker

It should give you a fair amount of data regarding what’s missing that would help you get to 100. The other thing that I like about the aXe plugins, or the aXe extensions, is that it gives you much more detailed information and a link to find out more.

0:17:46.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, okay.

0:17:47.8 Jen Luker

So, I like to use aXe as an accessibility educational tool and not just as-

0:17:56.2 Computerized Fema

Voice** Sorry, I’m not sure about that.

0:17:58.5 Jen Luker

Yeah. Not just as an audit tool.

0:18:03.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Did you just ask Siri a question?

0:18:06.7 Jen Luker

No, but said “aXe” and then something that sounded a lot like it.

0:18:12.1 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:18:15.9 Jen Luker


0:18:16.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

How does that trigger Siri?

0:18:18.3 Jen Luker

It’s not Siri, it was Alexa.

0:18:20.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh! Alexa, okay.

0:18:20.9 Jen Luker

And now she’s on again. (laughing)

0:18:23.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

(laughing) You can’t talk… First rule about Alexa is don’t talk about Alexa.

0:18:28.1 Jen Luker

Exactly. Speaking of accessibility tools… (laughs).

0:18:32.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, what are some issues around smart speakers and assistants?

0:18:38.8 Jen Luker

Besides the fact that people think they’re creepy? (laughs)

0:18:43.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah. Besides that.

0:18:44.8 Jen Luker

I would like to say that the Echo is actually a lot better than some of the other tools that are out there, primarily because it detects my voice, most of the time. I have a lot of problems with, when the Kinect first came out where I had to speak in a much lower voice-

0:19:07.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:19:08.5 Jen Luker

To get it to recognize that I was talking to it.

0:19:10.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

It’s like a bunch of guys tested it.

0:19:12.9 Jen Luker

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Not only that, but those lower registers travel farther.

0:19:19.0 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:19:19.7 Jen Luker

So, the higher the frequency, the shorter the distance that it travels, which means that women and children have to be closer in order to be detected at the same rate that a man can from farther behind, and the lower the man’s voice, the farther away he can be.

0:19:38.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Wow, that’s fascinating.

0:19:40.7 Jen Luker


0:19:41.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, but-

0:19:42.2 Jen Luker

There’s a certain amount of physics involved as well.

0:19:45.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

But the Amazon Echo, I guess, just put in better speakers?

0:19:51.1 Jen Luker

It seems so. It does quite a good job.

0:19:55.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Wait, microphones is what I meant.

0:19:57.9 Jen Luker

Yes. Although the speakers are nice, too.

0:20:02.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah. I guess there’s a problem with people with accents, various kinds of accents and dialects, and vocal cord issues. Like, if you can’t speak at a very high volume.

0:20:19.2 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:20:21.3 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:20:21.4 Jen Luker

With the vocal cord issues that does go back to distance, that you unfortunately have to be practically on top of it. And when you’re talking about accents and dialects, again you’re dealing with an AI that’s been trained on a particular dialect in the most unaccented form, because it’s what’s most common. So, the deeper you get into rural areas the less likely it is that the AI itself will have recorded your particular dialect.

0:21:02.1 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:21:02.2 Jen Luker

So, it does take a lot more training, it takes a lot more testing, a lot broader and more diverse testing in order to get the AI trained in that sense.

0:21:14.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

Hmm. So, what about mobile? How do you use, I’m really curious how you use a phone when you’re blind for instance.

0:21:27.7 Jen Luker

Phones have screen readers, too.

0:21:30.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, how does that work?

0:21:32.7 Jen Luker

The same way as it would with a computer. So, as you are interacting with the phone you press on the screen, for instance, and it will read you whatever it is that you’re pressing on. So, when you’re writing applications for the mobile app you need to make sure that titles read appropriately or that forms tell you that they’re forms and that you’re about to fill something out. It is a lot more interactive because of the fact that you are forced to use your fingers as opposed to a keyboard to interact with it, but it also means that everything requires almost a double-click to do anything, because you have to click once and hold to have it read, and then click as you move as you actually select it. It makes it-

0:22:16.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay. So, how do you know where to tap?

0:22:22.6 Jen Luker

Mostly that is standardization. For instance, you know that back is either in the bottom left or the top left corner of your screen. You know that cancel is usually to the right of a submit. You know that titles tend to be at the top.

