Skip to content Todd Libby

Rachele DiTullio


[00:00:00] Todd Libby: Welcome to the Front End Nerdery Podcast, a podcast about front end development and design. I'm your host Todd Libby. My guest today is accessibility engineer, speaker, and black belt in Taekwondo. So don't mess with, don't mess with, Rachele it's Rachele DiTullio. Did I get that right? I hope I did.
[00:00:21] Rachele DiTullio: Yep, that’s perfect.
[00:00:22] Todd: Okay. All right, Rachele, how are you doing today?
[00:00:25] Rachele: I’m doing pretty well. How are you doing?
[00:00:27] Todd: I'm doing good. Never mind the other stuff we talked about before, before I recorded. How about, would you tell, the listeners a little bit about yourself?
[00:00:35] Rachele: Sure. Like you said, my name's Rachele DiTullio.
My first name is spelled R A C H E L E. In case anyone's looking that up. I started out as a front end engineer, developer, web developer, back in 2000. You know, there wasn't, there wasn't really much to study academically, about web development at that point. So, it's, it was a passion of mine throughout college, kind of taught myself, basic web development.
And that's what I went into as a profession. After, after a few years, I decided to go to graduate school while I was working full-time to pursue, a master's degree in information science, with a specialization in user experience design. And that's where I really, started to hone my interest in accessibility and usability.
And after, after finishing, grad school, I was able to, to start applying some of those concepts in my job and doing more and more sort of self-learning on the internet about accessibility and, and those concepts. Couple years ago, I decided to pursue the web accessibility certification, through IAAP.
So, I got that one first and then I got the CPACC certification. And with both of those, I decided to apply for accessibility engineering jobs. And I've been doing that for almost a year now, exclusively. Moving from being a, a software developer to accessibility engineer.
[00:01:54] Todd: Nice. I am actually looking into; I think the first one I'm going to do is the trusted tester.
[00:02:02] Rachele: Oh, nice. Yeah.
[00:02:03] Todd: And then go for the CPACC and the, the WAS, not sure. I'm so indecisive, changes day to day. So, first question I like to ask everybody is how did you get started in your web development design journey?
[00:02:19] Rachele: Yeah, I, you know, it was in the late nineties and, a friend of mine showed me the internet outside of a dialup service.
And, when I found out what the real internet was and the real web was, I, I was immediately entranced and wanted to, to learn how to do my own pages, have my own, you know, there weren't blogs per se at the time, but you know, my own space on the internet to, put up whatever I wanted.
So just the, the openness, the, the fact that, that anybody really could put something online, really drew my attention.
I thought that was great. A great way to just share with the world without any, you know, filters or sensors, essentially. You could just put what you wanted out there at the thought that was great.
[00:03:01] Todd: Yeah. Yeah. That's pretty similar to how I started, like, don't remember which one it was first, but, you know, GeoCities, Angelfire, Tripod.
[00:03:13] Rachele: Yeah. Mine was GeoCities.
[00:03:14] Todd: Yeah, I think mine was GeoCities, but you know, there, I just, you know, when I found out, you know, when I could get online and then found out, oh, wow, I can make my own stuff and put it online. I just, you know, I had to, I had to get a site on every one of those platforms. So, so yeah. Let's talk accessibility because it’s what we do, first of all, and second of all, there's a lot going on I see, on Twitter lately.
[00:03:52] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:03:52] Todd: What are you finding? And I, and I've asked this of a few people that have had on before, but what are you finding that you come across day to day that is the, I guess, issue that stands out, that you see the most when you're doing, an audit or,
[00:04:10] Rachele: Sure
[00:04:10] Todd: you know, day to day routine?
[00:04:14] Rachele: Yeah. So I've been doing a combination of, you know, regular website audits, but also gotten into some mobile testing, whether that's, a native app or using some kind of web view in a, in a mobile app and what I've come across a lot, are you know, usually controls that don't have an accessible name or the accessible name doesn't match the label, which, is oftentimes kind of a blocker.
Because if a user doesn't understand what, what a control does, they don't know when to use it or how to use it. So yeah, probably a combination of the lack of accessible name and also particularly in mobile for some reason, controls not having the correct role. So not identifying themselves as buttons, or, you know, a disclosure widget or something, you know, some kind of control, even, you know, they want the concept of radio buttons, but it's not quite marked up as radio buttons.
You know, it's, it's marked up as three separate buttons.
[00:05:14] Todd: Yeah
[00:05:14] Rachele: Like actual buttons instead of radio buttons. So, you, you, you don't get the sense of like how many are there and which one is selected and that kind of thing. So, a lot of that four one two stuff I think, I think a lot of us come across. And for me, that's particularly interesting.
I, I find it, I find it interesting, the pieces of the interface that are beyond the UI that are programmatically defining, you know, what, controls are, what, what things are named. Because I think, you know, it's, if you just stop with the UI and you're only concerned with how it looks, you're really missing out on a large part of the functionality of, of an interface.
And, you know, whether that's having a UI, that's just entering texts, like a console line, kind of interaction, or, you know, having to use something like a screen reader. You know, you really benefit if you have those controls marked up correctly.
