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Accessibility Toronto 2019

Posted on 2019-10-30

I was able to attend #a11yToConf this year, an annual accessibility conference in Toronto, Canada. Two days of some of the most amazing talks captivated me and even almost made me cry. We were able to hear from people who are doing cool work to make the world a better place, and some of them had disabilities themselves.

My conference experience started at an event the night before the talks called “Accessible Karaoke”. Karaoke was set up in a large room with ASL interpreters, song lyrics on the big screen, and live captions for other announcements. There were also quieter spaces to talk further from all the noise. It was great to start the conference by getting to chat with brilliant people I admire.

Here are a few of my highlights from the conference, I'll try to add more links to slides and such.

HTML is not accessible by default

HTML is semantic by default. We have to use it correctly and intentionally along with other tools such as CSS, ARIA, and the API mappings provided by user agents.

Follow Scott O’Hara on Twitter

Accessibility rights are human rights and we need to fight for them in an ethical manner

These rights include participation, the right to information, security, privacy, and independence. Shakedown legal strategies are not transparent, don't include monitoring, and revolve around money, creating fear-based motivations and negative media that don't actually change the culture to benefit those who need accessibility.

Follow Lainey Feingold on Twitter

Content creators can have an impact on accessibility

Catlin Cashin talked about accessibility for content creators and how they can create good structure in their content and post accessible content on social media.

Read Accessibility Strategies for Your Content Team

Designer intent does not erase user impact

Systemic issues affect tech and perpetuate bad patterns that actively exclude others.

Follow Tatiana Mac on Twitter

User interface components are not unbiased

UI components bake in our assumptions about design and development - we create barriers to access from a systemic level.

Follow Marcy Sutton on Twitter

Garbage Pail Components - Slides

Learning from the disability community

Your biases will influence your designs and approach to accessibility. We need to work alongside the disabled community. We need to hire disabled people, test products with disabled people, and talk to disabled groups. We need to demand that disabled people have a voice.

Follow Liz Davis on Twitter

Video game accessibility

Why do video games need to be accessible - access isn’t about “basic rights” it’s about the quality of life that people with disabilities deserve - access to culture, pain management, and human connection

Follow Cherry on Twitter

Accessibility is a hydra

EJ Mason referred to accessibility work as fighting a Hydra wherein a hero would cut off one head and more grow back. They proposed ableism as the root cause and the reason we will continue to hear the same excuses over and over again when we try to advance accessibility.

Follow EJ Mason on Twitter

Cognitive Dark Patterns and Dragons

Dark patterns are patterns that are misleading or deceptive to users. Common examples for users with cognitive disabilities are autoplaying videos, misdirection in calls to action, disabled buttons, and bad error states.

Follow Shell Little on Twitter

Javascript and Accessibility have an unconventional romance

Javascript is needed for accessibility because it can enhance interactions and focus management.

Follow Lindsey Kopacz on Twitter

Slides for Javascript and Accessibility - an Unconventional Romance

Accessibility Education

Working accessibility into an organization is difficult, but finding friends and allies, documenting work, assembling resources, and meeting people where they are at are all ways to advance the work. Accessibility needs to be integrated into processes and systems in order for it to work.

Follow Devon Persing on Twitter

Try the Focus-Orderer Figma Plugin

Being intentional with our inclusion

We need to include people with disabilities and let them know their participation is valued, not just tolerated or accommodated.

Follow Derek Featherstone on Twitter

Other people's write ups

Lainey Feingold

Adrian Roselli

Web Axe Blog


The conference had a high presence on Twitter. You can also check out the hashtag #a11yToConf on Twitter to see all the live-tweeted thoughts from the conference. You can diversify who you follow and what those people are talking about by following some of the people I linked in this post.

A few of my tweets: