Skip to content Todd Libby

Anna E. Cook


Todd Libby: Welcome to season two of the Front End Nerdery Podcast, a podcast about front end development and design. I'm your host Todd Libby. My guest today is senior accessibility designer, Anna E. Cook. You may know Anna from, yeah, Twitter and tweets about accessibility in design, her terrific talks at conferences you may have attended virtually, and her pension for ketchup.
Anna, how are you doing today?
Anna E. Cook: I'm doing great. How are you?
Todd: I'm well, thank you. So could you tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Anna: Yeah, absolutely. So as Todd mentioned, I'm a senior accessibility designer. I started that role officially in May of 2021, which is, what eight or nine months ago now.
And I, before that was a designer who chose to specialize in accessibility, and advocate for accessibility practices and design orgs, and in tech works, like, so I've been doing that for a while now. I'm a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder focusing on specifically inclusive design as well as really specializing in, accessibility and design, no surprises there.
And I guess, you know, right now I'm working on a book, on accessibility and design. I stay on brand obviously, but, besides that, you know, in my free time I play video games, I'm really into game accessibility too. I've got two cats and, usually I'm hiking around Boulder and Colorado a little bit.
Todd: Okay. So, well, let's jump right into the questions, shall we? How did you get started in your web development design journey?
Anna: I think for me, When I really started out, I was doing things like posting on Myspace. Right? And, and, you know, I used to use this thing called Gaia online, which I don't know if you've heard of that?
Todd: Yes
Anna: I used to, you know, like I, I write my little terrible markup and, in my posts, and I, you know, make my pages look as emo as possible. And, you know, I was back then, I would use things like, in design, on the school paper, I was really familiar with Photoshop to do all the things I was doing back then, which were, you know, inexplicably terrible designs, but still designs.
And so, I was really lucky. My school, my high school offered a design course, and I didn't realize that I was interested in design until I took that course. And that kind of set me on this path. And that's been, I started that, you know, I started focusing on this really when I was 17.
I got my first designer job when I was 20 and that's going to be about 10 years in a few months. And so, it, it's something that I really enjoy because it's this really cool intersection between, or at least at the time, I thought of it as an intersection between art and technology. And, and now I've come to see of it as more of like a possibility and equalizer of a place that can provide equity if we choose to let it do so.
Todd: Okay, great. I remember Gaia Online. I didn't have any experience with that, but I had several friends that, had something to do with that. Myspace was a thing. Yeah. I remember putting up very bad Myspace pages back in, back in the day as well. So, from there, what are you finding today? As, you know, in your, in your everyday work accessibility wise, that you may come across, that needs to be, improved upon?
Anna: Oh goodness. How much time do you have? I mean, as a designer, my perspective is going to be a little bit different. You know, I mentioned this earlier, but I started out as just a designer and then I chose this specialty.
And, and so that's my perspective, you know, in the organization I'm in, I help folks’ kind of make their work more accessible, like train them up.
We figure out ways we can like look at our design work and make sure that we're actually considering accessibility. And how that might be integrated into design. And I think, you know, I knew this going into, at every role, especially early on when I was learning about design and accessibility, but designers are generally quite under-prepared to discuss accessibility.
And I think that's a huge problem because so many decisions are being made in our product management and design teams that can’t be undone by development. That can't be undone by QA. And so, my, you know, my biggest sticking point right now is to get our community as designers on a level playing field because education wise, we didn't get that.
And I know that that there's been gaps in front end education too, but it's just, I think accessibility in design is, is way far behind. We don't use semantic, you know, we don't think about semantic code and how that can work in our design. We are constantly reinventing the wheel, with things that we could use semantic code for.
We're not thinking through the types of users that are, you know, and I'm going on, forgive me, but we're not thinking for users who have disabilities. We're not thinking through what a screen reader experience is like, what a keyboard only experience is like and many of us don't even know what that means right now.
So, I think, you know, my biggest sticking point again, is getting designers trained on the basics and then finding ways to really enhance experiences across the board.