0:22:52.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, so are you just kind of holding your finger on the screen and moving it around as it reads the things? As…

0:22:59.0 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:22:59.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay. So you have constant contact with the phone until you know you’re on the right spot, then you can lift up and tap?

0:23:08.7 Jen Luker

Essentially, yes.

0:23:09.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, what about keyboard entry?

0:23:17.4 Jen Luker

You end up-

0:23:17.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

That’s the same thing?

0:23:19.1 Jen Luker

Well, keyboard entry you’re not just tapping and typing with your hands, you’re usually relying on your voice to do a lot more of that interaction.

0:23:34.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, yeah.

0:23:36.7 Jen Luker

So, it’ll read you the options, you say the one back that you want. Some phones allow you to actually have almost a braille response based on the feedback, the vibrating feedback.

0:23:55.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

A braille response?

0:23:57.4 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:23:57.8 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:23:59.9 Jen Luker

To where your fingers are moving.

0:24:01.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh! Okay. So, some sort of code just based on where… Obviously, and that can’t actually be braille, but maybe something more similar to morse code?

0:24:14.4 Jen Luker

Hmm, not necessarily. Certain phones actually have the ability to provide multiple interactions based on a vibration. So, as you’re moving across the screen you can in fact feel those bumps where they’re supposed to be.

0:24:31.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh! Interesting.

0:24:35.7 Jen Luker

Digital braille.

0:24:36.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah. Yeah, so I saw a new system, I think there’s a kickstarter for it, that’s very similar to braille, but easier to learn.

0:24:49.2 Jen Luker

That’s interesting.

0:24:50.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Where it has like, circles and squares, and inside of the circles and squares it has different things that you can feel, and even a visual person, even someone who can see, you can recognize the letters, because braille is really hard to see by sight, you pretty much have to feel it and it’s very hard to learn.

0:25:15.4 Jen Luker

I think the “very hard to learn” part does, in fact, rely on, you know, language differences. It’s… Anything is easy with familiarity. So, I think that saying that one thing is easier to learn than another just has to do with familiarity. Like, if you were raised on braille you are going to know it much easier than you’re going to learn the new system-

0:25:42.7 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:25:43.4 Jen Luker

Of triangles and circles.

0:25:45.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, you would just have to compare 2 people trying to learn it, or one person trying to learn one and then try to learn the other and then see which one they learn faster, or something like that. I do think some things are easier to learn than others.

0:26:00.1 Jen Luker

Yeah. I’m not against any new technologies that would allow us to interact on a more common level, I think that those would be very awesome. I think that it can be prohibitive to tell someone who is blind and has been using braille that their language is too difficult to learn.

0:26:26.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, yeah. No.

0:26:27.0 Jen Luker

And so in that case, we’re coming up with our own because it’s easier for us. So, I mean some of that, it’s still accessibility related. I mean at that point you’re just telling them that they’re not important enough to learn their language to be able to interact with them in a way that they know.

0:26:46.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Right. Yeah. Yeah, I think it seems like a really cool, it’s called ELIA.

0:26:54.7 Jen Luker

I would definitely like to see it.

0:26:57.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

It seems like a good alternative, not that we have to force people who use braille to switch. (laughs)

0:27:02.9 Jen Luker

(laughs) No, but it would be, it’s still interesting, it’s still a cool idea. I’d like to see it.

0:27:10.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Cool. So, at this point I’m kind of out of questions.

0:27:15.1 Jen Luker


0:27:16.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

What else would you like to talk about.

0:27:18.9 Jen Luker

I think I’m going to go on kind of a fun monologue here.

0:27:25.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:27:27.0 Jen Luker

Something that I’ve been really kind of passionate about lately and has been pretty much integrated in most of my talks lately is the issues that we have with beginning our accessibility journey, and it feels that a lot of the times we’ll dabble as developers in different languages, or different tools, but unless we actually need to use them for a job, or for a major project, we don’t dive too deeply into them. So, when it comes to accessibility, that means that we are looking to convince our companies to utilize those technologies as well. Some of the complaints against using them is that, “Well, you know, it takes a lot of time” or, “We don't really know where to get started” or, “There’s just too much and we can’t deal with it right now when we have all of these other features that are client facing and financially profitable; where accessibility seems like a whole lot of tech debt that doesn’t bring in any money.” And when you’re talking to a person you can generate that empathy and you can say it’s not just for people that have permanent disabilities, it’s for you. It’s for you when you’re in that noisy bar, it’s for you when you are holding that baby, it’s for you when you have had your eyes dilated after, you know, a doctor’s exam. You know, it’s for you if you’ve broken your arm, it’s not for other people, it’s for you and it’s for your family. But when you're talking about a business and you’re talking about the financial sides it can be really difficult to generate that empathy, because a business isn’t a feeling thing. So, how do you convince the business that accessibility is actually worthwhile?

