Holden Foreman, The Post’s first Accessibility Engineer, shares insight on his new role:
So what do we mean by accessibility?
According to Indiana University, “Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, service, environment, or facility is usable by as many people as possible, including by persons with disabilities.” A common example of accessibility in practice is including wheelchair-accessible seats at event venues, which may be reachable via ramps and/or elevators instead of only stairs.
At The Post, we care about the accessibility of our digital products. We have a statement on our website outlining some of our goals. We aim to include alternative text (alt text) on images, captions on videos and transcriptions of audio content such as podcasts. We also know that accessibility considerations stretch far beyond these fundamental measures. The underlying code of our products should be written with accessibility in mind. There are extensive guidelines to consider, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) international standard. I’ve blogged in the past about some of our steps toward screen reader and keyboard accessibility.
We know at The Post that everyone must care about accessibility in order for it to happen. Having an engineer dedicated to accessibility will help us align our efforts, maintain up-to-date standards and explore new opportunities in research and feature development. The Accessibility Engineer will also help educate others on the latest accessibility practices and will be a resource for internal support.
I like Indiana University's definition of accessibility because it emphasizes two things:
- Accessibility is not something you either “have” or “don’t have.” There are levels to it. Your website may have appropriate alt text for some images but not all of them. You may have considered certain forms of color blindness, but not others, when choosing your color palette.
- Accessibility is important for everyone. “The curb-cut effect” describes how cutting ramps into sidewalk curbs made the sidewalks more accessible not just to people in wheelchairs but to many others as well: people pushing strollers or carts, for instance.
Parts of WCAG relate to assistive technology, which is used primarily by people with disabilities to help them navigate digital content. An example of this is a screen reader, which may be used by people who are blind or low-vision to hear digital content described to them. They use controls to move between elements on a page, and the associated text and/or function is read aloud. This is one purpose of alt text; it is read by a screen reader to describe an image for those who cannot see it clearly. Similarly, interactive elements should often be labeled in code using aria-labels.
While standards are helpful, accessibility is more than meeting a checklist and calling it a day.
We want to create a dialogue with our users to better understand how you interact with our products and how we can make your experiences not only accessible but also user-friendly and efficient. Some changes may be as simple as adjusting labeling and page structures, while others may involve developing brand new features and experiences. And others may require updating the internal products that are used by The Post’s employees.
An essential part of my new role is doing my research and listening to you, The Post’s users. So please send any questions, feedback and thoughts that you have to email@example.com. We can’t promise a response to everyone, but we will monitor our inbox carefully as we continue along this never-ending journey.
If you have questions for me personally or notice any errors in this blog post, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email, Twitter, LinkedIn or Mastodon. Thanks so much for reading.