If you’re waiting to add accessibility to your projects until your clients ask and pay for it, please rethink your strategy. Accessibility is not a feature. It is not a nice to have. It’s harder to do when you bolt it on after the fact instead of building it in at the start, and the only thing you’re doing with this approach is creating more work for yourself, more hardship for your clients, and a shitty experience for people with disabilities. Please do not do this. Add as much aas you can by stealth if you have to. If your client asks you for some functionality, build the accessibility in without their permission if necessary. If the eclient balks at accessibility, (this does happen), walk away. I’m telling you to do that because I’ve done it myself. I promise you that if they’re balking at accessibility there’s a pretty safe bet they’ll balk at other best practices too, and then blame you when things go south because best practice corners were cut.

From The Evening Standard:

Next has become the first major British high street retailer to sell more to its customers online than through its network of more than 500 stores.
The historic crossover came at the start of the new financial year in February, according to chief executive Lord Wolfson, with the gap set to widen rapidly through 2019.
It will send further shockwaves through a battered retail sector already struggling to adapt to the accelerating shift from “bricks and mortar” to digital sales.

Wolfson hails this as a thing worth embracing, saying that people in small provincial towns now have the same buying options as those who shopped on Oxford Street ten years ago. Everybody wins, right? Not exactly.

If you’re a person with a disability, Next has gone to the trouble of building a separate website which supposedly cators to the needs of those who need accessibility. Problem is, separate is not equal, and it never has been.

This is another one of those conversations we shouldn’t be having at this point in the web’s history. For one thing, as already mentioned, separate is not equal, and even law/policy, as incoherent as it is, agrees on this, at least when it comes to certain industries.

For another thing, separate websites for people with disabilities are often not maintained, (looking at you, Amazon), and are a resource vampire for both the establishment for which they’re built as well as any web design or development staff, in or out of house. If anyone seriously suggested thata we build separate websites for phones, tablets, large screens and watches, they’d be laughed out of the room by pretty much anyone who builds or designs things for the web. No one would dream of wastiing time and resources like that. So why is it still all too common to see large organizations building separate websites for people with disabilities?

Web-based discrimination is just as unacceptable as real-world discrimination. It’s not OK to build separate but equal for browsers, and it’s not OK to build separate but equal for people either, and people with disabilities are people first and foremost. Seriously, if you’re a web developer or designer and you’re being asked to build a separate site for accessibility purposes, please push back on this. I’m not going to lie, you may have to walk awa from a contract or to. We, however, are the only ones who can really change this situation. These things wouldn’t be built unless we as an industry weren’t willing to put in the elbow grease to build them. We’re not just pairs of hands, and if we as an industry could manage to move the needle from building one-size-fits-all websites to building websites responsively, then we can move the separate but equal needle too. Let’s do this already.

From Disability Scoop:

The federal government is accusing Facebook of illegally using its advertising platform to discriminate against people with disabilities and other groups.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development charged the social media company Thursday with violating the Fair Housing Act. The agency said Facebook is “encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination” through its method of allowing advertisers to control who sees ads for homes. … According to the charge, Facebook allows advertisers to exclude or include users from seeing ads based on various attributes including interests in “accessibility” or “service animal.”
Furthermore, the charge alleges that Facebook’s system is set up in such a way that it won’t show ads to groups it considers unlikely to engage with them, even if the advertiser has explicitly targeted those groups.
As a result, “ads for housing and housing-related services are shown to large audiences that are severely biased based on characteristics protected by the (Fair Housing) Act,” according to the charge.

At last year’s National Federation of the Blind convention, Facebook stated that

one in ten people use the zoom feature on the desktop browser, 20 percent of people increase the font size on iOS, and over 100,000 use screen readers on mobile devices to view Facebook.

(Source). It didn’t take very long for what amounts to tracking those with disabilities to go from something benign to something used as a tool of discrimination. The fact that the self-styled “voice of the nation’s blind” essentially aided and abetted this isn’t surprising. And yes, the NFB owns part of this. That organization gave Facebook a platform and its blessing to essentially brag about its disability tracking efforts, and were silent when questions were raised concerning how that data was gathered. If I were a member I’d be pretty pissed right now and I’d be demanding answers from the leadership.

From Applevis:

There is, however, one new feature for VoiceOver users: a new option called ‘Accessibility Events’ located at Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Web. This option is enabled by default, with Apple saying that Accessibility Events:
… allow websites to customize their behaviour for assistive technologies, like VoiceOver. Enabling Accessibility Events may reveal whether an assistive technology is active on your iPhone.
We’re currently unaware of any websites which take advantage of this facility, so do please let us know in the comments if you know more about this feature and any websites where it can be seen in action.

This is just as bad of an idea as Google’s “ask-for-alt-text” feature. I will definitely be turning this off when I update my devices because sorry fellow developeres, you cannot haz that data. These settings, including the automatic opt-in, also apply to Mac OS Mojave, (OSX 10.14.4). This version of OSX was released on the same day as iOS 12.2. I’ll also be encouraging everyone else, (in the strongest possible terms), to do the same. Seriously, why is it so difficult to just make websites accessible in the first place? Why do we have to keep having this conversation? We’ve seen what happens when data is managed irresponsibly, (and that’s putting it lightly), and as neither a society nor an industry are we even close to equipped to handle something as sensitive as screen reader tetection with any kind of care. What’s Apple going to do, release some ethical guidelines? Even if they did this, how are they supposed to enforce them? And never mind developers screwing this up by using it as it probably wasn’t intended. It happened with HTML, it’ll happen with screen reader detection too.

