16. Accessibility in Web Standards

Léonie Watson does many things: she worked on overhauling the UK government’s digital services, is on the W3C advisory board, acts as co-chair of the W3C web platform working group, is an advisor for Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project, and also runs the Inclusive Design 24 conference. She also happens to be visually impaired. The show begins with how she went from drama school towards a career as a web programmer, and how she become a strong advocate for improving accessibility in web standards. Léonie stresses that anyone can get involved in the decisions that power the web by contributing to the W3C’s public conversations at GitHub. She details the lifecycle of a proposal, and highlights how considerations such as accessibility, security, and privacy are built-in. While existing standards are well-conceived for realms such as SVG, HTML, or ARIA, there are still new frontiers to work towards every year, particularly with API-driven interfaces. Léonie mentions how the interfaces for the "Internet of things" still need to make progress to ensure those devices are usable by all. There are several tools to help software developers build more accessible systems. Chrome’s Dev Tools, for example, have a suite of checks you can run on a website to grade its accessibility. Platforms such as Axe or Tenon can run automated tests as part of a CI flow to maintain high quality code before it ships. For Léonie, it’s important for designers, developers, and product managers not to be overwhelmed by all the requirements and allow perfect to be the enemy of good. Even attempting inclusive design advances technology towards a much better place. The conversation continues with some discussion on Léonie’s work with TetraLogical, a consultancy focused on accessibility in emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and WebXR. By setting a standard for inclusive design principles, Léonie hopes that organizations can incorporate accessibility as yet another aspect of good design, beyond just the bare minimums required by tech specs and test suites. Links from this episode Nomensa and The Paciello Group are two agencies Léonie Watson worked at. Their focus is on better UX for web accessibility. She’s since founded TetraLogical, which focuses on accessibility issues in emerging technologies like VR, AR, and WebXR. GitHub.com/W3C is the central meeting point for many of the discussions on web standards tink.uk is Léonie’s blog, focused on accessibility in web standards Inclusive Design Principles is a set of guidelines on how to go above and beyond in making your site accessible Axe is an accessibility engine for automated web UI testing. Tenon is an "accessibility as a service" platform for websites.