Todd Libby - Making the web equal and accessible

Season 4, Episode 2 | October 11, 2021

This week on the podcast, we have Todd Libby talking about his work making the web equal and accessible for everyone. He drops a ton of resources (check the show notes!) tips on how to get started, and talks about how he's continually learning on the job.


Todd Libby's profile photo
Todd Libby

Todd is a professional web developer, designer, and accessibility advocate for 22 years under many different technologies starting with HTML/CSS, Perl, and PHP, Todd has been an avid learner of web technologies for over 40 years starting with many flavors of BASIC all the way to React/Vue. Todd is also a member of the W3C working with groups on WCAG Silver (3.0). When not coding or advocating accessibility, you'll usually find Todd tweeting about (or eating) lobster rolls and accessibility.

We're welcoming Todd Libby to give us an intro to accessibility and what it means to make the web equal. Todd, a professional web developer, designer, and accessibility advocate for 22 years, provides a plethora of resources that can help everyone to get started and talks about how to advocate for accessibility and equality on projects.

Things/People mentioned in the episode:

A11y Learning Resources:

Tools:

Todd's steps for manual testing:

  1. Mouse only
  2. Keyboard only
  3. Squint test
  4. Screen readers
  5. Voice over in Safari
  6. NVDA and JAWS on Windows
  7. Orca on Linux

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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season four, episode two of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. I'm Bekah. And this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast, sharing their stories and what they've learned. And we're here to share it with you here with me. Today is my cohost Dan.

Dan:

Thanks Bekah. Today we're joined by Todd Libby. Todd is a web developer designer and accessibility advocate. And he's been doing it for over 20 years. He's currently an accessibility engineer at WebstaurantStore. And he's also a member of the worldwide web consortium. Also known as W3C, doing work updating their web content accessibility guidelines. Todd also hosts a podcast called the Front End Nerdery, so once you're done listening to this episode, head over there and give that one a listen. We had a great time talking with Todd and hearing about his long journey in tech, how and why he developed a career focusing on accessibility and shared with us about what accessibility means to him and what kinds of things all developers can do to ensure their work is accessible by everyone. I know you're going to enjoy it.

Bekah:

We start every episode of the podcast. Like we start every Virtual Coffee. We introduce ourselves with our name, where we're from, what we do and a random check-in question. Today's question is what famous artist, dead or alive, or you want to paint your portrait. We hope you enjoy this episode. name is Bekah. I am a front end developer from a small town in Ohio, and if I could have one person paint my portrait, I, when I was in college, Georgia, there was like big Georgia O'Keeffe paintings or replicas in the hallways of my department. And I always loved them. I know that's not what she doesn't paint people, but I think it would be cool to see how I would be represented by her. So I'm going to go with Georgia O'Keeffe

Dan:

Um, hi, I'm Dan I'm a front end developer in Cleveland, Ohio, and, um, does it have to be famous person?

Bekah:

Did I say famous?

Dan:

I, it said famous in the question.

Bekah:

I did. but now like just take it out.

Dan:

I mean, uh, Kate, one of my good friends at Kate Brideau from college, um, I would say that would be the person. Um, that'd be famous. I don't, I don't really know a lot of famous names. I mean, except for like the really famous ones, you know, and that seems like a boring answer. Um, maybe have Raphael, but not the, not the artist that ninja turtle.

Bekah:

Or my

Dan:

Yeah. Well it's well, sure. There's there's that too. Yeah. Any Raphael really? I'll take, uh, take any version. Sounds like a good choice.

Todd:

And I'm Todd Libby. I am a front end developer and accessibility engineer currently in Phoenix, Arizona. And I guess my artist would be, I dunno, he was really unique. So I guess I would say Salvador Dali.

Bekah:

That's cool.

Dan:

That'd be a good one.

Bekah:

There's um, anytime somebody is from Phoenix, I think of a short story that I read from Sherman Alexie. This is what it means to say Phoenix, Arizona. And I remember nothing about the short story except for the title. And it's just automatically, that's my mind. So if you haven't, read it, check it out and then remind me what it was about.

Todd:

I haven't, but I will look that up. Definitely. I'm originally from Portland Maine. So of course everybody knows me because of the lobster roll thing. So.

Bekah:

Yes, Todd is all about the lobsters and in our Virtual Coffee Slack, he always uses the lobster emoji to respond to people. And so we just automatically recognize that it's Todd. So it's like he, he has claimed that emoji and it's one of the greatest things ever.

Dan:

It's really cool. And it's just like, you see the lobster emoji pop up. You're like, oh, cool. Todd's here.

Bekah:

I just think it's it's funny, like when, when new people come into Virtual Coffee and then they also click the lobster emoji. So.

Dan:

I mean I always click it. I mean, I don't first, you know what I mean? But like, um, it's, it's like high five and Todd, you know, it's like celebrating the Toddness of it.

Todd:

the virtual virtual high five,

Dan:

That's right.

Bekah:

Right. And it can be about all sorts of different things. Like somebody could post a question that they have, and then like, there's a lobster emoji. It's not about lobster. Although if I had a question about lobster, I would definitely ask Todd first.

Todd:

I've got a million no one answers.

Bekah:

I feel like that's a separate podcast episode.

Todd:

Yes.

Dan:

Does it have to be though?

Bekah:

Thank you so much for being here with us. Todd, we always like to start with the origin story. How did you get to where you are today? So if you. want to take us through that path would be.

Todd:

Yeah. Oh boy. That's a long one. Um, I'll give you the abridged version. I'm nine years old. I started on a Commodore PET. Um, in school and then gradually worked my way up to a Commodore 64, where I learned BASIC a lot of different flavors of BASIC, um, and was just, you know, it was just a hobby of course at that point. But, um, what was it about 1999? Um, I had a. What was it? A 386 desktop, IBM computer. And I started to learn HTML and this was before CSS. So that is the indication of how old I am and JavaScript was just kicking around. Um, I started learning how to design websites using Front Page Express in Internet Explorer, three and four. And just, it went from there. Um, programming was cool. I used to do, um, in BASIC on a Commodore I would program. If anybody remembers those, choose your own adventure books from way back in the day. I, I used to program a text-based, uh, Pretty much copied and I hope no one's listening from that company, but, um, I, I used to, just to just practice, I would just. Code those books into a, into a text-based game on Commodore 64. And that's really what got me started because I was living in a very rural area in, in New England. And, uh, there wasn't much to do so except for programming at that point. So skip ahead to today, or when I started professionally and I was 22 years ago. And I started, um, I read Jeffrey Zeldman his book, Designing with Web Standards instantly got hooked into web standards, uh, progressive enhancement accessibility. And it just, you know, took off to the point where it is today, where I'm in the field that I enjoy being in, and that's accessibility.

Dan:

I think that's awesome. I, and I, I love that book too. And Zeldman I have been, um, so 22 years ago what, 99, 2000 something like that, know? And I think I got into, I mean, I was starting to make something around then and really. Got a lot more into it a couple of years later. Um, but was with the web standards, you know, movement and everything like that. And I've been, uh, you know, and similarly front-end focused for a long time. And, um, one of us was just one of the reasons I was very excited to have you podcast and to kind of get to get to hang out with a little bit more. Um,

Todd:

Yeah.

Dan:

It's uh, so, know, on front end and focusing on accessibility, um, things like that. I mean, what career opportunities has that like presented you from, you know, starting, you don't need to like list every single one or whatever, but like run, run us through a little bit of how that's been being like, uh, front end and accessibility, you know, a specialist, um, for whatever that means for you. Uh, you know, run it through a little bit, like how that's been finding, finding work and finding people that care about that sort of thing. Um,

Bekah:

Can I just jump into, if you can just provide some context for what, what does accessibility mean and how does that work as part of a job?

Todd:

Okay. Um, to address what it's accessibility mean, uh, I'll address that first and that is making the web equal and accessible for everybody. Um, it just doesn't have to be a disability. It can be, you know, somebody in I'll use this example in a very rural area who has a 3g phone. And, you know, it's not a very fast connection is to, you know, what we have these days with our shiny new iPhones and stuff like that. Um, and then accessibility. Somebody in accessibility would basically, um, not only advocate, but don't in my daily routine of doing auditing on websites. It's just checking to see if, uh, Sites are accessible if they're, you know, if they should be failing, um, web content, accessibility guidelines WCAG is how I pronounce it. There's many different pronunciations to that, but, um, um, the, um, you know, and you know, there's different, I guess. Levels of how people will do an audit. Like, you know, you can do, you know, a and AA as far as the levels. So there's a AA and AAA, a lot of people I find don't do AAA, because it's too stringent and it's also, you don't have to go that far in most cases. Um, but. It's just auditing, making sure sites are accessible in, um, creating a report for a client and then telling them here's what's wrong. Here's how you need to fix it. This doesn't, you know, adhere to the guidelines and, um, recommendations for best practices as well. And, um, You know, looking at code and, you know, always looking at HTML and CSS because CSS too has a strong effect on accessibility and, uh, that's what the job entails. Um, and Dan, what was your question?

