Invisible Disabilities: How creating an accessbile web benefits all

This post was written as an article for net magazine, it can be found in issue 278 (April 2016). 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were headed up to a high floor in a tall building…and the elevator was out? Fifteen flights of stairs later, you’re panting, out of breath and annoyed? Imagine yourself pushing a stroller or shopping cart and the entrance to your destination has no ramp, forcing you to awkwardly drag it up multiple stairs. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have the physical strength and capability to get up those steps in each situation, but what if you’re not? What if you’re in a wheelchair and stairs aren’t an option? Or you’re elderly and walking that many flights isn’t possible? What if you have a broken foot and can’t navigate steps on crutches? Situations like these can be a small nuisance for one person, but an immense barrier for another.

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Focusing on :focus

There is nothing that bothers me more than visiting a website and seeing that the CSS pseudo class :focus has been set to outline: none; The :focus element is so important for web accessibility since it assists keyboard only users to be able to tab through content and selectable elements. The following elements have the :focus state by default: a, button, input, and textareas but you can actually give any HTML element a focus state. When you remove the focus state you’re overwriting a built-in accessibility feature and there is no reason for it. The :focus element, is a CSS class, therefore you can use CSS to style it to fit into any design. It doesn’t have to be the built in browser outline, it can be whatever you’d like.
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Speaking at Net/Work

me standing in front of my slides pre-talk
Totally trying to act cool and not nervous before my talk. Photo credit: Corinne Warnshuis

This past week I had the opportunity to lead a dev talk at the Philly job fair, Net/Work. I was invited to speak on behalf of Girl Develop It Philly and am so glad I did it. My presentation was a basic intro about web accessibility and making websites that are usable by everyone. I’ll be teaching a longer format, more hands on workshop for GDI at the end of March. In the past I’ve always been pretty scared of public speaking but it’s a fear I’m trying to conquer and something I’m hoping to focus on and do a lot more of in the upcoming year.
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