Working in Web Accessibility

This fall marks WebAIM’s 10th anniversary. During that time, the WebAIM team has evolved and changed a lot. The work WebAIM does is truly a team effort from a diverse group of men and women with whom it has been an honor to work and become friends.

Stefanie Walker and Aaron AndersenI’m especially happy to see two employees that I helped hire get married this month. Congratulations Aaron and Stefanie!

The field of web accessibility is not a typical work field. I struggle sometimes to explain what it is I do every day. I know my mother doesn’t really understand it. In many ways, those of us in web accessibility are trying to work ourselves out of a job. If we were entirely successful at what we want to accomplish, we’d no longer have work to do. Of course, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. Yet we try.

When people ask me how I became interested in web accessibility, I usually tell them that I love it because I’m a geek and I like people. Web accessibility gives me a unique opportunity to play with cool toys, learn amazing new skills, stay on top of new technology, but most importantly, to truly make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

While WebAIM’s mission is to expand the potential of the web for people with disabilities, it’s interesting that most of our work is not with people with disabilities directly. While the friendships and acquaintances we’ve made with many people with disabilities is what inspires us to do what we do, most of our days are spent working with and influencing those who typically do not have disabilities. We’ve found that by empowering web developers, administrators, and others to make their web sites accessible, that we have a broader, more significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities – those who benefit the most from the accessibility of the sites we help influence.

When WebAIM began, few people were aware of web accessibility issues. One of our primary goals has been to increase awareness. Today, while there is still debate in some places whether accessibility is even a human right, awareness has increased. Most people that we work with are aware of the issues and are truly interested in seeing the web become a better place for people with disabilities – and not simply because some law or policy says they have to. The dilemma of the next decade will be increasing commitment to web accessibility and dispelling myths and misunderstandings about accessibility and people with disabilities. We also have the ongoing challenge of decreasing the gap between cutting edge and accessible.

And we’re not alone in doing this. Some of the smartest, most passionate people on the planet work in web accessibility. I dare not name names, but I am constantly amazed at those in this field who continue to advance technology and accessibility.

So, while the field of web accessibility is a bit anomalous and always adventurous, there is tremendous need for intelligent, dedicated people to help further our efforts. As technology continues to advance, we need to redouble our efforts in ensuring that people with disabilities are given the opportunity to enjoy a truly accessible web experience. Why don’t you come join us?

Comments

  1. David Bolter

    I routinely point web devs to your useful and topical articles and data. You are an amazing resource in our accessibility ecosystem and I thank you all.

    Congratulations Aaron and Stefanie!

  2. Steve Grobschmidt

    Great sentiments in this post — and I agree with David about how useful this site is. I in particular benefited from the two posts recommending good blogs and Twitter users to follow.

    When I became aware and interested in web accessibility last year, I wasn’t sure where the journey would take me. It, as you said, is an adventure and a lot of fun. From the easy things to do to make sites more accessible, to the complex ones, it’s an incredible learning experience. And definitely, there are brilliant, fascinating minds involved in the subject.

    Keep up the awesome work here!

  3. Luis Perez

    As someone who both works on websites and has a disability, I want to congratulate WebAIM for 10 years of great work and thank everyone involved with this effort for what you do. Your work makes a big difference in the lives of people like me, even when it is indirectly through the work you do with web developers and administrators.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Jennison Asuncion

    Thanks Jared for the thought-provoking post, and for your longstanding efforts and dedication. As someone working in IT accessibility who also happens to have a disability, I am continually amazed and inspired by the caliber of folks without obvious disabilities, who could likely command a higher salary elsewhere, but have made the conscious decision to bring their talent to this unique space. That said, going forward, I think our profession could only benefit from greater involvement by and perspective of people with disabilities to help champion the cause from “within.”

  5. Priti Rohra

    Hi Jared,

    I totally agree with your post and would like to congratulate you guys for the tremendous commitment you’ll have shown over the years towards Accessibility. I would like to share my thoughts about Accessibility here; “Its a belief the more we strive to achieve it, the belief gets even more stronger.”

  6. Victoria Menezes Miller

    I agree with all the above and warmly congratulate Jared and the team at WebAim who are a source of inspiration and guidance to all those who are working towards accessible sites. Thank you for the excellent resources and information you continously feed us with.

  7. Rakesh Paladugula

    That’s amazing to know. Now almost all countries are aware of the importance of web accessibility and its benifits. All this posible only because of you folks.
    I thankyou on behalf of all the disable friends through out the world for your sincere and heartful effort.

  8. dotjay

    Congratulations to you all on 10 years of promoting and supporting a more accessible Web. Keep up the great work you do.

  9. Gretchen Maune

    I, of course, am extremely appreciative of the invaluable work you guys do on a daily basis. I know that there are a lot of websites out there that I wouldn’t even have access to if it weren’t for your efforts. My thirsts for access, for knowledge, and for shopping thank you.

  10. julieta pracana

    Congratulations and thank you for your work! WebAIM is an inspiration to all interested in web accessibility.
    I wish you all the best!

  11. Joanne Lastort

    Thanks for always be there for me. I don’t know what I’d do without you! Your site is one of the first I turn when I don’t know where to even start and keeps me excited about accessibility when I feel that I’m not making a difference. I’m a lone gun at my office and Section 508 is generally not a priority. I’m working on changing that. I need your help to do that. Keep up wiith the great work!

  12. m12

    I’ll 2nd (and 3rd) most of the sentiments already written and add that this site [and of course WAVE]is one of the handful of “tools” i reference on a regular basis. In fact, i’ve used plenty of the guidance and suggestions on the site as examples in our own accessibility guidelines documentation (with references and credit of course).

    I work for a rather large company that has seemingly pushed ‘improving accessibility’ down the list of priorities year after year. Unfortunately, there is limited knowledge on the topic internally and i’m taking on the responsibility to educate and socialize techniques and good practices in general. Simply getting to WCAG 2.0 Level A conformance and addressing the majority of Section 508 seems a far way off but the rewards will far outweigh the struggles. After all, the overarching goal is to make our site available to a larger group of users on a broader range of devices.

    Sincerely appreciate your continued efforts and congrats on the 10yrs!

  13. L.C. Armstrong

    Just curious what your thoughts are regarding all the recently-revised .gov websites containing “Web 2.0″ functionality? Just three examples are disability.gov, data.gov, and science.gov.

    In specific, are these revised .gov websites still Section 508 Compliant? I ask because I’m struggling to understand how this compliancy is possible with the inclusion of the “Stay Connected” links to FaceBook, Twitter, etc.

    I appreciate any comments you andothers may have.

    Thanks,
    L.C.

  14. ThatWebGuy

    Congrats on a terrific 10 year milestone. Keep up your sensational work.

  15. Nancy

    Congratulations!

    I work on US Fed gov’t sites so I test in more than one source for accessibilty. I also have a visually impaired friend who first made me aware on how difficult it was for her to navigate through many websites.

    Two questions:
    1. Does wave toolbar tell you if your web 2.0 isn’t accessible like navigation or display?

    2. How does one get into this field?

    Thanks you

  16. Wonderbra

    I totally agree with your post and would like to congratulate you guys for the tremendous commitment you’ll have shown over the years towards Accessibility. It really helped me a lot, will be referring a lot of friends about this. Thanks a bunch for sharing such an great informative post with us. Keep blogging.

  17. Tricia

    Thank you Team WebAIM. Your work is a valuable resource for us!