Dan:

Alright, I guess my question was, um, you know, it's, it's a sort of. I don't know if non-traditional is the right word, but, you know, being a specialist really in any regard, um, is, uh, is a choice, you know, and can limit your options, but like also what you want to do. Right. Um, and so I, my question was more like, how has it been, uh, on your career journey? You know, being a specialist, especially in the accessibility world,

Todd:

Right. Um, it's been a challenge lately in, I would say the past. Five, maybe 10 years. Um, because not a lot of people, not a lot of companies were looking for accessibility specialists. Um, not until I've pretty much noticed this year. A lot of companies are now looking for accessibility specialists because companies are getting sued. And they don't want to get sued. That's that's the bottom line. So my professional journey had been, I worked, uh, I started, I did a website for somebody I knew back in, uh, new England, Maine. And, um, it was just a small. And then from there I got, you know, a few different jobs doing websites. And then from there I was like, well, you know, this thing's taken off. I'm going to do the I'm going to go the freelance route. So that's what I did. And. Up until 2015, I was a freelance, uh, developer, I guess you could say I got into WordPress, uh, PHP development. And then, um, I was hired by a company to do their website and their SAS, um, their SAS, uh, site, I guess. It was a, a thing where you log in and it wasn't a public facing site. And, um, from there it would be been about, I don't know. I think I counted over 2000 resumes that I had sent out to companies in 20 years in. One company hired me. And that was that company that I worked for in 2015 to, uh, just, uh, last year as a matter of fact. And then finally somebody took a chance on me that would have been Nobility. I was hired by Nobility, uh, in March and March or April. Geez, it's been over six months, but, um,

Dan:

What is time anyway.

Todd:

well, I don't even know anymore. I'm in a different time zone now, so that's messed me up too. Uh, but no ability gave me a, you know, an opportunity and very grateful for that opportunity with them and, um, a lot of great people in Nobility that work for the company. Um, everybody is a matter of fact and they do some really good stuff as far as accessibility goes. And, um, as of October 1st, I will be, um, on the, uh, WebstaurantStore team as an accessibility engineer. Uh, so I look forward to that. Yeah.

Bekah:

Can you talk a little bit about what you'll be doing in that role there? Maybe dive into a little bit of detail.

Todd:

Um, for right now, all I know is it's basically doing the same thing I do now and that's auditing, um, their product for their, uh, website. I know they use, they use react and I think it was .net. So that I'll be in that, um, environment.

Bekah:

So like when you do an audit, where do you start with that?

Todd:

So when I do an audit, I do automated, uh, checks and scans first. So I use stuff like the WAVE extension, um, the axe, I now wait until the end to use the axe-core extension in the browser. Um, Things like, uh, there's a command line called Pa11y. So it's PA one, one Y uh, there's that I use, um, does Bookmarklets from Ian Lloyd and Paul J. Adam that I use to also do checks. Um, Let's see what else? There's Microsoft Accessibility Insights, which is a great tool to use. Um, what else? And I said, axe, color, contrast checks. I use, um, the Firefox accessibility dev tools, the accessibility panels and those, and then I move on to, um, manual testing. So. mouse only, um, keyboard only I will do it, which goes back to color contrast. I'll do the squint test. So I'll just look at the site while I'm squinting at it and see if, you know, I can make out anything cause that I was taught not too long ago. So, um, and uh, screen readers, I will use screen readers. So for Mac there's Voiceover. And it's best to use Voiceover in Safari because the native, you know, Mac app and everything, um, and VDA and Jaws on a Windows. And, um, if, and it's very, very rare, but if somebody says, oh, you know, we have Linux users. So I will test on what it's called Orca for Linux and, um, yeah, those are pretty much, uh, if I remember them all correctly, um, those are the tools I use.

