It’s that time of the year again! In this post, I’ll share some highlights of my 2020, a year that I personally can’t wait to leave behind. Below, you’ll find what I’ve been up to and some things that I have learned.
This year I have had some great things happen to me: I became a father for the second time and moved house. It has also been a struggle in many ways. But I’ll repeat my disclaimer from 2018, in these public posts, for reasons, I chose to leave the “lowlights” out. Rest assured there were many, as I imagine was the case for you too.
It has been a good year for my freelance practice, also a stressful one, particularly in lockdown times.
I spent the vast majority of my time this year working with the Web Accessibility Initiative at the W3C. This year, I worked on various things:
- redesign of WCAG supporting documents, like Techniques and Understanding, to launch sometime next year, with improvements including syntax highlighting and clarified context
- talks about the importance of authoring tools, like Your CMS is an accessibility assistant for WordPress Accessibility Day
- launched the ATAG Report tool, which can be used to report on accessibility issues in authoring tools, like CMSes, e-learning systems and form generators
In the time that was left, I did a bunch of accessibility audits and workshops in my own capacity. Some for my own clients, some for the clients of consultancies like Firm Ground and Eleven Ways. I also had a short advisory role on the CoronaMelder website, helping with accessibility and code reviews.
I gladly said yes to all of these things, and loved combining the standards-oriented work with the practical hands-on stuff. It’s truly been good to see people understand accessibility better.
Almost all of my speaking this year was virtual. I had planned to represent W3C/WAI at the CSUN accessibility conference this year, but this ended up the first of many events cancelled.
The only in-person talk of the year was a practice round for that CSUN talk: Amplifying your accessibility with better authoring tools. It was in Groningen, close to where I grew up and first worked, and I also got to see Maike do her awesome talk about empathy in government.
I also did some private talks, and these public talks, all online:
- Amplifying your accessibility with better authoring tools at A Future Date
- Advancing authoring tool accessibility at an AccessU event with an all-WAI line-up introducing all we’ve been working on
- On the origin of cascades by means of natural selectors, a Darwin-themed look into the evolution of CSS, at CSS Café, virtually in Boden, Germany
- 6 ways to make your site more accessible at Full Stack Utrecht
- Your CMS is an accessibility assistant at WordPress Accessibility Day
- On auto sizes in Grid Layout, about sizes in CSS. It was a dream come true to speak at Singapore CSS, an event organised by awesome humans.
- It’s the markup that matters at Vercel’s Nextjs Conf, packed with accessibility info, aimed at full stack developers.
Generally, online talks felt harder than IRL ones, because of less audience interaction and more preparation time. There was also less meeting people and traveling.
Less traveling was also an advantage: I could cook family dinner after delivering a talk, instead of being away for a few days. There was also one time where I attended my Q&A with a plaster, because I thought I could do some meal prep in a conference break. 🩹
I was able to read plenty and discovered a bunch of new authors that brought me joy and wisdom. I did one reading list post this year: Equality, a reading list (2).
If you’re looking for recommendations, find me on Goodreads (email/DM for my handle), I read in Dutch and English. These are some highlights in fiction:
- Celeste Ng’s Little fires everywhere, and also her debut Everything I never told you
- Anna Wiener’s Uncanny valley, about a woman in publishing who moves to Silicon Valley and is rightly shocked by the men, the hustle, the offices, weird camping trips… (see also my review)
- Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times, about millennials in Hong Kong
- Johan Harstad’s Max, Mischa & Tetoffensiven, about identity, living abroad, friendship, Norway, the US and much more, blew me away. Sorry if you don’t read German, Dutch or Norwegian, it wasn’t (yet) translated to English.
These were my favourites in non-fiction:
- Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, essays about the culture of the self
- Wendy Liu’s Abolish Silicon Valley, about what’s wrong with Silicon Valley’s ideology
- Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit , about why meritocracy is a lie
- Ibram X Kendi’s How to be an anti-racist – paraphrasing Dutch journalist Pete Wu: it’s probably not right to think in strict boxes but the categories of “racist” and “anti-racist” seem like a very useful distinction to make. Ibram X Kendi’s work has been my favourite about anti-racism so far. He narrates the audiobook himself and it is super powerful.
I wrote a lot less. Partly, I’ll blame 2020. Partly, it may be due to more of my work involving writing.
Some of the posts I did write:
- Could browsers fix more accessibility problems automatically and More accessible defaults, please– the web could be made more accessible from many sides: teams building website, website creation software, but also browsers. These posts go into what could be built into browsers.
- How deployment services make client-side routing work about hosting SPAs with routers
- Minimum Viable Data Collection, where I argue that if we want to follow the spirit of GDPR, we should collect data minimally, rather than beg for permission to collect maximally.
For the next year, I have some drafts floating around, that I hope to once finish and publish.
Last year, I had a “Cities” section. This section will be resumed next year.
Things I learned
I didn’t really do any side projects or volunteering this year. Some things I have learned this year:
- the basics of XSLT, which is used at W3C/WAI to generate the documents that support the WCAG standard
- I struggled a bit with git submodules, and ended up learning a bit about them
- For obvious reasons, I worked on talk recording skills and found out it’s all about light, light and light. And that I pull weird faces and should move my head less.
- Audiobooks allow one to read while going for a walk or doing the dishes, which are some of the few tasks reading can nicely be combined with.
- Static site generators are perfect for creating WCAG conformance reports. Turning HTML into an accessible PDF is not trivial, and one almost certainly requires PrinceXML for it. It doesn’t support Grid Layout, but has lots of print-specific CSS that is fun to play with, should you be a CSS nerd.
Dear readers, I hope 2021 treats you well. Hang in there.