Todd: Yeah, that’s, I re—so this brings me what you said brings me back to, when I first started out. A long time ago, when I was doing design work and I think back to, you know, how, how much did I put out there that was inaccessible?
Or, and you know, and hindsight's 2020. And I, and I remember that now because you know that going forward for me anyways, that helps me remember. Oh, you remember that time? Make sure not to repeat that. You know, the biggest thing with me lately is color contrast. So that's, you know, that's the big thing. So,
Anna: Well, that’s the hot topic right now.
Todd: That certainly is. So as, as far as you know, us, everybody as a community, do you think that we're and I don't want to, you know, be all doom and gloom about it, but are we failing as far as design and accessibility goes or are we on the verge of, you know, failing with, you know, you know, that we don't have the education piece, you know, and that's, that's the big thing with me is I—I've never seen the, the education piece, as far as boot camps don't provide education, you know, university do doesn't provide education as far as I—I've seen, I haven't seen that, but you know, how is that in, in your opinion?
Anna: Yeah, I think, well a couple of things to kind of touch on here. Are we failing? I would say compared to designers of the past there's a lot of ways that we're doing things better. And then there’s also a lot of ways we’re not really thinking about it. Like, you know, the whole Bitcoin NFT space.
I know they're just going to be about 10,000 different things that are problematic there. And it's not even just because of the nature of them being crypto and blockchain, but because, you know, spaces like that tend to be a breeding ground for inaccessible and inequitable design decisions.
And that's not, again, hope the crypto fan club doesn't come at me for that. I'm just saying that that's a common trend.
Todd: Right
Anna: So, are we failing? I think, you know, I'd like to say I'm optimistic, but I also know when you're, when you're doing this work and I'm sure you understand this very well too.
Sometimes it can be, it can feel like you're just looking at a tidal wave of things that need to be addressed. And so, I am optimistic. I know there's a lot of people who want this, who want to be better at accessibility in their practice. But it's going to take a lot of work to get there. In terms of accessibility education for designers, I did a, I did a talk, and I'm doing a talk on this actually for axe-con in a few months.
Why we need more accessibility designers. And in the talk, I talk, I talk and I'm talking a lot now, but I talk about how design education has pretty big gaps in terms of accessibility. And as you touched on, right with boot camps and higher education. In a survey that I pulled, and I can, happy to send the reference here.
I believe it was around 50% of higher education institutions identified teaching accessibility in their HCI human computer interaction programs. But I always, like when I look at that information, I was like, what does that mean though? Like when you say you teach accessibility, are you just saying accessibility is important?
Like so many of us do and leaving, you know, the details out or are you actually building a robust curriculum with accessibility baked in? So those are the questions that I kind of have.
Todd: Yeah. So on, on that, do you think that accessibility is, and I have my own opinion on this. Do you think accessibility is undervalued?
Anna: Well, of course, yes. I mean, It's, it's just a huge social issue and it digs in so much deeper than digital accessibility, you know? It's goodness. It's. We always assume. Right? That accessibility is an edge case. We assume that, and we refer to people as edge cases, but people are not edge cases. And particularly when it comes to disability, when 26% of the American population has a disability, according to the CDC, as of 2019, that's even really before COVID, you know, affected us.
Well, when we look at things like that, that's one in four people. It's not, people are not edge cases and even if they could be in this case, they would not be. And so, if accessibility is designed to make sure that experiences are working for disabled people and with disabled people, then I think it's hugely undervalued in so many circumstances, not even just in our context, like educational institutions, work environment and things like that.
It's, it's pretty systemic.
Todd: Yeah. Yeah. Cause I know, you know, and I, I have the same feeling as you know, as you do that, you know, when we look on Twitter, and we see an image that doesn't have all text
Anna: So many
Todd: or, you know, the latest example for me was, it was an image on Instagram that had a great background, but it had a lighter gray font on it that it ended up being, and of course me, I instantly go to the color contrast checker. It had a 1, 1.35 to one ratio and it's like, you know, okay, it's, it's frustrating.