Dan:

That's. Yeah, that's awesome. It's very extensive. I was just writing all them down so that

Bekah:

So as I well, the link to those show notes.

Dan:

Yeah, absolutely. And so, so like day to day, I mean, I know you haven't started yet, but like in your, in your role, will it be mostly doing audits after the fact? Or like, will you be interfacing with, you know, I'm not sure what they do, what they, what, what they make or anything like that, but you know, like where in the process are you, are you, uh, doing like accessibility? Uh, you know, helping the team with, with this stuff, like, know, audits for me imply, and I know this isn't always true, but when I think of it as something, oh, something's done, now we do an audit on it. You know what I mean? but I was wondering if, and I'm sure that's an important part. I was wondering if there's, um, places earlier in the process where, um, where, you know, you're able to interface and like, you know, make suggestions before it, you know, as opposed to like fixing things, but like help build something you know, the first time.

Todd:

Right. Yeah,

Dan:

Does that make sense?

Todd:

yeah, yeah. Um, I'm, I'm sure it's going to be probably a lot of both. Um, maybe there's existing things on the site, uh, that need to be checked, um, components that may be being worked on. We'll have to be checked. I mean, it's that way, pretty much with any kind of audit. So I've had companies come to me and say, you know, we we've got somebody who emailed us and said, this isn't accessible, so we need a, an audit done and I'll go through the site and say, okay, I found all this. Here's what you need to do to fix it. They'll fix it. That'll be after the fact of course, I've had companies come in and ask me to do consulting with their teams before the project starts to make sure that it gets done beforehand. Because when you do an accessibility, when you, when you bring in accessibility from the start of a project, it's so much easier and there's less, a lot less stress, doing it from the very beginning, because when you get to the end and you've got, everything is as accessible as you can. And I'll add that nothing's a hundred percent accessible. Um, it's, it's a lot easier on your teams. You know, like I said, there's a lot less stress. You don't have to go back and scatter around trying to fix this, that, and the other thing after the fact. So, um, and that's also where my advocacy comes in is saying, okay, if you get this done from the start, you're going to be, it's going to be so much easier and it's going to cost less money because you're not going to. It's going to cause a lot less stress again. And, uh, those are the two main things. Um, but to answer the question, it's going to be a little bit of both. I would think, because like I said, it's usually that way at the beginning, you know? Um,

Dan:

Get something to a baseline first.

Todd:

Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and it's still really early in the process, so I'm not too sure, but I know that there'll be a lot of, you know, checking to make sure everything's good. On the end of, you know, before we put this out, we need to make sure it's accessible. So. yeah.

Bekah:

As you've been working through this industry, do you think. Is there one problem that you keep encountering over and over, like stand out issues, things that people can just really look at and say, all right, let's start here.

Todd:

Well, where do I begin? It's it's a lot, but mainly it's color contrast. Okay. Um, that's the biggest one. Um, and, uh, Keyboard accessibility is another and throwing a third one. And that being, uh, alt text on images, the alternative text, um, I've had, you know, a lot of alt text can be a tricky, um, uh, a tricky thing because people think, well, I have this image. And I need to really go into detail what that image is conveying. If it's an informative image and you really don't just a short, you know, it's a purple flower in a field, um, is fine. You don't have to go into, I've seen on Twitter because they give you a thousand characters for alt text. And I've seen this. I've seen alt text that long before.

Bekah:

I always wonder, like, I, I don't think I've written enough because I'm not even close to the 1000 and I have a thousand to write.

Dan:

Yeah. I always try to just like, like, just say the joker. I mean, usually if I'm posting an image, it's a joke, you know, but like the shortest version of the joke is, you know, so I like posted one today and it was just like guys saying thumbs up or something like that, that, you know, you know what I mean? like that seems that at least seems like usually enough. I don't need to give the whole,

Bekah:

Sometimes I just don't post because I don't know how to describe it. Like, well, I'm not really sure that I know how to say capture what this is doing, so we'll go, we'll go for something else.