[00:06:11] Todd: I did a, yeah, I guess I did an audit a while ago, I think, well, last year, seems like a while ago. Controls were one of the big problems with that. The labeling. I even had fun with orientation in
[00:06:30] Rachele: Oh yeah
[00:06:30] Todd: reflow and all that good stuff that comes along with it. So, yeah. I, I, I understand and hear you on that one.
So, I I've talked about this before, but how, what's your thoughts on how, and I, I don't like to, you know, try to guess, but, what's your thoughts on how important accessibility is to user experience?
[00:07:00] Rachele: That's a really good question. I think a lot about that, kind of relationship between usability and accessibility, where does one end, where does one start?
And because that's kind of a blurry line, but there are definitely things where, you know, we come across them and we think, oh, this might be a bad user experience, but it doesn't necessarily technically, violate WCAG. Right? So, we have a lot of those situations, but I, I think if you are following WCAG, you know, to some extent, I mean, that's, that's tremendously important in, in guiding you to, an accessible endpoint.
If you are not looking at those requirements and how to apply them in the design and development, part of the process, you're gonna end up in QA with something that's inaccessible and difficult to fix. So, yeah, I think, I think it's tremendously important and I think, you know, for as much, lip services UX gets, in meetings, I think accessibility, you know, could get some more talking points at, you know, what, when I, I came from a large software company, working on, you know, one product for many years, and it was just very difficult to get, you know, people on board with accessibility.
You know, I, I tried, I tried all the things, you know, empathy and, you know, it's the right thing to do and legal matters. But you know, when it, it comes to the, when it really comes down to it, you need a champion internally. I think if, if you're someone who's working at a corporation that is big and has many, maybe multiple projects, not just software that the company is developing, but perhaps things that you're deploying, and doing DevOps on that, if you don't have that accessibility mind space, then you're gonna run into problems, trying, trying to get up to speed or getting that, you know, accessible and, and workable, whether that's because you got sued or you, you know, you just, you end up having a, that executive level champion that, that wants to, to do the right thing and, and make things accessible.
It it's hugely important. So, I, I would really encourage you to, you know, if, if you're in a situation like that at a company where you're having some, you know, push back on, making things accessible. Look for that champion, talk to someone higher up, you know, talk to people in other departments and, and get kind of the word going.
I, you know, I was not having a lot of success in my own department in IT, really changing, thoughts and minds, but I was able to affect folks in marketing more. They were the ones producing the content and ultimately responsible for the website. So, it was easier to get them on board to, and, and, you know, once I started having sort of lunch and learns and and talking to them about some of the easier concepts they were, they were on board.
They were excited. You know, I found that once people really understand accessibility and what it's gonna do, they, they tend to appreciate it. You know, they, they get past the dollar signs and, and they understand that, this is, this is the correct way to be doing it. So that's what we should be doing.
I hope that answered your question.
[00:10:01] Todd: Yeah
[00:10:01] Rachele: Kinda long-winded
[00:10:03] Todd: Yeah, it did. I kind of touched on that when I wrote that article for Smashing Magazine. You know, once you get somebody, whether it's one person in a department on board that can, you know, for lack of a better term, be infectious and, and spread throughout the organization.
[00:10:22] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:10:22] Todd: Important to get stakeholders in on it too, because you know, once you have stakeholders bought in, then that trickles down. And you know, when, you know, in my experience you see a stakeholder saying, you know, accessibility is a priority, then people are gonna be on board.
[00:10:41] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:10:44] Todd: So, I wanna touch on this one point that I have right in front of me here, that, and I've been dealing with this quite a bit lately in the real world, in, in, in the wild and that's, semantic HTML
[00:11:02] Rachele: Yes.
[00:11:02] Todd: Because first, so first I'd like to ask, you know, I have only seen maybe at the most two, whether it be, I think one might have been a bootcamp, the other one was a higher education school that taught accessibility.
[00:11:21] Rachele: Right.
[00:11:24] Todd: And I know, and you know, I think we both know learning HTML, semantic HTML, progressive enhancement that's very important. How important for the people that may not know how important is that, and then I have to follow up.
[00:11:43] Rachele: Yeah, that's a good question. And I've also been thinking about that in the context of, you know, modern day frameworks. I don't work with much of that anymore, but you know, I see the results of it every day when I'm, when I'm doing auditing.
And I think we've kind of lost something on the web where we have software that that's creating these components for us, but, but a lot of folks don't really understand what it's creating and what the output is. And when, when that happens, that link to accessibility is, is kind of broken.
If folks, you know, are using, proprietary markup to, you know, in a framework to, to then ultimately spit out HTML or JavaScript. If, if you don't understand what it's spitting out, you don't necessarily know what you're possibly introducing as accessibility issues. So, I think it's in extremely important for folks who are using those frameworks to also, put in the time to understand the building blocks, the, you know, just plain Jane HTML.
What are those semantic elements actually mean? They're not just there. I think there's a con a, a belief among a lot of developers who don't work with the front end from a design perspective, but on only from a development perspective who think that HTML is still a presentational markup, is used just for look and feel in, in some respects.
And, and I don't think, you know, there's enough understanding that, that when we say semantic HTML, we're saying that those building blocks, those elements, give purpose and meaning in a lot of contexts. Yes, you do have, you know, semantic list elements, like, like divs all over the place that you do need to use oftentimes to affect presentation.
