A11y Bytes Perth 2016 Highlights

Around 30 attendees from many different technical and non-technical backgrounds joined the first national A11y Bytes event in Perth, a series a flash talks about anything accessibility. Speeches ranged from screen reader demonstrations to inspiring talks about what the individual can do to make a difference and raise awareness for accessibility.

My personal highlights of the event included two speeches, the “Modaal” plugin by Dan Moore from Humaan, and a newly developed accessible carousel from Iain Fraser at Seamless.

“Modaal” is a plugin that aims to ensure the accessibility of modal windows while also providing an attractive presentation that designers would get on board with. Humaan provided several accessibility features for the plugin, including providing focus to and out of the modal window when it opens and closes, the ability to use the escape key to close the modal window, as well as ARIA implementation and full keyboard support.

However, user testing revealed a few issues that need to be ironed out, including NVDA getting stuck on the close button, and some instances of focus returning to the page while the modal window is still open. Nevertheless, Dan Moore stated that his team is committed to improving the plugin and is looking for all feedback and suggestions.

The accessible carousel from Seamless looks very exciting. Iain Fraser explained that while most developers and accessibility specialists aren’t big fans of carousels, often designers and executives demand the use of them. To try and solve this issue, Seamless took a navigation concept from Windows OS and applied it to the carousel, allowing a logical and easy focus order for screen reader users.

The “dot navigation” commonly seen on carousels had been vastly improved to allow more information to screen reader users, acting like a list and providing a description of each slide. Instead of navigating through each slide individually, screen reader users can select the slide that they are interested in and use the tab key for more information, very similar to the tabs and information often seen in the Windows operating system’s “properties” menu.

The carousel also features a high contrast mode, a play/pause button, accessible keyboard control and working alternative text on slide images. Unfortunately, the plugin is not yet available to the public but Seamless are exploring their options for a release.

Overall, I feel that Perth’s first A11y Bytes event was a resounding success filled with useful information, inspiration, and laughter. You can try out Humaan’s free and open-source “Modaal” plugin yourself on their website, and this annual A11y Bytes event was arranged and hosted by accessibility specialist and web developer, Julie Grundy.

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