When I made my first web pages with Netscape Composer in the late 1990s, I had no awareness of what accessibility was. My only concern at the time was that the website looked the way I wanted it to look. Later, as I decided I wanted to get better as a web developer, I would frequent Usenet groups. It was there that I was exposed to accessibility from people like Patrick Lauke, David Dorward, Brian Huisman, and others. It wasn’t long before I started feeling that making a website accessible was just part of doing a good job. In other words, I had internalized accessibility as part of my job responsibility when making a website. It has been this realization that drives my entire outlook on accessibility for over 2 decades.
Another thing I had internalized is that usability was a quality concern as well. As a newbie to the professional side of web development in the early 2000s I became obsessed with usability. There’s no telling how many trees were killed to support my obsessive printing of research articles from various journals so that I could read them later. My first real job in usability and accessibility was with a company that was aptly named: User-Centered Design. It was there that accessibility really took hold of me.
Consulting on accessibility
My favorite part of my time with User-Centered Design was the variety and the learning opportunities. In fact, the first thing I ever did with them was sit in on a usability study for a website dealing with chronic pain. During my years with User-Centered Design I got more and more interested in accessibility. I eventually decided that I wanted to do accessibility full-time and left to go to work for SSB BART Group (now known as Level Access).
At SSB BART Group, nearly all the work I did was audits and VPATs. While I also did a wide variety of things there, including developing the company’s site, redesigning AMP, launching AMP Express, and helping manage a project to redesign AMP yet again, most of the work was audits and VPATs. So many audits and VPATs. I liked doing them, but I also discovered that I loved doing training. After a week-long training with Sutter Health, in California, I was hooked.
Training on accessibility
I bounced around a little bit shortly thereafter. I had a brief sting with Deque as Director of Training, then over to Simply Accessible, before landing at The Paciello Group (now known as TPGi). At The Paciello Group, I handled all training for their customers, alongside my trusty sidekick Billy Gregory. When we weren’t training, we were doing… audits and VPATs.
With training, I finally felt like I was able to truly make a difference. Over the prior several years, one thing became apparent to me: audits are of little practical use other than for generating revenue for the company doing the audit. Training, I came to feel, had a much more important impact. After all, the results gathered during an audit were just evidence of ignorance. Designers, developers, and content authors have no choice but to make mistakes because they’ve never been taught how to avoid those mistakes. Finally, I could train them to know how to do it right!
Tooling on accessibility
There was another thing that was missing in accessibility, and it was something I had noticed for a very long time: all of the tools on the market were unable to test websites until the site was deployed somewhere. While some page-at-a-time browser extensions could test a local file, there was nothing out there that could be used that truly worked alongside other developer tools for quality. That is, until I created Tenon. Tenon was the first accessibility testing tool on the market with a Node module, CLI, plugins from Grunt & Gulp, an API, and plugins for WordPress, Drupal, and more.
Tenon was acquired by Level Access in November 2021.
Taking over accessibility
But accessibility consulting is still broken, and it cannot be fixed with consulting, audits, training, or tools. After being involved in this field for 20 years it is time for a new approach: Taking over.
The reason why consulting, audits, training, and tools don’t work is because customers don’t want to do remediation. Customers purchase consulting and audits because they don’t know how to address accessibility, but they have no plans in place for how to take action on what the consulting and auditing deliverables tell them. The reason why they purchase training is because they recognize their ignorance and hope that training will mean their staff will become self-starters on accessibility. They don’t. There’s really only one way one way to ensure that a customer’s website is accessible: Take over.
That’s why today I’m announcing AFixt: a website remediation and development company focused on getting customers’ websites and apps accessible and keeping them that way. At AFixt our mission is to ensure that websites and applications are brought into compliance with accessibility standards quickly and efficiently, without the needless back & forth of accessibility audits and without the half-baked solutions and false claims of “accessibility widgets” and overlays.
The AFixt vision is to be a trusted and respected partner, recognized for our expertise, integrity, and commitment to delivering exceptional solutions that are based on a simple key principle: writing good code means delivering good experiences.
AFixt is driven by 4 core values:
- Veracity: we deliver our best work, advice, and mentorship to all customers at all times. They can count on AFixt’s elite knowledge and expertise to help them become compliant with accessibility laws and standards and stay there.
- Quality: The projects we deliver are of unmatched quality and address accessibility concerns at their source.
- Collaboration: We work closely with customers to ensure that what we deliver meets both the needs of the end users and the business needs of our customers.
- Innovation: We are thought leaders – literally – with a proven track record of innovation. Our very existence is based on the idea that the most important thing customers need is a fresh approach: No more audits that never get acted on, no more tools that are hard to use, and no more widgets that deliver false hope. AFixt delivers actually accessible systems.
Follow the takeover at AFixt.com