Accessibility Club #4 and BeyondTellerrand in Berlin

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I had the pleasure of traveling to Berlin recently for two events:  The one-day Accessibility Club on November 7 and and one of the two days of the BeyondTellerrand conference on November 8.

Accessibility Club

Karl Groves started his European Tour by kicking off Accessibility Club, organized by Joschi Kuphal of Tollwerk and Stefan Judis of Contentful. In his talk, Karl outlined the history of (semi-)automated accessibility testing: From Bobby to his own project Tenon.io.

His main point was that accessibility tools are often not compatible to modern web development workflows, like using project boilerplates, templating, frameworks, versioning, unit testing, and deployment.

Accessibility testing needs to be integrated into the workflow and not be separated – else, it always lags behind. Karl then showed how testing can be integrated in common tools, like Grunt and git, in his examples using Tenon.io.

The prospect of developers catching automatically testable accessibility bugs before expert reviews and user testing is enticing as it leads to better initial versions and has the potential to reduce the effort of all involved.

After Karl, Job van Achtenberg took the stage and enlightened us with a lightning talk about input methods, probably introducing voice input to some people in the crowd for the first time.

In a Barcamp-like fashion, ad-hoc sessions where created. I hosted one on the future of WCAG, attended one about the perceived tension between design and accessibility and one about the accessibility situation in Austria (which have stricter accessibility rules than Germany, especially also including private companies).

All in all, it was an interesting event with a nice turnout (over 30 participants) and a lot of good conversations. There was a minimum donation towards Karl’s travel of 15 €, and everything that exceeded the cost will be donated to Knowbility. We thank Joschi, Stefan and Karl for their contribution to this wonderful event.

Joschi has published some photos on flickr (including the article image).

BeyondTellerrand

BeyondTellerrand is organized by Marc Thiele, and happens twice a year, in Düsseldorf in spring and in Berlin in fall. Being in Berlin anyway, I could not pass on attending at least one day of the event.

I learned about AMP (Accellerated Mobile Pages) and how to make them work in a more progressively enhanced way from Paul Bakaus. Ariel Cotton then gave us an insight of how we have designed the world around us and how design and art relate to each other.

Then Sacha Judd took the stage and told a story about fan fiction related to the band One Direction, where – mainly – women use (web) technologies to create this fiction. A survey uncovered that those women underestimated their abilities to work with technology. Sacha’s advice was to change job descriptions to be more inclusive, for example to think about the problem-solving skills required and not just state that 7 years of problem-solving skills are required. A video of the talk (no captions) is available.

Afterwards, Tim Kadlec talked about the unseen aspects of web development: Security, Accessibility and Performance. He argued that as those aspects are not immediately visible it is much harder to make the case for them, in contrast to, for example, visual glitches or missing functionality. Yet there are real-world issues with those problems: Huge web pages that drain data plans, insecure baby monitors that break half of the web by issuing a huge DDOS attack on the central DNS servers, and potential lawsuits for not being accessible. A video of the talk (no captions) is available.

I have not seen Mike Monteiro speak before. I’ve seen videos, but his talk praising the ordinary people was a furious reckoning with how a small group of people is seeing the world. Organizations claim to “Change the World”, while in reality they only change the world for their own benefit. Real change comes from ordinary people, Mike exclaimed, for example from people who won’t give up their seats in a bus after a hard day of work (referencing Rosa Parks). A video of the talk (no captions) is available.

In the penultimate talk of the day, Heydon Pickering, talked about writing less code. By just not doing some things, accessibility and performance are much easier to achieve. As an example, he quoted social media buttons, which embed a lot of extraneous JavaScript and blow up a web page easily. He also referenced buttons created with <div> elements and JavaScript instead of using the <button> element. “Less is More” people often say, but in reality less just means less. Less code means less complexity, less bugs, less QA. A video of the talk (no captions) is available.

I was not able to catch the last talk of the day, as I had to catch my train home (this blog post was written in part at 125 mph, riding an ICE train).

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