What is your A11y Resolution for 2016?

Léonie Watson coined a great hashtag on Twitter right before Christmas. It's "A11yResolution". "A11y" is the abbreviation used a lot on Twitter to represent the word "accessibility". Accessibility is considered a long word on Twitter so some abbreviate it by replacing the middle 11 letter with, well, 11. "A" plus "11" plus "y" becomes "A11y". Add on the word "resolution" with a capital "R" and you have "A11yResolution".

Background for this post

This all started with the last 2015 episode of the Viking and Lumberjack show where Billy "Lumberjack" Gregory and Karl "Viking" Groves reviewed accessibility news for 2015 and made predictions for accessibility in 2016.

The show inspired @LeonieWatson to tweet:

Inspired by @VandLshow… my 2016 #A11yResolution is to understand more about what's broken in #SVG accessibility & help get it fixed.

(@LeonieWatson's tweet)

I followed that with the question (or challenge):

So… What is *your* 2016 #A11yResolution (resolution re: accessibility)? HT @LeonieWatson and @VandLShow

@AccessTechcomm's tweet

The question or challenge

Will you take this as a question or a challenge? In case you need some inspiration, I thought I'd point out some opportunities for your personal A11yResolution for 2016.

1. The OpenAIR challenge

OpenAIR 2015 was the 18th edition of Knowbility's OpenAir rally projects.

Third place went to team "Down Under" from Australia for their website for TALA: Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts. TALA's mission statement reads: "Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA) provides Texas artists and arts organizations with legal and accounting assistance to enable them to maximize their potential, shape our cultural landscape, and contribute to the creative economy."

Second place went to team "All Access Design" from Texas for their website for COMTO Austin, a local affiliate of the national Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). COMTO Austin's mission statement reads: "To assist members in professional development, create training opportunities, and facilitate opportunities for minority business owners to strengthen the position of minorities in the transportation industry within the Central Texas region."

Last, but not least, first place went to team "Maximus" from India for their website for Geno's Place, the site of Gene Rogers, TV producer. The stories on his site should inspire you to pimp your wheelchair and start your travels!

You would be welcome for the 19th edition in 2016 as a developer, a mentor, a non-profit, or a sponsor. (Maybe your company would be interested in being a sponsor? Ask about that now before they lock in other plans for 2016!)

Stay tuned by bookmarking the OpenAIR site and following @knowbility on Twitter. OpenAir starts in October, but planning begins before that. You can write to Knowbility (contact information on the website) and ask for more details now. They'd love to hear from you.

2. Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Feeling shy about OpenAIR? Try Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 19, 2016.

As the site declares:

Join us on Thursday, May 19 2016 and mark the fifth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) accessibility and users with different disabilities.

Your participation can be as simple as unplugging your mouse for one hour and then surfing the web. Learn what it's like navigating your company websites or any of your favorite websites without a mouse. You might be in for a shock!

You can find other virtual activities or local activities on the GAAD website.

Follow GAAD activities on the GAAD Facebook page and on the GAAD Twitter account where you can use the #GAAD hashtag. The GAAD website also has links to pages about GAAD in Spanish, French, and Japanese, so spread the news in your global networks and put some oomph into the word “global”!

For future reference, note that GAAD is always the third Thursday in May.

3. Slatin AccessU with Knowbility and/or the Accessibility Summit

Would you like to go back to school for some accessibility lessons? Try three days of learning, sharing, exploring, and fun in Austin, Texas from the 9th to 11th of May with AccessU in Austin, Texas. Most years, they have a virtual classroom, too, in case you can't stop by Austin. This is suitable for technical communicators, UX practitioners, developers, and, well, everyone who is into accessibility!

For virtual accessibility lessons, you can't go wrong with the Accessibility Summit that has been run by Environments for Humans every September since 2010. 2016 will be the 7th year for this excellent online conference. There is no information about the 2016 conference yet, but you can follow Environment for Humans (@e4h) on Twitter. They'll announce details and the date later in the year.

4. BADD: Blogging Against Disabilism Day

For the accessibility evangelist or activist who loves to write, Blogging Against Disabilism Day on May 1st was made for you.

Read the 2015 BADD entries on the website, and you will get a clear idea of what this is all about. For more information, stay tuned to the BADD page on Facebook. These blog posts give voice to many people who might be users of your organization's or company's products or services. Reading the posts might be uncomfortable, but it's probably time to listen and learn.

Photo of the New Year's Eve Fireworks at the Sydney Opera House and Harbour 2006So… With these examples in mind, what will your A11yResolution be for 2016? Add your thoughts in the comments.

Photo credit: Sydney Opera House NYE 2006 by Rob Chandler and licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Workflow app and a techcomm-meets-accessibility lesson

One of the Apple Design Awards this past June got me rather excited in a "techcomm meets accessibility" sort of way. I'm talking about DeskConnect winning the award for their product, Workflow – powerful automation made simple, due to "their extensive use of the iOS accessibility API". As the presenter, John Geleynse, points out, Workflow "sets a standard in what apps should be doing to adopt accessibility".

The AppleVis blog didn’t hold back on its praise with a heading that reads Workflow App Wins Prestigious Apple Design Award Because of its Outstanding Accessibility.

[2024 UPDATE: Apple took over Workflow and the app is now available as an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch app from the App Store at Shortcuts.]

As a fan of "Getting Things Done" myself, I am often on the lookout for new productivity apps. The number of productivity apps in the Apple Store tells me that I am not the only one looking for these helpful apps. My impression is that the Desk Connect people not only made a productivity app, but also realized that using the iOS accessibility API might help even more people boost their productivity.

As a non-developer, I can't help but think that, gee, if Apple went to all that work to make an accessibility API, why don't all iOS developers use it every time they make apps? Desk Connect shows it can definitely be worthwhile.

OK so Desk Connect made an accessible app that won an award. What added extra coolness to the presentation? Two members of the iOS Accessibility Engineering Team engineers, Dean Hudson and Ryan Dour, came out on stage and gave a demo of the app. After they folded up their white canes. Yup. They couldn't have done the demo if Desk Connect hadn't had accessibility in mind.

You can watch the demo in the 103 Apple Design Awards videos from WWDC15 from 36:10 to 43:05. To read the transcript, go to the transcript page for Apple Design Awards and search for "deskconnect".  Updated

Now how did this get me excited in a "techcomm meets accessibility" sort of way? Well, when Ryan Dour was doing the VoiceOver demo, he came to a spot where he wanted to add the URL to the workflow he was creating. VoiceOver was announcing the item he wanted, but Ryan didn’t take action. He let VoiceOver keep talking. Lo and behold, Workflow/VoiceOver described what you could do with the item in focus. As Ryan said, "isn't it wonderful that they've added those great hints? They are fantastic. It's basically a self-described app. It's great, isn't it?" And then the audience bursts into applause. So the entire audience of developers at the WWDC conference is applauding the hints. That's microcopy, people. You're all applauding a bit of techcomm! That's what technical communicators can do!

I must confess that this is the first time I encountered verbal user assistance. It's both awesome and doh! of course!


  1. Go show the video about this app's award to any app developer (even non-iOS developers) you know so that they can have their mind blown by these blind QA engineers.
  2. Ensure that your team knows that you have the skills to help create the microcopy for verbal user assistance.

Thanks to @sprungmarkers who first brought this to my attention on Twitter.