Praise and recommendations for the accessibility statement published by the new administration

The white house from the front lawn.
The white house from the front lawn.

With the inauguration on January 20, the team released a new website. A noticeable and well received feature of the new site is that it once again has an accessibility statement which is linked in the footer of every page — a best practice that demonstrates this administration’s commitment to serving all Americans of all abilities.

The short-but-aspirational statement makes it clear that this is just the beginning, and that the White House team will continue working to build a site that is accessible and usable by folks who are challenged by impairments, using assistive devices, or facing situational…

How agencies can adopt an open source strategy to make their services more usable by people of all abilities

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Government agencies, of all organizations, have perhaps the greatest obligation to plan for the accessibility of their websites and digital services. Beyond meeting compliance requirements for accessibility, mission-focused agencies want to make sure the greatest number of people — regardless of ability — can use and understand the important content and services provided online.

There’s a tendency to think only of permanently “disabled” people when we talk about accessibility, but it’s an issue that extends to a large portion of the population. Temporary and situational disabilities can affect all of us from time-to time — as we find ourselves with…

A black dog looking outside a window at the sun outside.
A black dog looking outside a window at the sun outside.
Like many of us, our dog isn’t enjoying social distancing.

We can all agree that COVID-19 is accelerating digital transformation in many organizations, knocking through long-standing resistance and silos. Government is just one player as remote-work is something every sector of the economy is struggling to do overnight.

Many organizations are rapidly adopting new tools like Zoom. When looking at any new technology it is important to think about accessibility early in the process. Accessibility has to be considered early in any IT project, adding accessibility in later in the project ends up costing considerably more.

We know that the government is fast-tracking certain IT projects and implementing them in…

Dark stone wall over a horizon of lush green tropical trees.
Dark stone wall over a horizon of lush green tropical trees.
Photo of the cliff as we climbed up Sigiriya in Sri Lanka.

I’ve seen a few accessibility statements generated by people in the field, but do not consider myself an expert report writer. There are lots of ways to go about writing them, but I find that often when they are delivered they tend to overwhelm the non-technical people and frustrate the technical people. If you’re interested in this topic, it is worth checking out the Chang School new book Professional Web Accessibility Auditing Made Easy which is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Google’s How To Do an Accessibility Review may also be useful to some to look at. …

Former Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle
Former Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle
Perhaps the person best known for a spelling mistake, Former Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle, is remembered for his gaffes, including misspelling ‘potato’. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

I have been promoting use of automated accessibility tools for years. There has been a lot of controversy around them because publishers want them to be more than they are. There is never going to be an automated tool that will be able to tell an author with any certainty that there are no barriers for users accessing the content.

Many in the web accessibility industry are beginning to re-position the discussion as more akin to spellcheckers. Spellcheckers compare patterns of characters with a dictionary to highlight words that are unknown. Often there is industry jargon, names or acronyms that…

Dutch windmills with swarms of birds flying around them.
Dutch windmills with swarms of birds flying around them.
Renewable energy needs to be the norm not the exception.

Today is the first day of the Global Climate Strike which Greta Thunberg has inspired. Our society is being faced by the threat of environmental peril. Whether it is reduced biodiversity, persistent plastic waste, or our climate crisis, there are more reasons than ever for us to be concerned. But what do these have to do with procurement or innovation?

Governments in Canada are the biggest purchasers of goods and services in our country. Public attention has been focused on what consumers can do to “shop for a better tomorrow”. …

Wood carving of a squirrel with a nut from Canada’s new parliament.
Wood carving of a squirrel with a nut from Canada’s new parliament.

Governments in Canada can drive steady innovation by leveraging and contributing back to open source tools that they are already using. Around the world governments have successfully used this approach to address technological challenges that they are faced with. A large investment in micro procurement could help shape greater collaboration both inside and outside of government.

While it would be hard to argue that “eureka” moments don’t occasionally happen, most innovations tend to occur through incremental change. There’s a long tradition of simply trying to apply one set of tools in a different context. …

Open source is not jut about code: It’s about sharing knowledge and our collective success.
Open source is not jut about code: It’s about sharing knowledge and our collective success.
Slide from TEN7’s Ivan Stegic from a Drupal Camp in 2016 -

The internet has fostered a huge growth in innovation. It was built open and fostered the exponential growth of open source software communities around the globe. Communities were built to allow people to build our modern digital world. Now, not everyone has embraced this approach, but it has become a cornerstone of almost all successful software projects.

Open source approaches to software development became competitive as the negligible cost of distributing bits made sharing ideas easy. The ability to use, modify and distribute software freely has also created a shift from products to services.

Unfortunately, government procurement is still firmly…

Single robin on a wire
Single robin on a wire

What are we striving for?

As Canadians, we all want to see our country as one that is helping to shape the future. We value innovation, and do actually have lots of programs investing in it. As Justin Trudeau said at the World Economic Forum in 2016,

“Diversity fosters new ideas. New ideas generate the experimentation needed to make the most of the fourth industrial revolution.”

Unfortunately, the largest lever that the government is actually working against innovation. In almost all sectors of the economy, the largest single purchaser will be government. …

The Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde in Montreal.

DrupalNorth was held in Montreal this year. This event rotates between Canadian cities (so far only Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal). The goal is to bring together Drupal events across Canada and have one big one that can attract bigger presenters. I was lucky to present twice.


My first presentation was Personalizaton and Building an Accessible Site, which you can watch on Youtube. The raw version of the slides is also available.

Mike Gifford

Drupal 8 Core Accessibility Maintainer—Open Source Software — Father — Quaker — Prolific Photographer (Flickr)

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