Well, guess what, we’re nearing the end of the year! In this post I’ll share what I was up to this year, as well as some things I learned along the way.
Throughout the year, for W3C/WAI, I was involved in the launch of the redesigned WCAG-EM Report Tool, worked on a unified layout for the W3C’s accessibility guidance (like Techniques, Understanding and the ARIA Authoring Practices Guide) and did some work around accessibility of authoring tools in higher education, Epub and XR.
This year also was my last at the W3C/WAI. I won’t get into too much detail, but I can say I struggled with the leadership style and decision making process. I had wanted to drive more change from within. I had also wanted to do more to make accessibility more accessible, but the standards game seems easier to play for folks who have been in it longer. When my contract neared the end I decided not to extend. I am grateful for the opportunity though, and was able to learn a lot about standards, web accessibility and the web, and contribute to a wide range of interesting projects.
Besides my W3C work, I also did over 25 WCAG conformance audits, mostly for governments, and a couple of in-house workshops, including two for the teams building the Dutch national citizen’s authentication system (DigiD).
I also worked with Eleven Ways on an advisory project for the European Commission and a project on virtual event accessibility. Lastly, I just started a short stint with Mozilla, to help with some accessibility aspects of the upcoming MDN redesign.
In February, I will start a new job 🎉, which I am super stoked about. Like my role at the W3C, it focuses on outreach to developers and will let me continue to work on making it easier for developers to build things. I am excited, because it is at a product company that works on solving a very real and interesting problem, and it is very authoring tool related.
The other talks I did were all remote:
- Accelerating accessibility in a component based world at SimpleWebConf (June), JSConf India (November), BLD Conf (November) and Git Commit Show (November)
- Could browsers fix more accessibility problems automatically at a11yTO (October), Accessibility Club Meetup (November) and Tech A11y Summit
- More to give than just the div: semantics and how to get them right at Web Directions: Access All Areas (October) and Beyond Tellerrand (November)
- Procuring accessible software for e-learning: how ATAG can help with my colleague Joshue O’Connor at WP Campus Online (September)
You can like and subscribe this stuff on YouTube should you wish to.
I read 54 books this year. I created a website for this as I love judging books by their covers, now you can too on books.hiddedevries.nl. This is updated manually—if you want real time updates, add me on Goodreads.
Below are some books I particularly liked. They have in common that they are set in parts of the world I have travelled to and would have liked to return to if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
- If I had your face by Frances Cha – this is about four women in Seoul and their lives, obsessions and friendships.
- Fake accounts by Lauren Oyler – what if you find out your partner is actually a complot theorist with a secret Instagram account? Funny and smart satire of contemporary life, partially set in Berlin. Got very mixed comments on Goodreads.
- Intimacies by Katie Kitamura – this book’s main character works at the International Criminal Court in The Hague—ok I have travelled there during the pandemic… it uses precise language, but also shows how much precision of language matters. There was a scene in which people buy old books just for the purpose of decorating their house.
- Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami – I reread Kafka on the shore, set in Yamanashi and Takamatsu, Japan, and, like a lot of Murakami books, it involves a road trip, lots of music and lots of cats
- Free food for millionaires by Min Jin Lee – set in New York, describes a college graduate plotting her future, describing both her generation and her parents, jumping between life’s different environments
I didn’t write a lot, but have not stopped posting either—this is the 20th post of this year. Things I wrote about included:
- the “metaverse” and why real life is better – I guess I am sceptical of a lot of the ideas posed by Zuckerberg in this year’s Facebook event
- numbers – I get asked a lot how many people have disabilities and I feel that’s the wrong metric
- “normative’ in WCAG – a lot of my work this year focused around redesigning WCAG-related guidance for W3C/WAI, and part of my research showed users struggle with deciding which guidance is “required” to meet WCAG (spoiler: most of WCAG’s main text is, most other stuff isn’t)
- components and what to look for – I love component systems and feel strongly they can contribute to a more accessible web. However, the opportunity they provide is neutral: if components contain barriers, they could make the web less accessible too, so we want to use components that repeat accessibility, not inaccessibility
- I would love accessibility statements in App Stores and wrote about that
I stayed within the borders of The Netherlands for another year, with one exception: a short train ride across the Netherlands-Germany border for the first Beyond Tellerrand in 2 years.
Things I learned
Towards the end of the year I try to think about what I learned. A lot of this year’s was quite specific to myself, but these are some random learnings that might interest others:
- One aspect that makes accessibility of XR tricky is that virtual worlds usually don’t have DOM nodes like web pages do. Accessibility trees are based on DOM nodes, without those XR worlds will need some other mechanism to define accessibility meta information (more about XR Accessibility User Requirements).
- There is a standard for Epub accessibility, but none specifically for native app accessibility, eventhough some organisations in European Union Member States need their apps to be accessible since earlier this year.
- I was late to the Eleventy party, but eh, Eleventy is nice. I released two Eleventy-based projects: my books site and a starter pack for WCAG reporting using Eleventy.
- Open sourcing a thing can make it better! Months after I released my Eleventy WCAG Reporting thingy, friendly folks contributed translations into Portuguese, Finnish, German and Spanish. This is onlly a super small project, but it was nicer than not releasing it could have ever been.
- Standardising design system components, as in, make common design system needs somehow part of the web platform, is fun and useful. It could mean the world to accessibility and developer experience. It’s also hard. I am trying to contribute to some of this through Open UI CG and I learn lots in the meetings and issues.
- I found it helpful to apply at multiple companies when I looked for my next role. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, at first, but was glad I did, as it let me talk to many different companies and gave me a lot more decision points to compare towards the end of the process.
Anyway, thanks so much for reading my blog this year and sharing posts with others. It means a lot to me. I wish you the best for 2022!