But what you're really trying to do is build a core workable app that has, you know, proper control names, proper labeling, proper understanding of, of what it's functionally supposed to do versus, what it looks like. I, I, I just had so many, conversations about look and feel, look, and feel, and it's, it's so much beyond that.
It really is. So, I think it's, it's, it's very important. If, if you are creating things out of, out of a framework, go look at the end result. And try to understand, you know, whether that's, and, and whether that's something complex, like you're using the framework because you need a combo box with auto complete.
Well, you can go in there and see, okay, well, what does that mean? What, what are the ARIA requirements on that? You know, is my control doing those, those proper things, even though my framework created it, is it correct? Is there anything that I can do, to mitigate that? And, and on the other hand with that too, something, something I experienced and, and I know a lot of folks, you know, you'll have, you'll have your department, that's, that's deploying your code.
That's managing your plugins and it, if there is an accessibility issue in one of those third party tools, there there's often a, a hesitation to do any customizations to that because it does make it harder to then update, to the latest version, whatever that is. But if you, if you just leave the accessibility issues, that's not ideal.
So I would encourage folks that if you can start to understand some of these problems, then you can feed back to your framework of choice, to your plugin of choice and help those developers understand like, well, you know, you need ARIA dash expanded equals true on this disclosure widget, you know, you're missing the proper state.
Just small things like that. And then I, I mean, I know there's, there's, thousands and thousands of bugs out there filed for accessibility issues, but you know, that that's, I think part of our responsibility, in a sense, if we understand, what the issues are, we've gotta say something about it. So even if you're not like super familiar with, everything that's going on in HTML, you can still look at, at the result, you can test it and you can feed back to vendors, you know, here, this is something that would make, you know, make something better for, for everyone because it's inaccessible.
[00:15:45] Todd: So, my follow up being, should we be seeing more higher learning slash boot camps, teaching accessibility?
[00:15:58] Rachele: I think so. So, when I was in graduate school, I, I graduated in 2012 and, you know, I, there just wasn't there wasn't anything. I mean, I was in a top 10 library science school that, you know, usability and accessibility, well, not accessibility so much, but usability and user experience were, were definitely, you know, something that people went there to study and to just see a dearth of accessibility at all, I, I found concerning.
I was able to take classes on disability in the school of social work as sort of support work, but you know, it wasn't, it wasn't accessible, accessibility training or anything like that.
I think, I think a class in accessibility, core concepts would be amazing. I've, I've been in talks with, with the, the former Dean of my program, here at UT Austin, about that. And I've offered to go speak, well, you know, it started out as, you know, going to speak to one of his classes and talk about dis or talk about accessibility, and accommodating people with disabilities, though, you know, whatever, whatever, you know, lens of whatever they're learning at the time.
And I'm happy to go to go do that. And that's really why I started doing the public speaking, was to just get a greater reach, a broader reach to, to developers or even, brand new folks who just aren't getting access to, to this material. There is great material out there, don't get me wrong.
There's plenty of, multi-week accessibility courses that you can take online that I've found very useful. And I would encourage folks to, to take those on their own if they're looking for something, there's definitely great material out there. But I would love to see more structured, accessibility learning, whether at undergrad level, not, not graduate school level necessarily.
But just if, I mean, whether that's computer science or, or design communication, I'm not sure what the, the big degrees are now for studying, web development. But, if you, I think it is very important to understand, you know, accessibility is, is a lot about how lots of different people use websites, not just how we ourselves, the developers or designers use websites.
So, we've got to kind of flip that, that lens around and start looking out and you know, who, who is likely to be using my site beyond someone like myself and what are the things I need to learn to accommodate that?
[00:18:25] Todd: Yeah, definitely. I, when I was in school, wow, 2000, 2002, most definitely nothing. As far as accessibility goes. I had known about it.
There had been some, you know, there were, you know, the people that were with the web standards project at the time and people like Derek Featherstone and, you know, folks, folks in that space. And I remember we were in; I think it was like a basic web design course. And we were using Internet Explorer 5.2 on a Mac.
And when I went to look at things in Firefox, cause Firefox was really in its infancy. I think it was like, not even, it might have been around 1.0 at the time. And I went, wow, that does not look anything like I had, in of all things, Internet Explorer 5.2 on a Mac. But and that's when I said, you know, does, is anybody around here?
I asked, I said, does anybody around here teach accessibility? No. And it's like, well, shouldn't they? And I still to this day, I'm a little bit surprised still, but not a lot as I used to be with, when I, when I talked to somebody that, you know, they graduated from a bootcamp for instance. And I'm like, did they teach accessibility? No, they didn't. I did have somebody tell me, well, they did teach us alt text on an image. That was it. So, the, the need is there in my opinion. And I've of course, ranted and raved on Twitter about that before.
But it's definitely, I think, you know, in agreement with you that, you know, some I something we need, because I mean, I look at the WebAIM Million Report every year and I cringe.
[00:20:45] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:20:47] Todd: So,
[00:20:47] Rachele: Well, do you, do you think there's a lack of will to teach it or it's more that the instructors don't know, so, so they're unlikely to present it? Like how do we crack that egg?
[00:21:02] Todd: Yeah, yeah. That's a good question. Because, so when I, after I graduated, I had a design degree. I would look around for courses, you know, was there a course at the local, you know, community college or, and there never was, but there was always web design. So, I actually sat in on a couple of these and I think the last one was, I can't even remember so long ago, but it was still teaching table based layouts.