And I, and I look at this and I say, well, they don't, they don't value accessibility. They don't, you know, I guess because lately I've been thinking a lot more of the people that we, you know, either advocate for who we create things for. You know, we've seen developers that don't take into consideration the users and they're designing or developing for themselves.
Oh, it works on my machine. That kind of thing. So that, you know, that's, that's why I asked.
So, with that being said, how do we, as you know, you and I, and everybody else set advocates, how do we, if people are listening that that want to know or don't know, how do we start advocating, in a proactive kind of manner for that for accessibility?
Anna: I think, you know, everybody has different approaches for this.
And, you know, I think that the beauty of the accessibility community is that we see different people have those different approaches and that different approaches work better in different contexts. So, but you know, like, like certain organizations they'll bring in folks who have disabilities to do testing and have their product teams see, you know, or, or watch, you know, what is happening with those users so that they can understand just how deeply impactful those barriers can be.
And you know that firsthand interaction, I think is one of the core parts of advocacy, advocacy, excuse me. But then like, well, how do you get to the point where you can actually get somebody in the room, right?
To have those conversations and do testing because so many organizations are struggling with user testing as it is. And so, I think, you know, the way, and I, I won't say that I've had a perfect approach because I can't say any approach is perfect.
Todd: Yeah
Anna: But I try to emphasize being persistent and constant and yes, as kind as possible. Though it can, you know, it can be hard, because especially if you have disabilities and the, you know, the disabilities you have are being affected by these contexts, it can be difficult to hear somebody be like, well, we don't have users like this and you're like, I am right here, thank you very much. But
Todd: Yeah
Anna: you know, I the constant reminders, right? Going okay. did we check this? Did we check this? Did we do this? And starting to really show them that it can be baked in and that there are ways to work through these problems the way that we work through all design problems,
And so, I think that's what I've seen work best for me is just to be, as I heard Soren Hamby I think that's their full name Soren Hamby put it, I'm the Jiminy Cricket of accessibility, you know, you you're just there and you remind them and you be patient and you be kind because
Todd: Yeah
Anna: there's going to be endless conversations like that.
Todd: Yeah, yeah. So I want to swing around here to, you have you mentioned it earlier, a conference talk coming up at axe-con. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Anna: Yeah. So the talk is called why we need more accessibility designers and, and I think, you know, it's something I put together in part, because I kept getting these requests, you know, people being like, we need somebody like you, and we need more people on our team that can do this.
Can you show us who else is able to do this? Or can you do this work for us? And as I, you know, as you probably gathered at the beginning, I, I'm pretty busy as it is and so, the answer for me is like, I can't, I can't help you. I'm sorry. And, the problem is that, you know, I want these organizations to have accessibility designers, but designers aren't trained up and they're not ready.
And so we need people to, we need designers to really understand that there are places that are going to want them to do this work. Whether it be by official title like I'm doing now or in the capacity of their work as a designer in general. And so I really want to have my community understand, as designers, you know, what this can look like and how this can be integrated in our practice so that individuals and organizations can start creating roles like mine and training people to do the work I do.
Not that I don't like being super special and, you know, having that, that, work come my way, but it, it needs to be more than just a small collective of people. It needs to be a lot of designers. And, so in that talk, I talk about education and the gaps. I talk about, what happens in our work and how we can make it more accessible and what an accessibility designer does.
And, you know, I think the thing I'll quote here in regards to accessibility designers and something Matt May says, we need a lot of people who know a bit about it, accessibility, about accessibility and a few people who know a lot about accessibility. Did I say that right? I think I did. Basically we need specialists in these roles. We need people to be able to rise to the occasion.
Todd: Yeah, so this is going to sound well, how do we get more people to become accessibility designers is what I’ll ask?
Anna: I think my hope is that we will start creating more dedicated training programs, not just institutions, but you know, by people who are leading in accessibility industry right now, to help designers understand how to integrate this into our practice.
And I, I think that is a starting point where it will help a lot of folks because right now, a lot of accessibility, digital accessibility education is really front end and QA focused. And that's not a bad thing. It's just that the designers are a little bit confused and collectively, it's kind of like we have to kind of dig through things to figure out what exactly applies.