Todd:

There's a lot of debate around how long should it be? It shouldn't be 180 characters. Should it be a certain amount of words, but just as long as it conveys in a short succinct, Sentence, I guess that's fine. Um, and of course you have some images decorative that, ya know, it needs an empty all text. And that's a big one because I was just doing an audit and they had decorative images, but no, alt, no empty alt text, um, which is just the alt equals, you know, quotes and it's, the quotes are empty in between,

Bekah:

Can you explain that? Cause that I had just recently learned about that, but. Don't quite understand why that's the standard.

Todd:

So there's a, it tells a screen reader. There's an image there, but it doesn't, it doesn't need it's decorative basically. So it just there's, there's no need to, to

Dan:

ha what happens in a screenwriter? If it runs into an image with no alt attribute at all?

Todd:

Uh, it skips over it. So you're loo the, the user is losing information. So if there's something you're trying to convey, like let's use the, um, like, an infographic, for example, and there's no alt text on it. That user that's using the screen reader is not gonna know that it's there.

Dan:

Totally. Totally. And so in the case of a decorative image where we don't need. It's okay. If his screen, you know, if it's okay, if anybody skips over it, what do you know, what is the tactical difference for a screen reader for a user on a screen reader between empty, an image with an like with a alt property and just an empty string and an image with alt you know, defined at all.

Todd:

So. it's okay. Let's use a logo. As an example, if you have empty alt text on your logo, and it's also linked, the screen reader will read that link and you don't want that to read it. You don't want it to. It doesn't really need to, I mean, there's cases where somebody may say, yeah, I want the person to know what the logo looks like, but if it's not really necessary, um, no alt text, you know, it's the screen reader. Won't read anything and. As far as I know. And I'll be the first to say, I'm not an expert by any means with screen readers, because this is a lot of different stuff. I've been learning lately, but to mine, to my recollection, anyways, an empty. So the end. So no alt texts. Let me get this straight. No, alt text, the URL will be read to the image.

Dan:

Okay. Yeah. That's the big difference. All right. That's the part, I didn't

Todd:

Yes. Yup.

Dan:

no alt text at all, like no, alt property defined. When a screen reader is reading it, it'll come through normal texts and then it'll just read like, blah, blah, blah dot JPEG. Right. Okay. That's

Todd:

And then the, the empty alt is silent. So that's.

Dan:

it'll that tells it to skip right over it, which is you want. Sometimes like, sometimes that is the preferred thing or like the decorative image where it's a background image or something like that, or, background, but like, you know, sometimes it's just used for decoration. Doesn't need to convey actually information. and so in those cases, putting an empty, alt like alt equals, you know, empty string. Is is actually very good and much like very good for accessibility because otherwise they're going to see probably a very long URL with dot JPEG, which means nothing to them. Right.

Todd:

Yes. Exactly.

Dan:

Oh, that's great. Um, that's one of those things that. And I've seen a lot of people. This is a separate topic, like that, that little, like, pick that little bit, just, just even just Alt getting like your head wrapped around how to deal with alt, alt texts. Um, like you said, mix can make a huge difference for accessibility making a for your users. oh, that's really cool.

Bekah:

And you were talking about one of the big problems being color contrast. And that seems like something that could be pretty simple to identify with a Lighthouse audit. Um, can you explain what a Lighthouse audit is? And if you're like, that's not the way to go. This other method is better. Um, I would love to hear that.

Todd:

So, I mean, I've used Lighthouse before. I don't really rely on lighthouse. Lighthouse runs off of axe-core and which is great, but I don't think it really gets to the root of every issue. And it really can't. Uh, plus you have false positives, which is, you know, something, it, for example, I was just talking about this on the, in the, in the Slack, uh, Virtual Coffee Slack. False positives for color contrast, you know, I've come across instances where it will flag color, contrast errors, but the color contrast is far exceeds the 4.5 to one ratio. So I don't really rely on Lighthouse. I mean, it's a good tool. Don't get me wrong because there's that performance piece to it that I really, really like, uh, using and, um, As far as, you know, it's a good tool, don't get me wrong, but I use, and I used to use it. I used to use it myself. I mean, I used it on my site and was like, yeah, one hundreds. I got one hundreds across the board and you know, that, that virtual confetti flying everywhere. But, um, the tools that I use would be, um, It's a contrast hyphen ratio.com, which is Lea Verou, uh, color contrast site. I also use, um, the, let me look, I have it on my other machine here, the color contrast analyzer. And that is by The Paciello Group. So Steven Faulkner has based on the Windows version, the Mac iOS version was developed by somebody else. Uh, I use that, that tool as well. Um, and I will provide, uh, the link to that.