If, like me, you are concerned about your privacy with regard to your disability, you’ll need to explicitly opt out, on both iOS and OSX. Consult either your device’s documentation, (VoiceOver for iOS or VoiceOver for the Mac), or a suitable book written for assistive technology users by assistive technology users. The one I wholeheartedly recommend is iOS Access for All: Your Comprehensive Guide to Accessibility for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, by Shelly Brisbin.

Read Better Link Labels: 4Ss for Encouraging Clicks by Kate Moran (Nielsen Norman Group)

Specific link text sets sincere expectations and fulfills them, and is substantial enough to stand alone while remaining succinct.

Link text which makes sense out of context is often cited as an accessibility concern. It’s not only an accessibility concern, it’s also beneficial for the people in your audience who do not have a disability of any kind. Like several of the other things which are primarily accessibility concerns but which also end up benefiting the rest of your audience, (captions for videos, transcription for audio, heading structure of your website as a whole and each piece of your content separately, just to name a few), it turns out that link text which can be made sense of out of context by assistive technology users are also a great way to increase clicks generally. Most people do not read an entire page on the web. They scan it instead, so links that make sense out of context, along with being distinguishable in othere ways from the rest of the text, (underlining links, anyone)? are more likely to capture the attention of your visitors than are links which have vague or repetative text as their label. I will note that you can’t take advantage of any of these benefits if your primary platform for content distribution is a social media presence as opposed to a website you own and control. (Indieweb for the win, again).

So, score one more for accessibility benefiting everyone. And, if you’re not doing so already, spend some time putting some thought into your link text. If you’re using social media as your personal or professional home on the web, here’s one more reason to consider either starting your own website, or hiring someone to build one for you.

For as long as anyone in the WordPress community can remember, the minimum allowed version of php on which WordPress will run has been well behind modern php versions, thanks to WordPress’s commitment to backwards compatibility. As of version 5.2, (due out in April) the minimum allowed version will be raised to php version 5.6, from it’s current allowed version of 5.2. Eight-five percent of all sites running WordPress 5.0 are running on php 5.6 or above, and high-profile plugins have been experimenting with user notifications encouraging an upgrade to a modern version of php, with quite a lot of success.

While php 5.6 reached end-of-life as of December 31, 2018, WordPress’s step to make it the minimum allowed version while continuing to encourage usage of php 7.2 and above is an important one. For one thing, it means that securing installations will be just a bit easier, and for another, the minimum allowed version change, coupled with encouragement to use a truly modern version, as well as allowing plugin authors to specify a supported php version, will make life a lot easier for those of us maintaining code.

Most hosts, especially the larger ones, have already either migrated to php 7.2 or above, or are strongly encouraging their users to do so. Note that if you’re running a virtual private server or similar, you will be required to manage the php upgrade yourself. If you happen to be a user or organization running on a virtual private server, and you are not technically proficient enough to manage the upgrade, you’ll want to make arrangements for someone to upgrade for you. I mention this last point because in the laast few weeks I’ve run into a lot of cases where users or organizations have been talked into hosting on a virtual private server or similar which they are unable to manage and which they have no one to manage for them. I’m not sure if this is an actual trend or whether or not I’m just personally/professionally encountering a lot of these. Anyway, think of the web, and upgrade your php installation if you haven’t already.

Read Your Accessibility Toolbar Doesn’t Help by Joe Dolson

The important thing about any accessibility plug-in is having a good understanding about what problems are being solved. When we’re talking about font size changes and narration, these are features that already exist in the browser or in assistive technology – adding this to your website does almost nothing. It may help a small number of people in specific situations, but that’s the limit.

This piece by Joe Dolson (@Joedolson on Twitter) is a pretty good run-down of the disadvantages and general lack of helpfulness an accessibility toolbar provides to any website. Don’t Recreate Browser Features by Adrian Roselli is also another good resource on the topic. I have to concur with Joe’s post, specifically the commentary on how absolutely useless these kinds of toolbars are for people who actually need accessibility. I never use them when I encounter them in the wild, and I’ve never met a person with disabilities who clammors for them, either personally or professionally. I do recognize, however, that, most of the time, they’re installed as a result of the intention to make a site accessible, so I try to balance taking into consideration the good intentions of others with the fact that accessibility toolbars aren’t helpful when it comes to educating others.
Read Rep. Devin Nunes’s $250M Lawsuit Against Twitter Will Go Nowhere by Eugene Volokh (Reason.com)

The defamation (and negligence) claims against Twitter are blocked by 47 U.S.C. § 230.

This is worth a read by anyone who either wants social media to be classified somehow as a public utility, as well as by those who insist that their First Ammendment rights are being violated when social media platforms remove content they find objectionable. Worth reading also are the linked sources.

After a user of the Storefront WordPress theme, (WooCommerce’s default theme), reported accessibility challenges with the theme’s focus outlines and text decoration with regard to links, the Storefront theme has been #WordPress ">modified to address the issue with focus outlines by modifying the default outline so that it is darker than it was previously, as well as making the focus outlines solid. The theme will also underline links in the content, the footer, and breadcrumbs.

These changes are slated for the 2.5 release, which does not yet have a date set. However, you’ll want to keep an eye on your WordPress updates so that you can take advantage of these upcoming accessibility improvements. I’m looking at you, assistive technology sho[ps.

In yet another attempt to become the “One Browser to Rule Them All,” Google is adding the ability to Chrome for screen reader users to ask for automated alt text for images. “Oh hey, since we’re not allowed to explicitly track screen reader usage, let’s just set up a honeypot to get screen reader users to just hand the information over.” I can’t wait to have to once again make a choice between privacy and accessibility. My life-long dream has always been to live in a database controlled by Google simply because I’m a screen reader user. I can see it now. Some company like Aira would absolutely love to get their hands on that kind of advertising data, and Google will gleefully hand it to them for the right price. Dear fellow developers, screw you for abandoning alt text like yesterday’s leftover fast food.