So I think as a community, the accessibility, the existing accessibility community, will hopefully be able to come together and provide some of those resources, more of those resources. So that designers aren’t left kind of trying to figure it out. Like I felt like I had to kind of figure it out.
So that's, I think that's what I want it, that's what I would say. And then hopefully organizations actually create these jobs and create, you know, the resources to train folks up.
Todd: Yeah, yep, definitely agree with you there. So, I, I read a little, you know, I went on Deque’s website and checked out the schedule for axe-con, and I think is where I read a part of why I have this next question, which is why do accessibility issues fall back on designers and QA people? Now, I know the answer to that because I actually am going through an audit right now where I am actually, you know, handing it back to a QA person.
But I'm not the designer, of course. I'm the engineer on this. I have been dealing with designers on, for instance, looking over a Figma design for instance, and, you know, noticing, okay, this needs to change. This color contrast needs to be, you know, more than what you have.
So why do accessibility issues fall back on designers and QA people?
Anna: Well, I mean, there are some things that developers can adjust and fix with code, but there are plenty of things that they cannot fix with code.
Todd: Right
Anna: And we can't tack on ARIA labels to bad copy. You know, we can't, I mean we can, but we, you know, how many times are we going to do that until we realize we can just make the label itself on the input clear. You know, how many times do we need to, you know, as designers, you know, gosh, I just got tongue tied there.
The point I'm trying to get at, sorry, is, you know, there are many accessibility issues that developers just can't fix without coming back to designers and saying, hey, like, can we adjust this?
Todd: Right
Anna: Because otherwise they're going to push it to QA. And then designers are going to be like this isn't what I gave you.
Todd: Right
Anna: And so then you'll end up with this constant back and forth and who's, who's supposed to be making the decision here. Well, the designer should have made that decision and they should have talked with the developer about it and it shouldn't have been coming up in QA. It should have been happening in the design official design phase.
And, you know, there's more than things thing, like copy there's of course color contrast there's things like, like my blinking header structure. There's things
Todd: Right
Anna: like, interaction design concepts, right? What happens on focus? What's the, what's the focus flow. What's the reading order. All of those things
Todd: Yep
Anna: they do live in design. Whether we, we as a community have acknowledged it or not.
Todd: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And that just jogs something in my memory. And now, boom, it's gone.
Anna: Oh, I understand.
Todd: So I'll just ask the next question. Cause I have no idea what I was going to add to that.
Anna: If you remember you just bring it up.
Todd: I will. So how can we improve in, you know, having designers, well, I'll go say, I'll just say with designers, how can we improve on getting designers to understand accessibility more?
Anna: I think, I mean, there's a lot that needs to happen, but I think some of the first things we should be doing is ethnicizing accessibility in our design thinking. I think, you know, designers are really prepared to talk about color contrast.
It's so much so that they're ready to use the next hottest tool already, but, but there's so much more to the work that we do then color contrast.
Todd: Yep
Anna: And a lot of those considerations live in our design thinking as it is. So, you know, how are we thinking through these problems? What are the structures and the semantics that we're putting together?
And I mean, semantics like taxonomy and structure and flow. What are the things we're thinking through there and how are those things supposed to be, you know, accessible? And those aren't always the easy questions to answer, but they're, they're design, that's, that's design in essence. It's like that for all users.
It's not like accessibility introduces something more complex than what is already existing in design, because we deal with wicked problems every day. And so, I think the biggest thing is to really start getting designers to understand that our users can look many different ways. It can be many different types of people. And the people, you know, we're not averages. We are, we are none of us are an average body. None of us are in average mind.
We are all unique and varied because we are people and that is our nature. And that's not even some feel-good thing. It's, you know, it's actually studied. Bodies are buried. We there's a whole us air force study on this as well that I could talk about for 7,000 more hours.
Then my dad, he really liked that story. He was like, oh wow. And I told my grandpa about it cause he used to be a pilot. But anyway, that was over the holidays. They really enjoyed those ones. But I want designers, I think the biggest thing is to really change their way of thinking about users and to think about solving for one.
