Herding Code 206: Rachel Appel on Accessibility and Unit Testing

While at NDC Oslo, K Scott and Jon talked to Rachel about accessibility (web and otherwise) and testing.

Download / Listen: Herding Code 206: Rachel Appel on Accessibility and Unit Testing

Show Notes:

  • Accessibility
    • (00:18) Jon starts by asking Rachel what aspects of accessibility she addressed in her talk. Rachel overviews some aspects: visual, auditory, motor and cognitive needs.
    • (02:20) Rachel describes how increasing font size on a page is a really quick change that helps a lot of people, pointing out that eyeglasses are an accessibility technology.
    • (02:50) Using HTML semantic tags and ARIA attributes help people who are using screen readers to navigate your site – otherwise screen readers have to read through ads, page headers, etc. for every single page.
    • (03:45) There are 1.4 billion people with some kind of accessible needs.
    • (04:06) K Scott asks how well modern screen readers handle things like semantic HTML markup. Rachel says yes, and also mentions alt tags for images. Jon and Rachel discuss how easy it is to just rename divs to semantic tags like header and nav.
    • (05:13) Jon asks what ARIA is. Rachel says it stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications and describes how ARIA attributes can give hints to screen readers for things like required fields and validation errors.
    • (06:44) Rachel recommends that listeners download a screen reader like NVDA or WebAnywhere, blindfold yourself and take some time navigating their sites to understand the experience.
    • (07:28) K Scott asks about building SPA sites with technologies like React, Angular, Ember. Rachel says that ARIA elements still work, and there are ARIA and semantic elements that indicate to screen readers that navigation is occurring. K Scott asks if navigation within a SPA causes the screen reader to start over; Rachel says that it does and recommends using skip links. Rachel recommends visiting the accessibility site webaim.org, which shows a good example of using skip links.
    • (09:25) Jon asks how Rachel got interested in accessibility. She’s worked on a lot of government sites which require accessibility standards, but she’s just personally interested in making sites that are easy to use. She describes some of the frustrations in browsing websites with ads and modals, then points out that it’s even worse for users with accessible needs. Users with accessible needs make up 20% of the population, so you can easily justify any extra work as worthwhile just in expanding your user base by 20%.
    • (12:30) K Scott asks if Rachel has any other resource recommendations. She recommends using the WAVE scanner on the WebAIM site, which indicates a number of issues including contrast.
    • Jon asks about color blindness considerations. Rachel says that it’s also important – Facebook is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is colorblind. She recommends using a tool called the Color Oracle. Rachel and K Scott discuss a number of considerations to make sure your sites and applications make sense to users with color blindness issues.
  • Testing
    • (15:55) Rachel gave another talk about testing with ASP.NET MVC. She covered xUnit for testing application code, qUnit for front-end testing, and UI automation testing. She recommends starting with unit testing, then adding in front-end and automation testing.
    • (16:50) Rachel thinks UI automation testing is kind of a hidden gem – Visual Studio has coded UI tests, which can emulate user actions, which just records your UI interactions so that it can play them back later. K Scott asks about timing issues and Jon asks about use with single page application. Rachel says just consider coded UI tests as a user – you can even have a QA or actual users click through the site and record their actions. K Scott asks what versions of Visual Studio support it. (ed. note: the recorder is only in Visual Studio Enterprise).
    • (18:50) K Scott asks what Rachel does to relax when she’s not testing and calling people out for accessibility issues, and Rachel tells us her upcoming travel plans.

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