Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Do's and Don'ts of Accessibility with @mkltesthead (#PNSQC2021 Follow Up Blog)


First of all, I wanted to say thank you to everyone that helped put on the Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference (PNSQC). It's actually still happening but I have a policy of not covering the Workshop Day as that is an add-on expense and those who paid to participate deserve to have that experience for themselves. I'm looking forward to participating in those workshops today but again, I will not be liveblogging those sessions.

I also wanted to say thank you to the attendees of PNSQC and especially the attendees of my session, as your reviews and votes made it possible for me to be considered one of the three best presentations of the entire conference (specifically, the third best, so I can say my talk took Bronze :) ).  Considering there were 50+ presentations, that's a high honor and your survey comments and votes are what put me in that top three. Seriously, thank you, that made my day yesterday.

So what was my talk about? Here's a blurb from the site and links to the talk itself, plus my interpretive take, albeit this interpretation is a little slanted by comparison (I mean, I'm interpreting ME after all ;) ).

Accessibility is a large topic and one that often gets a variety of approaches to deal with. Often it is seen as having to focus on a large checklist (the WCAG standard) and making sure that everything complies. While this is a great goal and focus, often it is overwhelming and frustrating, putting people in the unfortunate role of having to read and understand an entire process before they feel they can be effective.

My goal is to help condense this a little and give some key areas to focus on and be effective in identifying Accessibility issues quickly and helping testers become effective advocates. 

We will look at ways to find issues, advocate for them and help make strides to greater understanding and focus moving forward. We can use a little to provide a lot of benefits.

Here's the link to my Technical Paper

Here's the link to my Presentation

Ultimately, the key takeaway I aimed to impress on the participants was that WCAG, Section 508, and other technical checklists are important to understand. Tools like WebAim, Axe, Lighthouse, Funkify, and other Accessibility checkers/tools are important to understand. Having said that, my talk spent almost no time talking about the checklists or tools. Instead, I asked the participants to take some time to become aware of the variety of disabilities that people deal with (both primary and situational) and focus on being advocates for those individuals. If we live long enough, every one of us will deal with a primary disability of some kind.

Disabilities fall into various spheres (cognitive, mobility, visual, auditory) and even if we do not have a chronic/primary disability, we can find ourselves in situations that render us effectively disabled. If in those situational conditions, we find the products that we work with to be hard to use, imagine how hard/frustrating it is for those with chronic/primary disabilities. 

This talk mainly focused on the mindset of the tester and asked for testers to step up and be advocates. The earlier we address Accessibility in the development cycle, the easier it is for us to implement, make it actionable, testable, and provide services that will work effectively for the largest number of users, whether they need assistive technology or not. 

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