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Re: Front End Developers and ATs

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From: Alastair Campbell
Date: Aug 29, 2013 3:10AM


David Ashleydale wrote:

> I'm thinking of recommending that all FEDs at the company I work at acquire
> and learn how to use an AT or two as part of their development toolkit.
>

That's good, but I wouldn't *start* with screen readers.

It's old ground and things have changed a little, but historically I would
have said don't get developers to test with screen readers at all [1]. You
are very likely to create unnecessary work because people who don't use a
screen reader because they need to will experience things differently.
Leonie's example is fairly common, and I've seen others around how people
navigate as well.

I would *start* with keyboard-only (visual) access, as Joe suggested. Not
only will you pick up problems that affect screen readers as well, it acts
as a much better foundation and requires no special technology. (Although
if they are on a Mac they may need to tweak the Safari settings to get
tabbing working properly.)

Secondly I would test with browser zoom (or text sizing if you aren't using
responsive web design techniques), and check you don't loose
content/functionality.

Then I would suggest each developer uses either NVDA (on PC) or VoiceOver
(Mac) to check things, but consult an accessibility specialist (I assume
you in this case) before making changes based on that experience.

NB: I'm not making any comment about importance of different audiences or
technologies.

If the site is doing complex things which require WAI-ARIA then more
iterative testing is required across a wider range of screen readers
(Bryan's extended list) with an accessibility specialist. If your
organization has a large public interest (e.g. Government or public service
provider) then you should consider a wider-ranging QA process involving
those screen readers and a couple of older versions of each as well.

I wouldn't go as far as Steve in terms of developers watching people use
technology for a 'significant' amount of time. Not many organisations will
take people off their work for this. Developers should have solid basic
knowledge, most easily done through training and some viewing of
accessibility testing, ideally from testing your site. I'd consider it
equivalent to general usability testing. If you have specialists for UX &
usability testing, the same principle applies to accessibility. (Of course,
if you don't then he has a point!)

I would suggest having one or more (depending on the size of the team)
people who spend more time on accessibility and can act as specialists
(e.g. spending more time using different screen readers, watching usability
testing with PWD, and understand the impact of WAI-ARIA). Or get a partner
organisation to fulfil that role.

Hth,

-Alastair

1] http://alastairc.ac/2007/07/testing-with-a-screen-reader/