[00:21:50] Rachele: Oh geez
[00:21:51] Todd: It was still
[00:21:51] Rachele: Wow.
[00:21:53] Todd: They were still, you know, things that I know that I had to bite my tongue, but you know, old, old methods that you would find in a computer book from, you know, a design book from 30 years ago, 20 years ago, you know, that's.
[00:22:09] Rachele: Yeah, yeah.
[00:22:09] Todd: I Think there's, I don't know. I, I don't know. Other than, I don't think, anyone has taken the initiative to say, you know what, somebody needs to, somebody needs to do something and present accessibility in a program and actually do it. Maybe the thought has been there, but I haven't, you know, I haven't seen it.
[00:22:38] Rachele: Yeah
[00:22:38] Todd: You know, like I said, a couple of instances where I know that it was taught, it wasn't taught in depth, but at least it was taught, you know? I see things on, you know, online, Udemy and Udacity.
And I read through the comments, people taking these courses and, and then the feedback on it. Well, great course, but it wasn't complete or great course, but it was lacking this. And it's like, I don't know if we'll ever see the ultimate, you know, all, all, you know, all-encompassing accessibility course. I hope so at some point.
But I think it's just people, I don't think they know enough to say, yeah, let's teach this and make it part of the curriculum. I wish they would. Bring in people like yourself, you know, bring in people in, in the accessibility space that, that, you know, do the talks and, and, you know, write the articles and, and speak about this stuff so that it is out there.
So, and that's, that's my long winded story. That's my long winded answer. So, I guess leading from the education side now, in your day to day, do you do a lot of that? As far as, I mean, not, I mean, I guess we all do when it comes to educating whether it's on Twitter or whether it's in our day to day. Cause I've been giving at my job, I've been giving presentations. Little 10 minute presentations on, matter of fact, the last one I did was on forms and labels.
[00:24:31] Rachele: Nice.
[00:24:31] Todd: And accessible name and, and programmatic name. Do you do a lot of that at, at where you are or, or do you mostly do that outside of your day to day?
[00:24:42] Rachele: Yeah, I, you know, I work in sort of a consultant type role now, so I'm around a lot of, a lot of people who, who know the same stuff.
So, we don't do as much of that knowledge sharing internally. It's something I did at my previous job for sure. I, I would say, you know, when we give guidance to our clients, we, we certainly try to, to, to teach that, you know, and provide accessible examples, in plain HTML. So, it's, it's clear, you know, what, what those core building blocks are beyond any scripting or behavior that you're, you're gonna add to it.
So, you know, I think we try to reinforce the, again, if we're talking semantic HTML, like, you know, we, we can discuss the ARIA way of doing something, but we, you know, say we really recommend the, you know, just native elements with a sprinkling of, of ARIA as needed, like, like ARIA dash expanded attribute.
But yeah, I mean, it's but it's, you know, it ends up mostly being on Twitter. I do have my own website with a blog that I, I try to write to now and then, but yeah, I, I guess, if I were, if I were still at a, if I were like the, you know, on an accessibility team at a large corporation still, or, you know, a company that wasn't focused on accessibility, I, I would, I would definitely be doing the lunch and learns and, trying to teach folks from different dev teams, what to do.
I've, I've often thought that, you know, bigger, bigger companies that have multiple dev teams could, could sort of benefit from a roving accessibility person. They, you know, there, there might not be enough for a single accessibility person on a single team, but if you have that resource that, that can help multiple teams learn and grow.
So, you don't just, it was, it was problem to just be the only person who really knew this stuff, if it was all siloed through me. And that's, you know, that's not ideal. We want everybody to, to understand these concepts, whether it's the project manager, who's gonna ensure that, that those accessibility requirements, actually get done in a project, to the developers who, who need to actually create the code.
It's, it's just so important for everyone to understand those, those concepts, you know?
[00:26:55] Todd: Yeah, definitely. So, what's the, I just had a little discussion with this with somebody else today, but what's, what's the, I'm trying to find the word. The right word for this. What's the, what's the weirdest or oddest case of HTML that you've seen recently that you can think of?
[00:27:26] Rachele: Where it was just like totally wrong or?
[00:27:28] Todd: Yes. Yeah.
[00:27:29] Rachele: Well, I, I put this one on Twitter. Yeah, some in a site I was auditing, they had used the abbr element abbreviation element with a role equals button to create a, a custom control. And that just really threw me for a loop.
[00:27:48] Todd: I remember seeing that.
[00:27:49] Rachele: I was like wow.
[00:27:50] Todd: Yeah. Yeah. I remember seeing that as a matter of fact. Yep. That one nearly knocked me back in my chair. Yeah. That, wow. That is, yeah. Wow. A role button on an abbreviation tag that, that's, that's
[00:28:03] Rachele: yeah. I mean, you're used to seeing em on divs and spans and whatever, but like, oh, someone just went totally, totally rogue for this.
[00:28:11] Todd: Yeah, yeah. What is something that you've learned recently that you didn't know that was accessibility related?
[00:28:23] Rachele: Oh, that's a good question. You know, for me, I like, I, I mentioned earlier, I've, I've been doing more and more mobile audits. So, seeing how WCAG applies in that space because it's, it's not, it's not always a web, you know, it could be, have a web view. So, there are, there's some feedback that, that you would get, like if you were on a website, but you're in an app versus the, the native mobile functionality.
And just kind of learning how, how to navigate between those has been very interesting. Kind of understanding the limitations of web views and certain ways of, of doing app authentication, has been very eye opening. Just understanding, you know, there's a lot of, focus management that needs to happen. That doesn't always happen.
So, in apps, it's very common to pop up a new screen, but it's not necessarily a dialogue because it's, it's the full screen of the app. But it in every other way is like a dialogue. It has a close button. It has, a, a header that should be the accessible name. And then because it is this new screen on top of, of the, where the control was that launched the screen.
If you're not moving that focus into the new screen, that's really an issue for talk back or voiceover. Can't get focus in that upper screen. So, just learning about focus management and mobile applications, that's been, been tricky, cause it's, it's kind of hard to give advice on some things if, if talk back or voiceover cannot get to, the screen that's, that's, you know, the highest Z index, then it's you can't necessarily, focus on the controls to hear what the accessible names are or, you know, something might look like a heading, but if you can't move focus there, it won't, you know, you can't really find out, so you have to guess.
So, that's been interesting.
[00:30:13] Todd: Yeah, no, I actually, now that, when you mentioned that, I, I kind, when I did my last, mobile audit, I came across, they had a fly out menu. I could get to the fly out menu with voice control. I could get to the fly out menu with voiceover. But I am trying to remember this as best I can. You still, when you went through, I think it was voiceover, you would still get everything underneath the file.
[00:30:51] Rachele: Yeah, exactly.
[00:30:53] Todd: And you know, it was a rather a large app with a lot of different, you know, the menu, the, the functionality underneath on the page underneath that. And it was, it threw me for a tailspin because it was, I, I'm, you know, I've done mobile testing before, but not to the point where I can say, yeah, I'm, I'm, you know, very proficient at it.
So it was, it was kinda one of those instances where I was just like, that is, that is a lot to take in there. And with the learning, I actually, I gotta mention this. I just, never ran across this before, but I have a page where there's a lot of sections to the page, which is, which is fine. And they all have ARIA labeled by on them. And I, you know, I didn't know that, that it made the section a, a, a landmark or so I,
[00:31:55] Rachele: Oh, OK yeah.
[00:31:55] Todd: Yeah, I never ran into that. So that's something I learned and it's just, it's kind of part of what I, you know, it’s kind of part of what I do and why I love doing the accessibility engineering and that's the learning part.
[00:32:17] Rachele: Yeah, yeah.
[00:32:20] Todd: And it was just like, oh, well, you know, and okay, so. Not, not to, you know, sound like I'm bragging or anything. But when I got the invited expert status on the W3C people were like, oh, he must be an expert on everything. And it's like, no, I don’t know WCAG inside and out. I, I, I just don't, you know, and then I got bombarded with, hey, I got this issue.
[00:32:47] Rachele: Oh geez
[00:32:48] Todd: Just, I don't, I'm not walking encyclopedia, you know, I'm not, you know, but the, the learning, I don't know about you, but you know, the learning is that's part of why I love doing accessibility is, is the learning.
[00:33:04] Rachele: Yes. Absolutely. I agree with that. Yeah. It's always something new. There's always someone doing something different that needs remediation or yeah, like you said, you just come across like, oh wow. Like you can do this, but people don't usually do this. So, I haven't run into this before.
[00:33:22] Todd: Yeah. It, it caught me off guard. I was just like, wow. And so, with what I do, and I've done this, I have a kind of a personal template of what, you know, I do in an audit. And every time I go through and I, I check, you know, what the problem is when I run a test on a webpage or whatever and I'm reading up the success criteria.
It's like, I'm figuring out more from actually taking the time to read that two or three times. And saying, okay, well this falls into that. And then I go to the understanding document. Granted WCAG is that big, old technical manual.
[00:34:17] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:34:17] Todd: That, that you get, you know, it's like one of the, I, I compare it to one of those huge, you know, a thousand page books where somebody throws it on your desk that would run like a computer in 1960s.
You know?
[00:34:32] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:34:32] Todd: But you know, digging deep and, and like I spent what two or three days on something, I was just like, I,
[00:34:40] Rachele: Wow.
[00:34:41] Todd: Really didn't know. And I, I, I fell into a rabbit hole and finally I was just like, now I understand it. So, in your day to day, leading up to the question that I'm gonna ask finally. How important is learning and what would you tell somebody that's looking to start their journey in accessibility as far as the learning, goes?
[00:35:08] Rachele: Yeah, okay. That's a great question. I think as far as the learning goes, I, I think it kind of depends where you start. Like I, you know, I'm coming from a developer background, so I think it has been very useful, you know, for myself to have that HTML, CSS, JS knowledge and, and working, with remediation.
But you know, it's not, it's not necessarily required. It, it can help and, and maybe, you know, you'll have a, a leg up when you, when you start accessibility work. But, you know, it's certainly something that, someone who doesn't have that development experience can, can get into. I work with plenty of people who, you know, have a different kind of background than, than me, but, but still ended up in the accessibility space.
Because there is, there is a lot online that you can learn, whether it's, through the W3C or different courses. I think there's an edX course from Google. You know, things like that. And then, you know, what, what was super helpful for me. And one of the reasons I started my blog was as a place to sort of post, accessibility and usability tests or, you know, my interpretation of some of the UX problems.
And it just gave me a way, you know, like a very structured way to, to, to mark, to, to market my findings, to, to have a place, to, to warehouse them. I can reflect back on them. I can, you know, tweet at the company like, hey, here's what I, I found on your site. So, I think anything that you can. Sort of do for yourself, even if, even if it's at work, you know, my, I try to take the philosophy of, I, you know, I learn every day, it's totally, it's very important.
And I always look at how, whatever I'm working on, how does it benefit, like my own knowledge and my own career path and not necessarily just like what I need to do for this job or this individual project, but, you know, what, what can I take from that that will help me progress and get better?
So, I, I think you have to have that mindset of always learning, being curious, and that will lead you, I think to a lot of good accessibility resources. And so even if you are doing it on your own over time, like I did, you, you just, you can create little exercises for yourself. Look up somebody's WCAG checklist.
You know, what I started with was, I looked up the, the WAI, first basic it's the basic accessibility review check, something like that. It's, it's, you know, maybe like eight kind of high level accessibility concepts that you can apply to a website. And I started there, you know, and was, did that mean that I found all the accessibility issues?
No, but that doesn't matter, you know. Just like if most people, most people under, you know, like you said before, they, they get introduced to the concept of alt text and text alternatives on images. I mean, that's a great place to start. You know, just find a website. See, see if they have alt text there, you know, and there are lots of neat little tools I think that can be helpful.
There are a lot of bookmarklets out there that will, you know, put some kind of overlay on whatever page you're looking on and tell you, oh, well this page has a table right here. And even though it doesn't look like it and this page, you know, here, all the images and here's the alt text, you know, here, here the headings outlined.
There's just all kinds of little plugins and, and bookmarks bookmarklets that you can use to, to augment, webpages and, and help your learning. I, I, I don't think there's any substitute for going out there in the wild and just looking, picking a website that you like to use and pick it apart. And I, and I also, I personally find writing up those results, in a blog or some kind of format, very synthesizing.
It helps me, you know, codify my learning. And it's also a record of, of what I've learned to do. So, if you are getting into that space, you, you can point and say, here, here a, here are reviews that I've done here, accessibility audits I've done. You know, maybe, maybe it's not like. Perfect a hundred percent to how a company might want it, but you've demonstrated that you have that curiosity and that, that willingness to learn to go out there and, and put your hand towards something.
And, you know, and if you publish that, you're, you're, you're already contributing to the body of knowledge. Like any, any information out there about like this website does this and has this problems. I mean, you're, you're helping you're, you're becoming part of the community. And I, I think that's really useful.
That's why I love Twitter. I love talking with you guys because I, you know, I learn stuff every day on there too. It's not just my own learning, but it's following, you know, other experts, other practitioners, and people who everyone's super friendly in this, this, group. So, I think if you can get into some kind of social media space where, where you have other folks to, to bounce ideas off of, it's, it's all good.
We're all learning together. I, yeah, I definitely, I learn stuff every single day and I it's just how you gotta move in this industry.
[00:40:07] Todd: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. I, I, you know, like you just said, the community's great, friendly, I don't think I've ever come across anybody that I've asked, so, you know, had a accessibility question in, post it to em and they're like, man, go, go away.
[00:40:24] Rachele: Yeah,
[00:40:24] Todd: You know, everybody's so willing
[00:40:26] Rachele: Yep.
[00:40:26] Todd: to answer questions and everything. And I tell people, you know, like you said, Twitter, the, accessibility space there that's, you know, a great start. And, and you know, what you, you spoke on too.
So, here's something that somebody asked me a while back that I'm gonna ask you and, you know, feel free to answer it, how you want.
[00:40:55] Rachele: Okay.
[00:40:55] Todd: Where, where is there a list that I can use for accessibility to check things off when I'm doing, project?
[00:41:04] Rachele: Yeah, that's a good question. So, I, I just wanna say, I found testing methodology to be the biggest hurdle in this industry. Like it, it was easy for me to understand individual WCAG concepts, but coming, understanding the full gauntlet of, of testing, you know, if you're doing a WCAG 2.1 AA review, that's, you know, 50 success criteria.
But do you, how do you test the right one? How do you do it in the right order? And I have to say right now I have a cheat sheet because, you know, we have our own proprietary software with a knowledge base of, of items. You know, where here are things that we come across all the time.
So, we have remediation advice. I think, I think you mentioned the trusted tester certification. So, there's the, there's a section 5 0 8, sort of grouping of these success criteria that I think is a good list, if you're going, if you're like jumping in there, you wanna do comprehensive, testing.
You can follow that checklist because it does cover all of, all of, even though it's, it's section 5 0 8, it, you know, it's, it's looking at WCAG 2.1. So, now it is. So, I, I, I, I think that I wish I had the name of it. It's I C T something, but it's the, the section 5 0 8 testing methodology, I think is a good place to start to get a comprehensive understanding of everything.
Because if you're just going through WCAG, you know, line by line through, through the four guidelines, I think that doesn't give you as much context for how the different, success criteria are in, in operate together or are influenced by each other. So, if you have some kind of logical grouping, outside of the guidelines, I think that can be useful.
I, I can look up the, the link and, and send it to you. I'm just blanking on the name of it right now. But that's very much like the software that we're using, you know, we, we aren't, we, we can look at each discrete success criteria, but we're looking at it more holistically. Like what, what are all the things we need to consider for, for, forms for native and custom controls, you know?
And we'll, we'll test all of those things sort of in a grouping. Does that kind of answer the question?
[00:43:18] Todd: Yeah, So, here's another one I got. Is accessibility just a checklist?
[00:43:20] Rachele: That’s a great, that’s a great question.
[00:43:25] Todd: That was, yeah, that was, that was another, that was another, question I got, that was, you know, well, I got, I gotta do accessibility for whatever. Can I just check these things off and move on?
[00:43:38] Rachele: Yeah. So, accessibility is not a checklist. In my opinion, it is a methodology. It is a way of approaching, your project.
It's, it's part of all points of the project, right? It's not, it's not just, wherever you wanna throw in a checklist that could be QA, that be development. But there are definitely nuanced ways of, of doing things. There are multiple ways of doing things. I think maybe some folks don't understand that too, that there's not, we're not saying there's like a one true way of doing it.
There, there can be multiple ways of accomplishing the same problem as you see, and the, understanding guidelines for WCAG. And, and again, I'll go, I'll just throw out the alt text example, cause that's the one everybody knows. I mean, it's, it's not sufficient to just have any old string as an alt attribute, right?
So that that's a perfect example of how it's not just a checklist because you know, I've been on projects where, you know, we had a, a list of, all of our customers on the site and had a list of their logos and, and the name of, of the company.
But all the logos that the alt attribute was image. Well, yes, that technically checks the box that yes, these images have alt attribute, but it's not accessible because it does not distinguish one image from another.
So, I, I understand the desire to treat accessibility as a checklist. Something like, like security, you can have a checklist, like, did we do all the things? Are we going over HTTPS? Do we, you know, and so forth, but, with accessibility, it's, it's more holistic and there there's the testing aspect and the, the, how does the whole thing work together?
Not does a single control pass a single, criteria.
[00:45:25] Todd: Yeah, my, my answer was a little different. My, and my answer was a little bit more abrupt. I went, no, absolutely not. No, that was a, that was a great answer. And, and yeah. You know, it's, it's a, it's a methodology, it’s definitely not, you know, it's, it’s not a feature that's for sure.
[00:45:44] Rachele: No, no, no.
[00:45:46] Todd: We’ve, we've seen that a lot. And the more people just, I think anyways, that the more people look at it as a methodology, rather than just, just gotta check off a few items, color contrast, alt text, this, that fine. We're good. Then I think a lot more people would be jumping on the accessibility, hype train, I guess, for lack of a better term.
[00:46:11] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:46:12] Todd: And it, I think we'd see more, I don't know improvement, I would hope, but at least more people being, you know, excited about accessibility, I guess. Is what I’m going with
[00:46:29] Rachele: Sure.
[00:46:29] Todd: that. So, as we close down, I got three more questions that I ask all my guests.
[00:46:35] Rachele: Okay.
[00:46:35] Todd: So, feel free to use, you know, one word response, or you can go into it as, as much as you want. So, the first question is what about the web these days excites you and keeps you excited in what you do?
[00:46:51] Rachele: Ooh, good question. Well, I would say for, for one, the thing that still keeps me excited despite, some of the consolidation that's going on is that you still can carve out your own space on the web.
You know, you, while a lot of people think, oh, you know, Facebook is the internet or, you know, whether there's been some collapse of, of that ideal, it's, it’s not gone. And I, I see, I see folks, proclaiming this all the time, you know, like, hey, don't just publish on X platform. You know, if that platform goes away, your stuff goes away, publish on your own site too.
And that's what keeps me excited is that, that it's still relatively easy to just spin up a site
[00:47:28] Todd: Yeah
[00:47:28] Rachele: and get out there. It's, its relatively low cost, you know, cost of a domain cost of hosting. It's, it's still requires some, some technical knowledge. I think that that's hard for the everyday person to, to just spin up a site.
But, if, if, if you want to do it, it's definitely possible. That that's what keeps me excited. Cause the technology is always gonna change the, you know, who knows maybe in 10 years we'll all be in the metaverse. Right? But you know, I would hope that you can still carve out your own space and you know, have that voice. It's so freeing.
It's just like anyone around the world can see what, what you have to say. I mean, I'm not that doesn't mean everybody wants to see what I have to say, but you know, I can put, I can put it out there and it's just, it's, it's amazing. Self-publishing like that. I think it's great.
[00:48:18] Todd: Yeah. It's, it's come a long way since the days of when I used to, have to get a host, get the domain, you know, do all that stuff. And then, FTP everything on the server. It's, it's this is one part that I really like that I, I agree with, you know, what you just said about it. That, I can take all my code, push it to GitHub that goes to Netlify and boom there, barring any unforeseen circumstances, those changes are made and I'm not dragging and dropping files here and there, you know?
[00:48:58] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:48:58] Todd: And on every little change. So yeah, I think that's, as my watch goes off, Siri’s getting restless. Yeah, that's, that's part of, what excites me too. So, second question is, if there is one thing about the web, you could change that we know today, what would that be?
[00:49:13] Rachele: I'll try not to get too political, but I, I do have a concern with the concentration of power amongst certain large corporations. And of course, there's always the, there's this constant threat of government censorship in one way or another. You know, there's that case in Missouri right now where the governor is trying to sue a reporter or criminally hold liable a reporter for viewing source on a webpage and finding a security flaw.