A core user who has a disability and extending to many through that process as Microsoft outlines in their guidelines and really thinking through those people, their needs with them, not just for them. If that makes sense.
Todd: Yep
Anna: I feel like I'm rambling.
Todd: No, no, absolutely not that, great stuff here. So now I remembered what I was going to say.
Anna: Oh, here we go.
Todd: earlier. So, the art and it's kind of its, it's not, I'm not pitching anything here, but the article I wrote on Smashing Magazine, you had said something that reminded me of that. When I wrote, we need to have an accessibility champion in every department in the organization, which would help with the education.
And, and this was the, the piece that I was trying to remember, was the education through, you know, one person has that knowledge in each department, in the design department, in the marketing department, even in QA, you know, development, et cetera. And if we have that, you know, we have those people get together and then that spreads, I think that's one way to have cohesiveness through an organization.
And how important do you think it is and, you know, feel free to add anything on top of that. How important do you think it is to have those people in those departments or, you know, in the organizations?
Anna: Oh, I totally agree with that. And I liked that article by the way. I do share it with people.
Todd: Thank you.
Anna: The, I think, if we don't have people in those roles, a couple of things are going to happen, right. If we only have a couple of accessibility advocates and they're just overseeing the entire organization, what can happen is one, you know, people accessibility subject matter experts will know things, but they can't possibly know everything about every practice.
I just, it's not a, I mean, I might be biased here, but I don't think it's a fair expectation to have of anybody. And so having, you know, an accessibility expert, who's in design, who's in front end, who is in QA, who is, you know, in our project management product management side. Excuse me. At least having that as a starting point will make sure that we have people who are able to answer questions that are really relevant to the specific audience they're working with rather than having somebody who is broadly speaking, able to answer some questions, but isn't always able to understand the context of those questions.
And then, of course, if you only have a couple in the entire organization, the first thing that's going to happen is your team's going to get burnt out and they will struggle. It's, it's hard, you know, the work we do as I'm sure, you know, it can be really a lot, especially if you're doing it throughout an entire organization.
And so, you wouldn't ask, you know, you wouldn't ask two designers to design an entire five product organization, customer service organization, or something like that. You would have designers embedded in teams so that they could actually focus on those subjects. So, the, the long story short before I go on, is that I totally agree.
And even like, you know, as a part of the work I do, I'm hoping to create, you know, more of a guild structure so that designers within different product teams can come and work together and the same should happen with development and QA so that we can come together, notice the trends and an acknowledged them collectively instead of in segments.
Todd: Yeah, totally agree on that. So, when I was reading the form, I had you fill out something, caught my eye. And I think I had read this before somewhere, maybe not, but I am very interested in the accessibility for designers book that was mentioned. So, what can you tell us about that?
Anna: Well, it's still early. I've written, I have 8, 9, 10 chapters out that are not out, not ready to read, but they're ready to be edited.
And the hope is that it's going to be released in September of this year. Oh, my goodness. I have to get to work. But in this book, I hope to address some of those design thinking challenges and then give designers the ability to start reframing the way they look at their practice and then using that in their workflows.
And so, that's, you know, that's what we're looking at for the book. I do have, you know, I can't, I don't, I don't know how much I'm allowed to talk about in terms of who's editing it, but I have some really exciting editors. I have a co-author, who I'm super jazzed about as well. And, there's a lot of work to be done still, but, you know, I think one thing I talk about in this book that I'm really interested in discussing more, and I'm excited to see what people think, but it's a concept, you know, designers call and not just designers, but you know, we call affordances. And the concept of an affordance is that when we have an object or a material that the material has a certain quality that assumes a certain capability.
And so, my hope in this book is to actually reframe a very old design practice of using affordance and thinking about how an object might be different for different types of people and how that object cannot afford the same type of interaction for different types of people. And so affordances as they are very, I’m getting really, heady, what's the word I'm looking for, philosophical.
But it's, I believe James Gibson originated the term and it's, I want, I really want to reframe design thinking in our entire community and I want to take affordances and kind of turn them over and say, okay, what does this object mean to you? And then what does this object mean to somebody who is blind?