0:29:19.4 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:29:19.3 Jen Luker

And this is where I pull out statistics, because businesses understand numbers, and both the World Health Organization, and the United States Census says approximately 1 in 5 people, it’s about 19%, have some sort of permanent disability, and that does not take into account anything that’s temporary, or circumstantial. That’s just permanent disabilities. So, say for a moment, that you do have all of the accessibility features available, or at least, you’ve made it good enough that a lot of the accessibility conditions are covered. That means that your website is now accessible to 19-20% more people than you had before. If this is the type of website that generates revenue through their website, you’re looking at possibly up to 20% more revenue, just by incorporating accessibility features, you know? When was the last time that you set up software that added 20% to your revenue? If you have a $10 Million company, that makes it instantly a $12 Million company.

0:30:45.6 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:30:46.5 Jen Luker

So, that’s a lot of money. And then-

0:30:49.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:30:50.9 Jen Luker

You need to keep in mind that it’s not just the permanent disabilities, or even the temporary ones, or even the circumstantial ones. By making your website easier to use for people that require assistive technologies, you’re actually making it easier for everyone to use. So, a quote that I really loved, that I don’t have in front of me now, but it says something along the lines of “We have wheelchair ramps in front of our libraries, and these ramps are not just good for those that have wheelchairs, they’re also good for the parents with a stroller, the teenager riding with his bike, and the delivery driver with a dolly.” So, these accessibility features that you’ve added have, in fact, improved and increased access to the library by installing something that was an assistive technology. Same thing goes for the websites, by making them easier for people to use, making them clearer to navigate, being more clean and concise when you’re talking about text on the website, you’re making it easier for everyone to use at that point, under any circumstance.

0:32:05.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:32:06.0 Jen* S

then you’re looking at adding even more revenue based on the fact that fewer people will get frustrated, more people will stay on the pipeline. So, when you’re talking about numbers, and you’re talking about revenue, and you’re talking about a business, that is 20%, maybe 30%. That’s a lot more money than you’d make off of adding that extra little feature that you could do with the same amount of time.

0:32:34.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, or switching to new framework.

0:32:37.5 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:32:40.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, I mean, sometimes I try to use a website with a keyboard just because I prefer a keyboard.

0:32:48.5 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:32:49.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

And I’ve just pretty much given up on trying to use keyboards on websites except for a few, like I know shortcuts. There’s some shortcuts in Gmail that I like, but yeah. It’s just most… I’ve just learned most websites don’t work well with a keyboard so I can’t do that.

0:33:06.8 Jen Luker

And that is sad. That is something that we should actually be able to do, simple keyboard navigation. There’s so many more uses for keyboard navigation than just accessibility features.

0:33:22.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, so how should normal keyboard navigation work, screen readers aside, on a website? Like how would you expect that to work?

0:33:34.6 Jen Luker

That’s a complicated question. Are you talking about…

0:33:39.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

I’m assuming like, you would hit tab-

0:33:43.3 Jen Luker


0:33:44.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

To go around the page and like, hit enter on links or something like that.

0:33:49.6 Jen Luker

Well, you have tab which moves you forward, you have shift+tab that moves you backward. Esc usually closes things. Enter+Space usually enter them.

0:33:59.0 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:34:00.3 Jen Luker

You have… There’s a whole host of keyboard shortcuts that allow you to do certain things. Additional features that would be nice is if you add shortcut links that take you from the beginning of the navigation straight down to the content so you can skip your entire navbar altogether.

0:34:22.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, that would be like a hidden item in the menu? That you could go to.

0:34:26.9 Jen Luker

Yeah, that you only can access through a keyboard or screen reader navigation.

0:34:31.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

And then, so if you get to it through the keyboard would it show up visibly at that point?

0:34:36.1 Jen Luker

Not necessarily, it depends on where it’s positioned.

0:34:39.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, so if you’re tabbing through the menu and you get to that one, you just may not know it’s selected if you’re just looking at the site, and then hit tab again and then it’ll go somewhere else?

0:34:51.9 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It would go to the-

0:34:53.0 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:34:53.0 Jen Luker

Next item on the list.

0:34:55.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay. Yeah, so, okay, so Space+Enter, that would work on links and buttons and…

0:35:00.7 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:35:03.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

Drop down menus and that kind of thing.

0:35:05.3 Jen Luker

Which are just a collection of links and buttons. ‘Cause you’re not using-

0:35:08.4 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:35:08.8 Jen Luker

Divs for these things, unh-uh (negative).

0:35:12.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

If you’re inside of a submenu and you’re tabbing through, do you stay in that submenu or when you get to the end would you go to the next item?

0:35:18.7 Jen Luker

That depends on your particular use case, there’s an entire collection on the WAI-ARIA website of recommended ways of utilizing the website, and I’ll give you that link after this.

0:35:34.6 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:35:36.6 Jen Luker

But, it does give you some guidelines. Now, those guidelines aren’t always exact, but they do give you a lot of options and they give you code examples that allow you to at least derive your own ideal interaction from that.

0:35:56.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

I’m guessing a lot of this is built in, right? If you’re using native components and things.

0:36:03.2 Jen Luker

Well, if you’re using native components then we’re talking basic HTML, then there’s a lot of interactivity built into the basic HTML, yes. However, it depends on how you combine that HTML, and the JavaScript, and the CSS that allows you to really determine whether that’s going to be an accessible element. So, we don’t have an inherently built navigation system within HTML alone. There is no menu element which means we’re going to have to build it ourselves.

0:36:34.8 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:36:36.2 Jen Luker

And with that, we’re also looking at incorporating CSS, we’re looking at tabindexes, and is it hidden? Is it expanded? You know, there's a lot to take into account when you’re looking and navigating through the website. For instance, if you’re going through a menu with submenus, do you want to tab through the main menu items and then open them and go into the submenu just by tabbing? Do you want to have to select it and click on it? Or hit enter or space to open it before you can tab into it?

0:37:06.1 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:37:06.7 Jen Luker

Do you want to tab to the next item when you hit? Or do you want to restart over? Or do you just want to do nothing and just hit the end? And so-

0:37:12.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

And how do you let the user know that it has submenus within it?

0:37:17.1 Jen Luker

Exactly. And that comes down to ARIA roles.

0:37:21.4 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:37:21.6 Jen Luker

So, there are.... ARIA expanded is one, it’s a true or false value. So, if you get to one that says “ARIA Expanded False” the screen reader reads it in a particular way and lets you know that this is an item that can be expanded, and whether it is expanded already.

0:37:39.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, okay.

0:37:42.8 Jen Luker

You know, so-

0:37:43.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, go ahead.

0:37:45.0 Jen Luker

So, there’s just a lot of ARIA rules that you can use, and though the first rule of ARIA is we don’t use ARIA, we still need it when it comes time to utilize a bunch of HTML elements together that aren’t necessarily built into the native format.

0:38:05.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, you try not to use it unless you need to?

0:38:09.6 Jen Luker

It’s almost a smell, if you have to use ARIA, make sure that you really should be using it before you use it. So, for instance, if you need ARIA to tell your div that it’s a button, maybe you should just use a button. Why are using a div for that? Whereas-

0:38:25.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Can you explain what ARIA means?

0:38:28.7 Jen Luker

Ooh, ARIA. Oh goodness. You’re going to ask me that, aren’t you?

0:38:33.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yes, I am. ‘Cause I’ve heard it all the time and I’ve never even asked, “What does that mean?”

0:38:39.2 Jen Luker

You are going to make me look it up. Goodness, ‘cause it does stand for something. Ah, there it is. So, ARIA is an Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA).

0:38:54.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:38:54.9 Jen Luker

It “is a set of attributes that define ways to make Web content and Web applications (especially those developed with Ajax, JavaScript and more recent web technologies like Bootstrap) more accessible to people with disabilities.” So, this is straight off of the MDN Web Docs.

0:39:12.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

And so, do all of these attributes have ARIA in the name? Or…

0:39:17.4 Jen Luker

Many of them do, but not all of them.

0:39:19.3 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:39:19.7 Jen Luker

There’s a role, ARIA-

0:39:20.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

So, is tabindex one of them?

0:39:22.8 Jen Luker

No, tabindex is just an element that you’d add to a button or a link. That would-

0:39:27.5 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:39:28.0 Jen Luker

Tell the keyboard where to tab in which order.

0:39:31.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

‘Cause I’ve heard that’s kind of a code smell, too. You shouldn’t, you should rely more on the order that they’re in the document and not try to change the tabindex too much.

0:39:42.5 Jen Luker

True, however if you opened up a submenu you may need a tabindex so that it skips those submenu items when you’re not looking at them directly.

0:39:54.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, okay.

0:39:55.3 Jen Luker

So, in that case, you’ll have a tabindex of -1 on those items until they open.

0:40:03.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

And -1 just…

0:40:04.4 Jen Luker

Says skip.

0:40:05.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Skips it, okay. Yeah, so -1 makes a lot of sense, but if you’re putting positive numbers on there then that can get…

0:40:14.0 Jen Luker

It can-

0:40:15.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Complicated, hard to maintain.

0:40:16.8 Jen Luker

Absolutely, and in that case you really need to rely on that layout. That was something that I found recently. There was a website that when the website was in a desktop view it had the content in one order, but when you reduced it down to a mobile view the content was rearranged and it read it in a completely different order.

0:40:44.0 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:40:44.7 Jen Luker

And the tabindexes changed accordingly, but it made it much more difficult to navigate based on those 2 different formats. So, if you went from your phone to your computer, or vice versa from your computer to your phone, navigation was completely different.

0:40:59.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Hmm. Or if you-

0:41:00.0 Jen Luker

Layout was different.

0:41:00.4 Adam Garrett-Harris

Resized your window, even, probably.

0:41:02.7 Jen Luker

Yeah, but you’ll often hear people argue, “Well, why would someone who’s blind resize their window?” (laughs)

0:41:08.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

(laughs) But they’re not necessarily blind, right?

0:41:13.4 Jen Luker


0:41:14.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

They may just not see as well.

0:41:16.7 Jen Luker

Exactly, and in fact, they be making it larger so they can see better.

0:41:20.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, right! So, they’re just increasing the font and that kind of makes it, everything on the page shift around? Resize?

0:41:26.9 Jen Luker

Well, they might make the screen itself bigger, but then yes. The font itself can change as well.

0:41:33.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Gotcha. What about websites where you can hit a question mark (?), like on YouTube or Gmail you can hit question mark (?) and then it brings up a whole list of shortcuts.

0:41:48.0 Jen Luker

Isn’t that nice?

0:41:49.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Do you… It’s nice, I don’t know if it works well with a screen reader.

0:41:54.1 Jen Luker

That depends on where you focus. I mean, it is yet another shortcut that you have available to you, so you press the question mark and then you've got focus placed in that location so that it can read.

0:42:06.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay. How do you place focus?

0:42:09.8 Jen Luker

Usually through JavaScript.

0:42:13.1 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay. What is that? How do you do that exactly? I’m not sure what…

0:42:17.0 Jen Luker

It should be an element.focus method.

0:42:20.3 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, ‘cause I’m used to elements like inputs and buttons having focus, but not necessarily a div or a popup or something.

0:42:30.2 Jen Luker

Oh, you can absolutely move focus from a div to a div in a popup.

0:42:35.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, nice. So that just, that wouldn’t do anything if you’re not using a screen reader, right? Well, I guess it would if you’re navigating with your keyboard.

0:42:48.0 Jen Luker


0:42:49.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Okay, these are things I don’t think about, this is good to know.

0:42:52.3 Jen Luker

(laughs) Lot to think about, lot to think about, and beyond that there are often times conflicting information. For instance, if you are working with an autistic person, or a person with autism, then you are wanting to make the contrast of text lower, but if you’re dealing with someone with visual disabilities you’re going to want to increase that contrast.

0:43:21.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:43:21.9 Jen Luker

So, the question then becomes how do you cater to both? And I know that some tools are starting to get built into browsers themselves. I believe Firefox is actually working on the ability to increase and decrease contrast built into the browser, like we can zoom.

0:43:45.6 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:43:44.4 Jen Luker

It would be interesting to observe that and see how that develops over time, to see how those tools start adapting to that contrast and accessibility requirements.

0:44:01.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, and it would be nice if you could, and I think macOS might be working on this, but set a dark mode on your computer or on your browser and then just websites would know automatically to be in dark mode or light mode.

0:44:17.0 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:44:19.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

Do you know if they’re working on that? Or…

0:44:22.1 Jen Luker

I don’t know. I’m…

0:44:25.0 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:44:25.1 Jen Luker

That gets a little bit more complicated in that you’re having to pass more information into a browser.