So, you know, there's, there's still a deep misunderstanding. I think of a lot of things and I, I think, large corporations, concentrating power, to a few sites is part of what causes that, you know, again, like I mentioned before, I mean, there, there are plenty of places in the world where the internet is Facebook and I think that's detrimental.
I, I don't think we should go, you know, that's very much how a lot of the early web was. If you got on AOL, you pretty much in that portal. You know, you didn't, people didn't readily understand. They could just open a web browser and go anywhere on the web. So, I, I do think trying to force things through, through the same website, every you get everything from one place is dangerous for a multitude of reasons, but that, that would be my concern.
[00:50:27] Todd: Yeah, definitely. And you weren't the first, you probably won't be the last that said the same thing, so,
[00:50:33] Rachele: Okay.
[00:50:34] Todd: And that's totally fine on this podcast, cause I feel the same way. It's my podcast. No, I'm just. So, the last question I have for you today is your favorite part of front and development
[00:50:47] Rachele: Oooh.
[00:50:47] Todd: or design or whatever that you really like the most that you nerd out over.
[00:50:53] Rachele: Ooh, that's a good question. I am still, you know, I don't write a lot of CSS these days, but I still find it incredible how we have this separation of presentation from, your semantic markup. I think, I think it's really important to understand the separation of the two. And to, you know, again, back to semantic HTML, you can, you can build the whole website just with HTML.
You don't even need to style it. Right? So, it's just, it's really cool to me how, we have this whole other language where we can, we can easily apply styles to this, this structure, this, this wire frame of HTML that we've created to, to do all kinds of things. It it's, CSS is amazing, and it gets a lot of flak, and it doesn't get, always get the respect that it deserves.
[00:51:44] Todd: Yeah.
[00:51:44] Rachele: But yeah, I would say, you know, learn CSS too, if you, if you, if you're interested in, in like how the, the whole webpage works, you know, it, it it's, it's really cool. You can do a lot of cool things with CSS, for troubleshooting. You know, I remember back in the day, like when I was doing floats, you know, I would give my divs different background colors and I could see exactly where everything was, was coming out
[00:52:10] Todd: Yep
[00:52:10] Rachele: and, you know, here's my border and just, I, there was just so much you could do, to visually help yourself build, build your site and design your site as a tool. Yeah, I just, I think that separation of CSS and HTML and how it works so well together and apart is, is really neat.
[00:52:27] Todd: Yeah, definitely. When I, a while back saw somebody say, you know, it's easier to do outline one pixel, solid red instead of border. To see where your divs are while you're working.
I went, oh, that's, that's freaking genius. You know, using the outline instead of the board.
[00:52:49] Rachele: Yeah
[00:52:49] Todd: It's, it's stuff like that, you know? That's yeah, it's exactly the same thing I nerd out over. So, somebody asks on, Twitter yesterday or of the day before, you know, why do you love CSS? It's just that being able to sit here, program some code, and I won't go into it too much, but I think CSS and HML are programming languages, but we will, that's all I'll say.
You know, and manipulating things and seeing things, you know, move while you are working on it. I think that is, is just awesome. And it's still awesome to this day. I mean, just a silly little sidebar here. When I started doing programming way back on a Commodore 64, I was doing text based games based on, those choose your own adventure books.
[00:53:41] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:53:41] Todd: And yeah, just being able to walk through that book on a computer was so cool. That's why I
[00:53:47] Rachele: Yeah.
[00:53:47] Todd: got into this, you know, programming stuff. Still holds, you know, water today with me anyways, is the, the creating things and watching them, you know, be on a website or be alive on the web is just cool. So that's enough for me.
So, I know you have tentatively, which we talked about before we started recording, something going on, but I'm gonna let you, talk about that.
[00:54:20] Rachele: Okay.
[00:53:21] Todd: Because right now I'd like to close the podcast with my guests, letting the listeners know what they have currently going on and where of people can find you online. So, the floor is yours.
[00:54:33] Rachele: Okay, awesome. Yeah. So, March 14th through 18th is CSUN 2022, the assistive technology conference. This would be my first year to go. Myself and two colleagues will be presenting a panel on making streaming video inclusive. We look at, the same streaming app through a variety of contexts, mobile device, streaming devices, Apple TV, and so forth.
So, you can look for, for us there. Hopefully it'll be in person we're, we're planning on that, but if it goes virtual, we'll just record the session. So, yeah, we'll be at CSUN 2022. You can find me on Twitter @Racheleditullio. So that's R A C H E L E D I T U L L I O. I, I also have my own website at
So, you can find ways to contact me through either of those. That's where I am on the internet.
[00:55:27] Todd: Awesome. So, I will make sure all of that is in the show notes for this episode and, you know, I want to thank you, Rachele, for coming on and, spending part of your day with, me and talking accessibility. It was a lot of fun. I had a great conversation.
[00:55:43] Rachele: Yes. Thank you so much, Todd. It was, it was fun.
[00:55:46] Todd: All right, you're welcome. 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 because I wanna make this podcast accessible. Tying into our little theme here today. I'm Todd Libby, and this has been the Front End Nerdery Podcast. Thanks. And we'll see you next time.