What does this object mean to somebody who's in a wheelchair? Because the assumed affordance of an object it means a very different thing to a different person. These are my glasses. That's the object I was referring to for some reason. But I hope I, I don't know that sounds really in my, philosophical, we also have a workbook we’re putting together for certain components and things like that.
Todd: Okay.
Anna: So, there's, there's a lot that's going to be in there. I'm certainly not one for brevity as you have noticed, probably.
Todd: No, that's great stuff. I will be keeping an eye out for that, because I'm always looking to one, not only fill my library of books, but two is, learn, you know, by osmosis. So, I, I will definitely keep my eye out for that for sure.
Anna: Thank you.
Todd: September sounds, sounds, it, it, it seems like it was just September, a little while ago and it was, but it just seemed like it was September, maybe a couple of months ago, but anyways,
Anna: Ten thousand years ago, and a few months ago.
Todd: Yeah, yeah. So, the last question I have before I get to the final three questions is something that also piqued my curiosity is tell me about riding Japanese sports motorcycles?
Anna: It’s, I always like, including that fun fact, because people never expect it from me, you know?
And I remember last year I mentioned it during an all hands and the VP of sales was like, excuse me? You? Ride? And, you know, I, right now I don't have a motorcycle because, I just, I don't have the space and I don't have the time to ride, but I've been riding since I was 14. And I mean, like, you know, not like without my mother's permission.
In fact, she was the one who taught me.
Todd: Okay.
Anna: And so, you know, when I turned 18, like the first thing I did was get a motorcycle license and, you know, get a motorcycle. And so, I had a Kawasaki Ninja 250.
Todd: Okay.
Anna: I had two of those, actually over the course of however many years and, I really enjoyed writing quite a lot.
So, I'm hoping to get back into it when, you know, when I actually have the capacity to have some fun again.
Todd: Yeah.
Anna: But, but yeah, it's, I mean, it's, it's dangerous. My mom wouldn't of course, let me go out without wearing 10,000 pounds of gear and helmets,
Todd: Yeah.
Anna: duct tape. Like I was like that kid from the Christmas story, you know, like going out, but, but,
Todd: Yup.
Anna: you know, it's, it's certainly something that, it's more beautiful than you might think, riding up a motorcycle in the Rocky Mountains in Fall. I'll just say that.
Todd: Yeah, just a, a sidebar. I took when, many drives, many cross-country drives. I have gone through Colorado, and of course Rocky Mountains also. And there’s beautiful scenery out there. I'd love to get on a bike, motorcycle, bicycle, whatever, and just trek through there.
It's very, very, beautiful and scenic out there. I didn't do a lot of riding back in the day. I was very reckless as a young whippersnapper. So
Anna: Did you ride?
Todd: I, I did a little bit. I did, the, the Ninja was one of them. I didn't personally have a bike, but I knew people that had bikes, multiple bikes, and they were always willing to let me ride one.
Ninjas were one of those, one of those bikes. I had a guy I knew that had an Interceptor. And I got on it and it was probably one of the, it was the, one of the higher end models and I just remember giving it a little bit of gas. I went off the back and the bike went the other way. So,
Anna: Oh gosh.
Todd: and, and back then anyways, I was six five and about, I don't know, 150 pounds soaking wet. So, it was real easy for me to go this way and then the bike to go that way. So
Anna: It's, you know, it's actually kind of funny now that you mentioned it, you kind of brought another inclusive design consideration to mind. You know, I'm five one. If I'm on my tippy toes, and so motorcycles aren't really built for, you know, they're not really well, or haven't traditionally been built for women and they haven't really definitely been built for somebody as small as me.
And so, every motorcycle I've had, I've had to customize it so that like shave that seat down
Todd: Yeah.
Anna: and make it work for me. And so, I don't know, there's a lot of, stuff like that that I wish were a little bit different too. I don't want like, like, I don't know, a Triumph, I want like, you know, the, the, the Kawasaki.