0:44:30.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:44:32.3 Jen Luker

The problem in like, the reason why you can’t identify screen readers when you’re in a browser, or whether someone is using a screen reader is because it’s a privacy invasion.

0:44:43.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

Oh, yeah.

0:44:43.5 Jen Luker

And when you’re dealing with a screen reader, specifically in the U.S. you’re looking at HIPAA law violations. Often times the reason you’re using a screen reader is because of a medical condition and by sharing that definition or that information you’re actually sharing that they have a medical condition, which is against HIPAA.

0:45:05.7 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah. Interesting. So, I’m sure you’ve encountered some circumstantial stuff with when you’re knitting for instance.

0:45:20.4 Jen Luker

(laughs) Oh, yes. Having to let to go of my knitting so I can turn a page is always fun. (laughing)

0:45:28.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

(laughing) Do you have any personal stories about why accessibility is important to you?

0:45:34.2 Jen Luker

Ah, yes! So, one of the reasons that I care so much about it is because I was raised in a household where my mother was deaf and my sister, prior to her death, was deaf, blind, and in a wheelchair.

0:45:54.7 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:45:55.8 Jen Luker

So, I’ve had firsthand knowledge regarding how accessibility affects not just the person with the disability, but also the family of the person with the disability, everyone who’s with them. So, it may be simple to just step up on a curb, but then that leaves the one person in your family wandering around trying to find a ramp.

0:46:17.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:46:19.0 Jen Luker

Or, everyone laughing at a movie except one person is having difficulty hearing it and doesn’t understand what’s going on, and is constantly asking, “Well, what just happened? Why was that funny?” Interacts… You know what I mean? It’s the little things like that-

0:46:32.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:46:34.8 Jen Luker

That means that everyone has to stop, and we spend more time pausing a movie and trying to explain.

0:46:39.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Is there anything at movie theaters to help deaf or hard of hearing people?

0:46:48.8 Jen Luker

Other than the fact that it’s very, very loud in a movie theater? I don’t think so.

0:46:56.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, ‘cause I like to watch movies with the captions on just because then we can talk, we can ask questions.

0:47:03.8 Jen Luker

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

0:47:04.6 Adam Garrett-Harris

And I don’t miss anything, because I don’t have to hear it, I can see it.

0:47:08.4 Jen Luker

I like-

0:47:09.0 Adam Garrett-Harris

And sometimes that would be nice to have that at the theater, but it seems like it would be weird, not everyone wants that.

0:47:18.0 Jen Luker

That’s true. I like leaving it on because of the fact that movies so often go from very, very quiet to very, very loud. So, you turn it down for the loud parts and then you don’t hear it for the quiet parts, you have to go back, or vice versa.

0:47:30.6 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:47:31.8 Jen Luker

So, it can be nice-

0:47:32.5 Adam Garrett-Harris

Yeah, or sometimes people mumble, even in movies.

0:47:35.4 Jen Luker

Yes! So it can be nice to not have to go back and catch those things later. But it is more-

0:47:41.9 Adam Garrett-Harris


0:47:43.9 Jen Luker

More to think about. More beyond the web.

0:47:47.8 Adam Garrett-Harris

Where should be go to learn more?

0:47:49.4 Jen Luker

There are many places to learn more. You can absolutely check out the web accessibility on Mozilla’s developer page, you can check out the WAI-ARIA within W3, you can also go look at the deque tools that include everything from the aXe extensions to the axe-core automated testing methods. Mostly, just look. Search. Think about it. Talk to people. Ask questions, and you can always contact me on Twitter @KnitCodeMonkey and I would be more than happy to ask any questions or at least help direct you to people that can.

0:48:33.2 Adam Garrett-Harris

Cool, and we’ll have all those links in the show notes, as well as the transcript. I don’t always transcribe Web of Tomorrow, but I definitely want to transcribe this one. And you can follow BookBytes, uh, you CAN follow BookBytes!

0:48:49.9 Jen Luker


0:48:49.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

That’s the other podcast where you can hear both of us, and you can follow this show on Twitter @WebOfTomorrowFM So, thanks!

0:48:57.3 Jen Luker

Thank you.

0:48:57.9 Adam Garrett-Harris

And thanks for being on the show.

0:49:00.1 Jen Luker

My pleasure.

(Exit music: electric guitar)

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