Millions of blind and partially sighted people use a technology known as a screen reader to access the web. However, few websites are coded to work well with screen readers. Global web standards that specify how to support screen reader users as well as other people with disabilities have been available since 1999, but an estimated 70% of websites are still not accessible. Why is that? And above all, what to do?
At Sight Tech Global (December 1-2, register today!), A free virtual event focused on advanced technology and accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, Facebook’s Mike Shebanek and Matt King will unveil a project W3C community under development that will address a huge technical limitation that has hampered web accessibility for screen readers. Make sure to join Sight Tech Global for this very important session.
To understand the technical challenge of accessibility, it helps to compare screen readers with web browsers. For over 20 years, web developers have established a consensus on how web browsers should interpret and display web code so that every web page can look the same regardless of the browser or device used for the web. visualize. Companies that develop browsers and other key players in the web industry have invested heavily to create standards and build a massive infrastructure that runs millions of tests every day. These tests back up the thousands of small coding deals that make it possible to “write code once, then run it everywhere.” When the code works the same in two different browsers, it is called “browser interoperability”. The interoperability of browsers is one of the key ingredients in the explosion of the Web.
Unfortunately, there has never been a similar consensus when it comes to screen reader interoperability. People who use screen readers have a different experience of the same website depending on the screen reader, browser, and device they are using. Conversely, developers have no way to code and test screen readers once and for all. They have to test each combination and then make some tough choices as there are many types of experiences that may not work equally well in all screen readers. So in addition to making accessible web development costly and unnecessarily frustrating, the lack of screen reader interoperability is inherently exclusive. If you need a screen reader but aren’t using one of the same screen readers as the web developer, you’ll likely run into challenges, if not obstacles.
One of the biggest obstacles to a more inclusive web is the lack of interoperability not only for screen readers but for all assistive technologies. He’s responsible for much of the inconsistency in the quality of accessibility, and he explains why there is so little automation to make accessibility faster and easier for developers, content creators. and accessibility auditors.
Enter the W3C ARIA-AT community group, which has been intensely focused on solving this deeply rooted problem. The acronym stands for World Wide Web Consortium Accessible Rich Internet Application and Assistive Technology (ARIA-AT), which encompasses the standardization work of the W3C experts who collaborate on the project. Facebook is supporting the cost of the project and lending Matt King, a technical program manager for Facebook accessibility, to lead the effort.
At Sight Tech Global, Matt King will join Mike Shebanek and Michael Fairchild of Facebook, a senior accessibility consultant at Deque Systems, to explain how the ARIA-AT project is poised to take a step forward in web accessibility by building consensus around the behavior of screen readers. expectations and develop the tests, automation technologies and test infrastructure necessary to bring screen reader interoperability to the world of web engineering.
“The ARIA-AT project is making a dream come true that has fueled years of work,” says King. “This will fundamentally change the way we think about web accessibility so that it is finally convenient to create experiences that are as reliable and enjoyable for users of assistive technology as they are for anyone else. ARIA-AT will provide a missing equity cornerstone for people who depend on assistive technology.
The discussion moderator will be Chancey Fleet, assistive technology coordinator at the New York Public Library, “whose writing, organizing and advocacy aims to catalyze a critical inquiry into how connected accessibility tools to the cloud benefit and harm, empower and expose communities of people with disabilities. “
Sight Tech Global is a free, open and virtual event. Register today.
Mike Shebanek and Matt King need little introduction to the accessibility community. Shebanek is the Accessibility Manager at Facebook and has been a central player at Apple in the development of VoiceOver, the screen reader technology built into all Apple products. King is a Technical Program Manager on the Facebook Accessibility team and previously led Enterprise Accessibility at IBM. Michael Fairchild, who co-chairs the W3C ARIA-AT Community Group with King, and works as a senior accessibility consultant at Deque Systems, will join them on the main stage.
Considering the importance of the ARIA-AT project to the industry and accessibility community, as well as the technical depth involved, the Sight Tech Global team decided to add a breakout session to deepen the project and its impact on the future of digital accessibility. .
The escape will dig into the technical details of ARIA-AT; Speakers will include King and Fairchild, as well as Sina Bahram, founder of Prime Access Consulting and Jes Daigle, head of engineering at Bocoup.
The breakout session will be live and participants will be able to ask questions through a moderator.
Sight Tech Global is a production of the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We thank current sponsors Ford, Yahoo, Google, Humanware, Microsoft, Mojo Vision, Facebook, WordPress and Vispero. If you would like to sponsor the event, contact us. All sponsorship revenue goes to the non-profit Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which has served the Silicon Valley region for 75 years.
Please register with Sight Tech Global. The event is virtual and free, on December 1 and 2 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. PT.