Bekah:

This great, I'm like really looking forward, it could diving into a lot of these resources that you are dropping right now. Cause I think sometimes it's hard to know where to start. And, I think that's just a problem with teaching developers in general. There's not a focus on it. It's not built into most curriculums and, um, at all. And so there's a lack of focus, I think, as a result of that. And then not knowing where to start, or if you're with a company that doesn't look at those things, then I think it can be, you can find yourself a while down the path and and not know what you should be identifying, how you should be approaching this. And so the more that we talk about it, I think the better, um, where do you think people could get started if they want to learn more about accessible?

Todd:

So the w three C has a great, um, intro to accessibility class, which I believe is still free. And yeah, it's an Introduction to Web Accessibility on edex.org. And, uh, I took that class even. Um, and it was it's great. Uh, you can pace yourself. Doesn't have to be real fast is no, you know, there's no due date or anything. There's a free version. If you want a certificate, you got to pay a certain amount. Um, it's like if you put in four to five hours a week, it's like for four weeks long, uh, to do. It gives a good overview of, excuse me, accessibility, and you know, some of the guidelines there's, um, a lot of good information on the web, uh, and, uh, even have to pitch Nobility's website and their blog. They go over some of the, uh, WCAG guidelines and accessibility is also, I want to make this clear accessibility is more than just WCAG guidelines. Um, it's also about inclusive design as well. Um, making sure, you know, certain demographics aren't, you know, kept out that, that everybody's included, um, hence the name inclusive design. Um, but, um, Some other, um, let's see. That's a good question. Cause there's so much, I mean, I guess, you know, a search would come up with a lot of different things. WebAIM.org has some good stuff. As far as accessibility, learning accessibility, um, level access does, uh, let's see who else. TPGI has good stuff. So there's, there's a lot out there that, you know, people can find on, you know, even there's even like courses on, I guess Udemy and platforms like that as well.

Bekah:

So, this has kind of been your focus the entire time you've been working in tech. Was there a reason that you went down this path or, or something that kind of inspired this journey? Or have you just always been interested in it?

Todd:

Uh, it started when a couple of family members, I have like three family members that have disabilities, um, to have motor skill disabilities, one visual and. Seeing the looks of frustration on their faces when they're trying to access something that's inaccessible on the web really got me motivated in the beginning and carries me to this day. Really. Um, I kind of towards like 2018, 2019 was kind of like. I guess slacking off a little bit with my accessibility, but I get together with our friend, Chris DeMars in Burlington, Vermont. There was a, there was a conference and. You know, he gave a great talk and that really lit the fire again. So there's been a really, it's been like laser, like focus for me as far as, since then. And, um, just the looks of frustration on faces of people that I've seen, trying to access something that's inaccessible on the web. Yeah. It's just, it's very, um, the word I'm looking for here, very, uh, it hits home. It really, you know, being that I try to advocate for people that don't have a voice. And, um, I think as, as accessibility, professional, We all, do we try to advocate for those people? Um, especially lately with certain, I will use it in quotes, accessibility, overlays, for instance, but, um, yeah, that's basically where it all started was just those family members and friends and just seeing people, uh, yeah. Th the frustration and the point where they're ready to give up.

Bekah:

Yeah, I, was just with Chris last week. Um, he spoke at KC DC. He along with Cass Ferris and they did anaccessibility talk. That was the first time I got to see him speak in person. It was really great because they both come at it with a lot of passion and examples. And I think for so many of us, we have a general sense of what accessibility is, but we don't have that broader sense of, uh, you know, it might be. Um, there might be a disability that you can't see, or it might be a temporary disability or a mental health challenge that somebody is going through and all of those things can impact what accessibility looks like. And if you really look at the people around you, you for sure know someone that has one of those challenges or, or you have one yourself. And so, you know, opening up the conversations about this, you know, like you have in, in like Chris and Cass have, I think is so important to really making change in, in tech overall.

Todd:

Yeah, I, you, know, you you brought up invisible. Disabilities. I have migraine headaches. Uh, I get them when something sets off, if there's a website, I visit that as, you know, animation or motion that really it's too much. And it's triggers a migraine. I mean, there's all that stuff that you mentioned and. Yeah. It's, you know, uh, Chris is great. You know, I, I I've seen him talk, you know, virtually and then before the pandemic and everything, and we've gotten to know each other and he, you know, he does a great job advocating.