I want like the real, I don't know. Not,
Todd: Yeah
Anna: not to hate on the Triumphs but, anyways
Todd: Well, I tell you what, I'll take a, a, an Indian at any time. Riding an Indian is one of my favorite things to do. I would love to get my, I would either love to ride an older, like twenties or thirties model at some point, which is on my bucket list, or this is probably never happened, but own one.
But anyways, so as we get down here in time, I, love to ask these three questions to my guests. And they're, you know, really easy, you can go into detail if you'd like. One, a one word answers are fine as well. So, the first one is, what about the web these days excites you and keeps you excited in what you do?
Anna: Well, I think what excites me most about the web, and let me think here. What excites me most is how adaptable interfaces are becoming. And I think they were always adaptable, but it's, you know, I think it changes as a designer, you know, it changes how we should be thinking about design because you know, suddenly our, our button color contrast, which is important, suddenly somebody's out there changing everything as they wish, you know,
Todd: Yeah
Anna: and the, you know, what we need to do is find ways to support that. And so, there's something really pure to me about that in, in that we can look at really in depth user experience and not just continually look at the UI over and over again and go, we plastered some new colors and fonts on there.
It's a brand new product, you know, and, and like, really look at the problems because I feel like those are some over the past 10 years, sometimes it feels like we've gotten so interface focused that we've forgotten the core of our user experience practice. And sometimes, and God, I sound like an old person.
I'm like those whippersnappers only care about the UI and the UI is important. Don't get me wrong. But there's things like, you know, dark mode, for example, and those types of adaptable interfaces not only are important for accessibility, but they're important for broader inclusivity. And we can look at them and start to realize that if we think about the adaptive interfaces, we can really create experiences that are inclusive.
Not just to people who have government recognized disabilities or, you know, official disabilities, but people who are neuro-diverse and people who are, have migraines, people who are like myself, people who sometimes,
Todd: Yep
Anna: you know, are more comfortable in certain situations looking at an interface through, or experiencing an interface through a screen reader, even though they may not be blind or low vision. So that's what really excites me right now. I know it should be like web three or crypto or Bitcoin or NFTs, but it's not. And I
Todd: Yeah
Anna: I dunno, it's not that it's not cool stuff. It's just, there's plenty of other people to be excited about those things for me, I'm sure.
Todd: Yeah. Yeah. I could, I, I felt that statement when you said migraine sufferers because I am one of those people, myself. I had a bout, last, maybe last week. Yeah. I think it was towards the tail end of last week that, yeah, I, I get that.
And dark mode is my friend. Let's just say that. So, the next question is, if there were one thing you could change about the web that we know today, what would that be?
Anna: Oh, what would I change about the web that we know today? Well, let me think for a second.
I have a spicy answer,
Todd: Okay
Anna: I suppose. I think the thing I've been wishing were happening in the web right now is that people who have traditionally been less empowered to make decisions about web experiences and digital experiences be more empowered. Like I've seen enough of Zuckerberg. I've seen enough of Dorsey.
I've seen enough of these tech guys, you know, they've done enough. And that's not to say, like, I don't know. I can't just be like, get out you're retiring kid, but like, I wish that the web was a more equitable place
Todd: Yeah
Anna: and that it wasn't just sustaining existing power structures because right now the way I see it, I see it as a lot of the perpetuation of existing systemic issues. And the web was supposed to be a place. Right. They wanted it to be a place that could be free.
Todd: Yes
Anna: That's not free in the way that you like, like you're, you're, like a wild west. I don't know how to describe it, but like truly equitable.
Todd: Yeah
Anna: That was the goal. And right now, I don't see that right now. I see a lot of money and a lot of power and
Todd: Yep
Anna: I don't know. It's, it's a hard one. I don't know how we'd fix it, but I, I, I have ideas.
Todd: Yeah, no, totally agree. And that's not the first person who has, you're not the first person who has said that, by the way.
Anna: Oh really? Good.
