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indieweb carnival: the personal web made me re-think accessibility

This blog post marks the beginning of a new IndieWeb Carnival month. This month's theme is about "Accessibility in the Small Web," hosted by this blog! We encourage you to participate, so if you have a submission to the Carnival, please send it over to me so I can include it in the wrap-up post at the end of March. You can reach my by email or by DM on the forums at (you must have an account to DM me though).

Over the past 7 years of professional work, my knowledge of accessibility on the Web has grown to something I'd call "pretty solid." I think I have a good grasp on what makes websites inclusive, so much in fact that I wrote a sibling piece to this blog post about 4 overlooked accessibility tips and tricks. However, after spending some time on the Personal Web, my accessibility worldview expanded.

Websites these days are mostly flat and simplistic, sometimes with animations, but still basic. This is a departure from the Internet of the late '90s-'00s, where there was more experimentation with what a Web page could look like. Instead of plain text documents, there were graphics, flashing gifs, dancing babies. And now that the Personal Web is growing in popularity again, these types of elements are resurfacing.

My webring neighbor, Oliveen, built one of the most creative sites I've seen in forever. It has character and gives me a nostalgic feeling. Unfortunately though, it's probably not a site that's inclusive for everyone. Others have written about this topic at length, but sites with flashing gifs and animation overload aren't compatible with people with photosensitivity issues.

I was never aware of this category of disability and the solutions that cater to it. Having a splash screen to act as a flashing-image warning or configuring your gifs to stop auto-playing are 2 examples of how the Personal Web is changing what I thought I knew. It's teaching me about people who are written about less in accessibility blogs - people who have unique challenges when using the Internet, outside of the common ones you see preached about over and over.

This is all to say, there's more to accessibility learning than just the basics you'll find on the W3C Guidelines or even using Google's Lighhouse product. Learning everything about accessibility is not a realistic goal, but making a consistent effort to make your Websites more inclusive is. Regardless of whether you're working on a personal Website with flashing gifs and numerous graphics, or a sterile professional Website, each project might have its own unique usability problems that need to be solved, and the first step in addressing those is understanding that you don't know everything, while taking your best crack at learning about your users' disabilities.


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