Bekah:

yeah. I think, you know, even so a couple of years ago I was diagnosed with ADHD and it's interesting how much I didn't realize that impacts the things that I interact with and the ways that I interact with things. Maybe this is just a personal problem, but this is the conversation between Discord and Slack. For me, like I walk into Discord, I don't walk in there. Um, I open up Discord and it's immediately just overwhelming and I don't know where to go from there. And then I just like slowly back out the door, right? Like there's too much going on for me.

Todd:

Yeah. That information overload happens to me as well. Um, it's like Slack and, uh, Discord and. There's yeah, I was on, I was watching a, uh, Twitch stream yesterday and the chat was going off and I was just like, I just, I can't, I want to be able to kind of read the chat and I can't because you know it, yeah. The information overload is a big thing too.

Bekah:

So I, you know, I think, um, Your background, you talked about your journey through this and it seems like you've been mostly self-taught then, is that right?

Todd:

Yeah. Um, I started, when I picked up that Commodore 64 user manual. And just, I love to read and I read that I had purchased a book. It was a Learn HTML in 21 days. And it was like a big, huge thick phone book, like manual. And I read through that. That's how I actually made my first website. Uh, not that I put it out on the web or anything, but then I. Um, I graduated from there on, I went to Geo Cities and Angel Fire and Tripod and all those websites, if you remember those websites

Dan:

here. Yeah.

Todd:

and all the great, you know, lime green and pastel and, you know, fluorescent colors. Um, and then, you know, It's been a learning process the entire time and I love to learn. So it's one of those things where if I can pick up something in a Slack group or on a Discord channel, that's great. I've, you know, I keep learning every day and, you know, learning. Lately it's been learning the intricacies of the WCAG guidelines because there's so much there. Um, and being able to, and I'm grateful for this being able to work on the next, I guess, version, which is 3.0, which is a few years down the road has been a learning process as well. And being a member of the W3C is to, and being in those meetings and. We're learning so much from a great group of people.

Bekah:

Yeah, that's awesome. I love that idea of just consistent learning and being open to learning all of the time, because I think no matter what part of tech or, or any industry really that you're in the being open to learning new things and talking through things with other people. and understanding is, you know, that that's what growing is about. That's what is important to what you're doing.

Todd:

Yeah. It's, you know, even I've, you know, learned, I learned on Twitter as well, you know, I see something, a link to an article or something and I check it out and it's like, oh, well, you know, Today I learned, you know, and you know, I it's it's, you know, there was a quote and I'll try to find that quote because I love the quote. Um, it had something to do with, uh, doing something. Yeah, right there. Um, there are three things. Everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think, spend some time in thought number three, you should have your emotions, you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day. And that was just like the best quote. I think I've seen it in a long, long time. I even add to that learning one thing a day.

Bekah:

Yeah. I love that so much. I didn't think, you know, learning things on Twitter for me has been really big as well. Even when somebody just has a small portion of a tweet at, for some reason, it sticks in my mind better than if I read a whole article on that thing. And I think maybe because there's some type of personal connection there. Oh, I remember that person said this one thing and it, you know, it might be some type of coding tip or whatever, but I think that just be just sharing that knowledge or, or it's Hey, I know that I could ask that person. That question can be really helpful in finding the answers to things or having more confidence in, in being, being able to ask questions.

Todd:

Yeah. It's it's, you know, I use Twitter as a tool to say, you know, oh, you, you mentioned something about the new, you know, um, whatever coming, coming down the line. I've got a couple of questions for you. Um, you know, Hey, can I, you know, DM you, I got a question I need to ask and it reaching out to somebody to, or to the person that, you know, had that tweet it's, uh, and, and Mo you know, I don't think I've ever had anybody go no I don't want to tell you the answer or anything like that. So, um, yeah, it's, uh, it's always been, you know, Hey, you know, I've got this question. People are more than, you know, more than welcome to, to answer those questions.