Todd: Yes. I, I, I ask that because I've had a wide range of answers and that, you know, not, I, I haven't had that many episodes of the podcast, but a few people have, have said that, so. Which I totally agree with. Less, less people that look like me and more people that aren't, you know, Zuckerberg, Dorsey the names that you mentioned more, you know, you know, Tim Berners-Lee, you know, the web is for everybody and, and like you, I don't feel, and I don't see that it is. I mean, we could string, we could we come back to access accessibility and say, okay, well, if the web is for everybody, then why can't people in this certain rural location get internet on their 3g phone because they can't upgrade to a better phone or the newest phone or the newest tablets, or, you know, buy a $6,000 MacBook. You know,
Anna: It's, it's so true, you know, it, it's like, I, I don't know how to put it, there’s, I mentioned this on Twitter earlier today, and somebody else apparently mentioned it on Twitter yesterday that I think it'd be good for the tech community to start coming together and start asking for these things from it. It shouldn't come down to individual companies to decide to be ethical or inclusive. It needs to be industry wide, and it needs to be something that doesn't, isn't being forced on individual contributors to do against huge power structures that are existing.
Like those that have been perpetuated by, Zuckerberg, Dorsey and other systems of power in tech. So, but then, you know, I start getting into my, somebody going to hear this one day and they'll be like, wow, she's really, you know, sorry about unions probably right now, but you know, I, I think things need to change.
Todd: Yeah, they do. And maybe we do need unions in tech because I had a matter of fact, speaking of unions in tech, I've had Mike Montero on and, you know
Anna: He talks about that
Todd: He certainly does. So, yeah. The last question, is what is your favorite part of front end development or design that you really liked the most that you nerd out over?
Anna: Okay. I, I think, I mean, it's definitely accessibility. And I, I know that that's the obvious answer because that's my job, but like, it's, you know, it's, to me, it's like, really thinking through a problem in a completely different way than I was taught to. And I've learned so much. Like today right before we joined, I was tweet, tweeting about this cause I can't stop tweeting apparently.
But I, I was looking at a design and reviewing it and I, there was like 10 things I noticed right off the bat that I was like, oh, this should be addressed. And I didn't used to be able to do that. And so, it's just really cool to be able to start looking at little things and starting to change things.
But I just really enjoy hearing the perspectives of people who are systemically marginalized in ways that I am not. And I mean, I don't want, I don't want to hear bad things, but I want to hear them so I can change things as much as I can.
Todd: Yeah
Anna: And accessibility is a big part of that. I don't know, you know, I don't want to have like a hero complex. But it'd be good to do something good with this life. I think it feels like that's a good thing, you know?
Todd: Yeah. Definitely. So that is all I have for questions. And so, at this point, I like to close out the podcast with my guests, letting the listeners know what they currently have going on and where people can find you.
So, I will hand the reins over to you.
Anna: Yeah. Well, if you'd like to get in touch with me or, you know, connect with me in any way, you can find me on Twitter @AnnaECook, E as in echo. And then you can find me on LinkedIn at the same name and Medium with the same name. I am very online; I can't help it.
Yeah. I live alone. We're still in a pandemic.
Todd: Yeah
Anna: So, you can reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn pretty easily. My website is If you want to look at that. Though, I want to update that too. So, one day. And that's where you can find me online.
Todd: Great. I will make sure everything that, you know, we've referred to are in the show notes for the episode. And Anna, I want to thank you very much for spending time with me today and coming on and talking accessibility because I think that we need to talk more about it.
Anna: Well, thank you for having me Todd. I don't think I've ever gotten to meet you in person before, so thank you.
Todd: We haven't. Well, you're welcome. And thank you. No, we haven't. Just, I think it was, it's been just Twitter. This is our actual first meeting, quote unquote, but, no, I, I have enjoyed every minute of our conversation today and I'm looking forward to that book and that conference talk coming up soon.
So, thank you again.
Anna: Thank you.
Todd: Thank you listeners for tuning in to the Front End Nerdery Podcast. I'll be back next time with a new guest, new conversation about front-end design, development and other topics. If you would please rate this podcast on your podcast, device of choice, like, subscribe and watch on the Front End Nerdery YouTube channel. Links to transcripts and show notes are there.
I'm Todd Libby, and this has been the Front End Nerdery Podcast. Thanks. And we'll see you next time.