One of my main goals for attending WCEU 2024 was to connect with accessibility people and find out how to learn to build accessible websites. I had tried on my own for a few months, but it seemed overwhelming. On the WCEU 2024 schedule I found a few presentations and a workshop on accessibility topics, so this was a good point to find out. Aside from the official presentations, I had other useful conversations in private, or at the informal Accessibility Community Meeting. Here is what I learned:

Free Accessibility Audit with Amber Hinds (Equalize Digital)

I had a pleasant discussion (more than the 15 min. scheduled) where Amber made an automatic test with the Accessibility Checker plugin and recommended a few things for improving accessibility on my website:

  • how to understand the plugin’s errors, warnings, and false positives;
  • how to solve small punctual issues with custom code;
  • how to improve color contrast;
  • where to download and how to use NVDA with shortcuts, how to use NVDA (Recorded Meetup)

Accessibility Presentation: The European Accessibility Act explained

Rian Rietveld, Accessibility Specialist, The Netherlands

A few ideas:

  • The EU Directive 2019/882 – European Acccessibility Act (EAA) will start to be applied in June 2025
  • Who needs to comply? Companies that sell services and/or products
  • Exceptions: companies with less than 10 employees and a global turnover less than 2 mil  EUR
  • What are the rules companies will need to comply? The guideline for web is WCAG, level AA, version 2.1
  • There is no quick
  • We should deliver websites with great performance, secure, responsive, and accessible.

Question from an attendee: What do you think about [building] 2 versions of the website – one fancy version, one accessible version? Rian’s answer: You can make very fancy website accessible. (…) [A special version] it’s an insult to people with disabilities. Take the extra step.

The Informal Meeting of the Accessibility Group

It was nice to find out how friendly the Accessibility community is in this morning’s informal meeting. Everyone supported me with recommendations about how to start and develop this expertise as a web designer. I felt so welcome in this warm community! A few notes I took:

  • My question: How do I get support for my questions related to websites I’m working on? Amber Hinds told me that purchasing the Small Business Licence of Accessibility Checker plugin includes two hours of calls each month to answer specific remediation questions, which is very valuable. The yearly price should seem costly for a freelancer, but paying monthly for the beginning is really doable for the value I could receive;

Accessibility Testing Workshop

Amber Hind held the Accessibility Testing Workshop where I learned about the process used at Digital Equalized. The slides can be found on the WCEU 2024 Accessibility Testing Workshop page. Also on the same page, there are a few valuable resources Digital Equalize uses: Exemple Audit Report Sheet and Shift Left with Accessibility Checklist. These 2 are pure gold.

I learned that there are 3 types of testing: 

1. Automated Testing: it’s easy to use, but it’s not enough to be the only one used. 

2. Keyboard Testing (manual testing) for interacting with all ements with a keyboard alone + zoomed to 200% and 400%

3. Screen reader testing (using NVDA)

Small nuggets I picked:

  • Any elements longer than 5 sec, have to have a pause (video, carousel, gif);
  • Sticky headers are very bad for accessibility: they should be hidden when scrolling down, but display again when scrolling up. Disable on mobile;
  • For hero sliders, add a screen-reader H1.

Accessibility Discussion

At the Accessibility Testing Workshop, I had the chance to sit near an accessibility specialist and a freelance web designer from the Netherlands (Ryanne Beijer). After the workshop, we had a very long discussion where I got answers to all the questions I had about accessibility and web design. I am so grateful for this valuable experience.  Here’s what I learned:

  • how to use the screenreader for testing;
  • how to build a doable process of designing accessible websites;
  • where to find examples of beautiful websites that follow the Accessibility rules; 
  • how to approach the lists of improvements without being overwhelmed;
  • how to use the native Windows screenreader (without shortcuts);
  • how to improve color contrast – Tanguru Contrast Finder.

She is a very passionate specialist in accessibility and shared not just her knowledge with me but her passion for this domain. She also advised me to narrow my services to keep my mind healthy. The conclusion of our discussion was: “Accessibility is more than building accessibility websites; it’s about people.”

Key Actions:

After all these discussions and presentations, I understand there is a lot to do. But at least I found where to start and where to ask when needed.

This is my plan:

  • implementing recommendations and manual testing on my websites and my Kadence templates;
  • starting with an A11Y course to learn the basics;
  • connecting with web Accessibility community on Twitter, Facebook group, and Slack.

From all these presentations and discussions, I learned that building accessibility requires a mindset shift to focus more on people rather than on fancy visual things. I’m ready to take the extra steps to learn how to create beautiful and accessible websites.

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