Bekah:

Yeah. And I think that's so big, especially when we're talking about this topic. If you don't know it is okay to ask somebody, Or ask someone just to direct you, you know, I'm getting started in this. It's not been a focus. How, how do I get started? What do I do? And dropped a lot of great resources here, but, you know, I think in, in every place and space we should, we should know that it is okay to ask about these things. And it's good to do that.

Todd:

Yeah, definitely. You know, I tell people, you know, if you have a question about accessibility, I'll do my best to answer. If I can't answer it, I will find somebody that can, or I will look it up and see if I can get you the answer, because it's, it's, it's that little, you know, it's that being helpful? And again, making, you know, making sure that person has that information for me anyways, is, is big. And, you know, just saying, you know, feeling good about being able to help people.

Bekah:

Yeah, for sure. That's so important.

Dan:

I love it.

Bekah:

we have about one a time for one more question. And, and I'd love to hear what you have to say about this. Cause I know that there still are companies out there that are, um, have some pushback about paying for making things accessible, or they say like, well, that's not our focus right now because we don't have the time or the money to do that. How would you that situation? Or, you know, maybe if you were a developer consulting on that, you know, how would you kind of convince them that this, this should be a priority?

Todd:

Okay. Funny. You mentioned that. Cause I wrote a article, uh, about that and it's on smashing magazine. So I'll get that. Link to you as well. It's a very tricky slope sometimes. Um, you know, I've heard people for instance say, well, you don't want to get sued. And that kind of. Perks up stakeholders ears and says, oh, you know, well, I guess we're going to have to do this me. I use real world examples of, for instance, I ran into a stakeholder on a project and I said, we've got to make sure accessibility is done from the very beginning of the project. He turned to me and said, we don't have disabled users. I in turn said to him, you're wearing eyeglasses, that's an assistive technology and he kind of perked up, but I'd, hadn't convinced him. So the, you know, there's some people that can be very stubborn. So I went as far as to say, you know, somebody's working. You know, using your product, they can have a broken arm, it could be a situational disability. They could have a broken arm. They could be at home working with a child on their lap. That's very fussy. I've been there a long time ago. I know that feeling and I, you know, I know Bekah, you're a parent. I don't know if you're a parent, Dan, but.

Dan:

yeah.

Todd:

Yeah. Yeah. So you both know that, you know, you have a child on your lap and they're fussy, you know, and you're trying to answer an email or something. It's very difficult. So, you know, getting teams on board is another thing too, where getting somebody. A person dedicated to doing accessibility on the design side, on the development side, on the marketing side. That helps too. But the main thing is getting stakeholders on board. If you can get a stakeholder on board, then it should be much, much easier to get the entire organization on board.

Bekah:

Yeah, that's great. I love that. You know, it all comes down to listening and being open-minded right. If we work towards understanding each other, then we can all do a whole lot more to improve things for everyone.

Todd:

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yep. I've heard it, I've heard it before. We don't have the budget, you know, we'll get to it after launch. Well, that brings me back to. Yep. If you do everything from the beginning, you will have the money for it and you know, it will be less stressed, so, yeah.

Dan:

don't need to pay for it. Find the budget to pay for a whole round of. You know, auditing and stuff.

Todd:

Right. Yeah. And auditing. So I'll use an example of a company that got sued and what they could have. What they could have spent just with, you know, doing it from the beginning, they ended up paying seven figures for an audit. So that should tell you something about that process.

Bekah:

Right. And it shouldn't ever have to come to that. That's know, absolutely ridiculous,

Todd:

yeah.

Bekah:

But I'm so glad that you were here today to talk us through this and drop all of these great resources. And I really hope that, you know, it helps people who are listening to work through the stuff. And to know that it's okay to ask questions. And to Grow and learn more all the time. Um, so we'll make sure that we drop all those links in the show notes. And thanks so much for being here with us today. Todd

Todd:

Well, thank you.

Dan:

Really appreciate it too.

Todd:

Yeah. Thank you both for having me

Bekah:

Bye.

Dan:

alright, bye Todd.

Todd:

Bye

Dan:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel, and was edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications. If you have questions or comments, you can hit us up on Twitter at VirtualCoffeeIO or email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, sign up for our newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website at virtualcoffee.io. And of course join us for our Virtual Coffee Chats every Tuesday at 9:00 am Eastern and Thursday at 12:00 pm Eastern Please subscribe to our podcast and be sure to leave us a review. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next week!


The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications.