ATU362 – Free Training on Web Accessibility (a11y) with Dennis Lembree


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Dennis Lembree |

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Inclusive Design: 12 Ways to Design for Everyone – Shopify
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Deque Cauldron patterns:
eBay MIND patterns:
Color Contrast Tools

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——-transcript follows ——

DENNIS LEMBREE:  This is Dennis Lembree, and I’m the creator of the Web Axe blog, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 362 of Assistive Technology Update.  It’s scheduled to be released on — wait for it.  Star Wars day! May 4, 2018.

Today we are super excited to have Dennis Lembree, who is really the well-known author of Easy Chirp and Web Axe.  He’s sort of a web accessibility rock star and a good friend of the INDATA Project and mine.  We are going to spend some time talking today about ways to do inclusive web design, accessible web design for web developers.  And also a free training that we are hosting here at the INDATA Project next week.  It comes out on May 9. We also have a story about 12 was for inclusive design for everybody, not just web stuff, but really good design tips.  It’s design week it seems.

We hope you’ll check out our website at  Give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or send us a note on Twitter.  You can find us on there at INDATA Project.



[1:34]  Josh Anderson on AT credentials



If you like this show, you might also like ATFAQ, which is assistive technology frequently asked questions, where, a couple times a month, we get our panel of AT experts and handle all kinds of questions.  Walking by the studio, Josh Anderson. Josh, we’re doing a quick plug here for ATFAQ.  It’s a show that you are on about every time he comes out, right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Most of the time.  You guys don’t let me go too often.

WADE WINGLER:  No, we don’t.  We need you here.  We cover all kinds of questions from our listener audience.  One of the ones we got recently was about AT credentialing and what’s available.  The remember how we answered that?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I know we talked about quite a few of the different ones.  We stressed the ATP, which a lot of folks on my team have. The CATIS, which is an ATP version for folks who work with visual impaired consumers.  And then also the ATACP.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s kind of what we do on the show.  Sometimes we get silly.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Usually you cut that part out.

WADE WINGLER:  And we have bloopers.  If you would like to hear the episode, it’s episode number 73.  Or any episode of ATFAQ.  Just direct your web browser to, or just look for ATFAQ wherever you get your podcast.



[2:39]  Inclusive Design: 12 Ways to Design for Anyone



WADE WINGLER:  Our theme today is all about accessibility.  I was sort of excited to see on Shopify, of all places, a blog post entitled “Inclusive Design: 12 Ways to Design for Anyone.” While our main guest today is going to be specifically about web accessibility, this is kind of about everything.  In fact, the author who compiled this article pulled a lot of good pieces of advice from a lot of different places.  For example, the number one idea for inclusive design is getting to know the people you designed for.  In fact, they quote Steve Fisher, who is the founder and principal designer at Canadian UX and Content Strategy.  He says that great design makes the world better for everybody.  All design should be inclusive.  I know we see that and a lot of areas in the world of assistive technology.

The second item they talk about is remember that every single customer benefits.  You’re not only designing for people with disabilities, but it helps everybody, kind of that classic universal design concept.

The third one in the article is to identify your assumptions.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant until I read what author Sara Wachter-Boettcher — Sara, I’m sorry if I got your name wrong there.  She says that questioning assumptions means taking what you think is true about your users — for example, that they’ll appreciate your funny, quirky copy, or that they are sitting at home comfortably scrolling a website on a big screen — and asking, what if the opposite is true? Like what if our jewel comes at a bad time and triggers a bad memory, or what if there trying to finish a task from their tablet at the airport, and with the five percent battery life and bad Wi-Fi.  Does the experience still work? Does it break if you haven’t done good design?

Another one they talk about is don’t let the data take over.  I’m kind of a data nerd myself.  I like to know what the numbers say. Ivana McConnell, who is the senior UI/UX designer at Customer IO, reminds us that data isn’t a be all and all.  There is more to it than that.  A couple of the things they mention is designed for uncommon usage first and also things about being considerate when using color.

The actual article is very good, 12 ways to design for everyone.  I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to Shopify so you can check out those things in your own, not only the ones we talked about but check them all out.  Check our show notes.



[4:50] Interview with Dennis Lembree



WADE WINGLER:  I’m excited to talk about a training that’s coming up real quick with somebody who I have known for quite a while now.  I’m starting to feel like an old man in the industry.  Dennis Lembree has been a friend of the INDATA Project for many years.  You might know him because he’s the creator of a super popular thing called Easy Chirp and a blog called Web Axe. He’s been well known in web accessibility circles for a long time, and he has agreed to come in our show today.

First and foremost, Dennis, how are you?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  High Wade.  Pretty good.  Thanks for having me on.

WADE WINGLER:  Thanks for having you back.  I think you’ve done this a time or two with us in the past, haven’t you?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  May be a wild back.

WADE WINGLER:  It’s probably been a while.  This show is getting to where it’s been for a while now, so I forget sometimes how many people I’ve had on the show.  We have a training coming up on May 9, is that right?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  That’s right.  Wednesday, May 9.  It’s about a six hour schedule.

WADE WINGLER:  It’s going to be a long day with all kinds of stuff.  We are going to talk about some of the content you plan to do for us that day and how people can sign up and become involved in those kinds of things.  Before we get into that, not everybody is as familiar with you and your work as I am.  Tell everybody in the audience how you got into web accessibility.

DENNIS LEMBREE:  It’s been a while now.  Back in I think it was 2001, I was working in Orlando for a training company, and electronic course company doing some CD-ROMs.  I was the first web developer to arrive and change things over to web-based training courses.  They had a lot of government and military clients.  That’s about the time when Section 508 became enacted, so they need to somebody to learn to help implement Section 508 on the courses.  That’s originally how I got involved.

It was really interesting to me, and I really became intrigued how usability and web standards and accessibility all crossover.  I’ve been doing it ever since.

WADE WINGLER:  Since then, you’ve done some of the things as well, right? You’ve had some roles that all have focused on accessibility to more or less the extent?


WADE WINGLER:  So talk to us about that, and then tell us what you’re up to these days.

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Sure.  I was web developer for a large part of my career.  I had various jobs, and I was the accessibility guy for several organizations and large companies.  It wasn’t until I got to PayPal where my web accessibility career really took off and sit out.  Soon after I joined PayPal as a developer, we created, under the guidance of Bill Scott, and accessibility team.  He pulled over Victor Sarin from Yahoo to lead that team, so we had a small, great for folks doing accessibility at PayPal for a few years.  I was the lead developer on the accessible PayPal video player, open source project that was fairly popular.  That was good.  Then I slid over to eBay for a year or so as an accessibility project manager over there.  Now, for the last two and half years, I’ve been working as a senior accessibility consultant.  That’s my day job.

As for as my side work goes, first of all, you’ll find me on twitter all the time.  I’ve been addicted for a while.  I have for twitter accounts, my personal account @DennisL; and then for Web Axe, my blog and former podcast, I have a pretty active twitter account; and then for Easy Chirp, that is a third-party twitter app that I developed, a web-based twitter app that’s accessible, very robust.  That keeps me busy.

WADE WINGLER:  You are tweeting all the time, it seems.

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Yeah. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

WADE WINGLER:  Did you celebrate when the character limit was raised? Was that a big deal?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Not really.  I’m a pretty conservative person, minimalist.

WADE WINGLER:  Succinct?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Yeah.  Raising the character limit did help, but at the same time it kind of took away from the original concept of twitter and short tweets and have an exercise to go through of writing a message that’s concise and not long-winded, which helps accessibility if you write things more shorter and simply.

WADE WINGLER:  Absolutely.  Speaking of that — and we may be preaching to the choir with our audience — when we think about accessibility and especially Web content accessibility, why is that important? Why should we care?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  The first thing would be people with disabilities, if you make your website accessible, folks with disabilities, particularly those using assistive technology, will be able to access all the information and be able to achieve what they want to do on your website.  That’s first and foremost.  That’s what some definitions say, including the W3C. I think it’s more than that.  There is a lot more talk nowadays with universal design and inclusive design, and that’s a big part of it.  It’s not just people with disabilities.  Anybody can have a temporary disability or a situational disability where an accessible website would also help.  In general, a more accessible website or product means a more usable product.  It’s easier to use in general.  Accessibility is also good for you. In Adrian Roselli’s words, it’s “selfish accessibility.” Do it because you might need it yourself.  If you’re a 20 something-year-old designer or developer, when you are older, you might need some of the features of an accessible website, being able to increase the text size or zoom in on the site, and still being able to read the website.  That’s a big one.  Or if you have hand tremors or are unable to use a mouse at all, then using an assistive device or keyboard will help you as well as someone with a disability or a grandparent or whoever.

But it’s also important, as far as a business perspective, just because you have a bigger market base.  Your potential for customers will be bigger when you invite everybody through the doors.

Lastly, you as a business can be avoiding a lawsuit, which is happening more and more these days and the United States.

WADE WINGLER:  I hadn’t thought about the point of make it in case you need it later, the selfish angle.  That’s a great point.  We certainly live in a world where you need to minimize risk, and avoiding lawsuits is a great way to do that.

DENNIS LEMBREE:  The Internet is a part of life nowadays.  It’s essential for a lot of things, and that’s why we need to make our website accessible.  It’s really big in education, government, banking, things like that that are essential to everyday life.

WADE WINGLER:  On May 9, we have this full day training that will run from 11 AM to 4 PM Eastern time.  Tell us some of the things you plan on covering in that training.  What should people be thinking about in terms of web accessibility?

DENNIS LEMBREE: I think the title is “Web Accessibility Training For Developers.” It’s definitely slanted for developers, but really the training could be for anyone, for designers, if you are doing QA for accessibility or a project manager.  It will start with introduction to accessibility, what is it, talk about different disabilities and assistive technology.  And then it will go into some of the coding foundations and techniques, a lot of basic HTML things which are unfortunately not done very well these days, anything from headings to data tables, go through some CSS and JavaScript tips. New this year, we will go through a section about SPA’s, single page applications, which are becoming prevalent on the web today.  That’ll be in your topic for this year.

After the development stuff, we will sum up what’s important for accessibility with the writing, the language in accessibility on your website and product, and talk about some testing techniques and wrap up with naming some good resources and questions.

WADE WINGLER:  For people who are going to come to the training — and this is serving as a teaser for them — or for those who are going to be able to make it on that day, what are some of the things people should be thinking about when it comes to accessibility? What are some of the super easy, no-brainer things people should be thinking about?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  If you are a designer, I guess the first thing that comes to mind would be color contrast.  That’s an important issue that most people are aware of.  With that said, surprisingly, it’s a very common issue on the web, lack of sufficient color contrast between text and the background color.  That needs to be a certain level, 4.5 to 1, contrast ratio for WICAG 20AA. That’s something that should be easy, can be easy, and is easy to fix depending on the flexibility of your design and what procedures of your design organization has.  In the code, most of the time, it is easy to fix.  Hopefully it is correcting one hexadecimal value in a style sheet if you are lucky.

There are some coding issues that can be complex, but there are also a lot of easy ones.  One thing would be to declare the language of the webpage.  That could be as simple as adding as a Lang attribute to your HTML element just declaring the main language.

Some more complex things I think are worth mentioning.  Just be careful for things such as custom components, particularly customizing a form element.  That seems to be pretty popular these days, and it’s very important that, if you choose to do that, just know that you need to design and develop them so that they are accessible, which usually means a lot of extra work.  There are a lot of great examples out there on the web for design patterns and such.  It might be as easy as borrowing one from an open source pattern.  Just know that, if you’re not going to use a native form element, which is probably the best idea, the most robust way, but if you’re going to go custom, be prepared to do more work through the designers to outline not only the visual appearance but the behavior of those components and for the developers to develop it and add code such as aria to make it work correctly so people know exactly how is going to work.

That’s a pretty tricky one, but I think it’s definitely worth mentioning.

WADE WINGLER:  I’m going to try on my accessibility skills here with the three examples you given us so far.  We talk about contrast and the fact that if you have colors, text on a background and they are too close, gray on gray or a shade of light pink on a sheet of dark pink, it’s hard to see.  The idea is to increase the contrast.  There are tool to help figure out what they are right now, right? You said it needs to be four and a half to one.  There are some that will help you figure out what’s my contrast so then you can go in and change those colors.  In my right on that one? This is like “quiz Wade.” We’ve turned it into that.

DENNIS LEMBREE:  You hit the nail on the head.  There are a lot of tools out there.  It’s funny that you mention that, because on the Web Axe blog, I have a really good comprehensive list of color contrast tools.  If anybody wants to go to and do a quick search for color contrast, it will come up right away.  There is a big list.  A lot of them are web-based, a lot of them are desktop applications.  They all seem like they do the same thing, but they all were completely differently.  Whatever works best for you can’t just stick with that one.

WADE WINGLER: It’s WebAxe, W-E-B-A-X-E dot org, right?


WADE WINGLER:  I’ll pop that into the show notes.  We are doing round two of quiz Wade.  I brought a quiz on to myself.  I don’t know what I did that.  The second one is a language tag.  You might not think that is important, but my understanding is if you are using a screen reader or something that will interpret the information from the screen, and a screen reader is capable of using the Spanish accent or handling Spanish-language, and you are an English speaker, if your screen reader kicks off in the wrong language, everything is going to be hard to understand or mispronounce.  Is that one of the underlying reasons for that?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Sort of.  I think it mostly has to do with screen reader users who are using two languages, who are bilingual or trilingual.  The screen reader might not know which language to start speaking and.  I think that’s the main reason to do that.  There are other reasons.  I’ll give Adrian Rosalli under the plug.  He presented a couple times about the Lang attribute.  I think he did recently.  We’ll have to put his website in the show notes. He’s a great speaker, very entertaining fellow, super knowledgeable.  In addition to accessibility, he gave a whole set of reasons why to use Lang.  If your language changes within the document, then you should use the Lang attribute as well to declare what that other language is within your document, and the screen reader will speak that text in the correct accent.

WADE WINGLER:  There we go.

DENNIS LEMBREE:  I think that’s what you are getting too.

WADE WINGLER:  I’ll take sort of on that one.  We are getting close on time.  The only thing I’ll say about round three is I recently was purchasing something online, and when it came time to fill out the credit card information, it actually put an animation of a physical credit card on the screen.  I was supposed to type in my number and my expiration date on this thing that looked like a physical credit card.  But the forms were all weird and nonstandard.  That’s what you’re talking about with form attributes, right? If you’re going to make it fancy like that, make sure you are investing in the accessibility so a screen reader or other accessible technology can handle that.  Right?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Exactly.  It’s good to be creative, but we want to solve problems and not be creative and make things and accessible.  If you are creative, that’s fine, but you have to make sure it’s at least keyboard accessible, you are using the proper HTML roles, states and values so that assistive technology knows what it is and what is going on.  I would like to mention a couple of great patterns out there, pattern libraries for designers and developers.  If you want to check out Deque Cauldron by Deque Systems. That’s a great JavaScript front and framework.  The other one is from eBay. Called MIND patterns. Those are two good examples of design and development pattern for customizing things.

WADE WINGLER:  If people aren’t familiar with Deque, it’s D-E-Q-U-E, right?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Correct.  The cauldron library is under the Deque Labs domain, That’s the develop inside of the company.

WADE WINGLER:  Maybe after the interview I will ask you to email me these links, and we will pop them in the show notes like you suggested.  That’ll be handy.  Excellent.  I have rambled on and taken more time in our interview that I probably should have.  However, if people want to participate in the training, my notes show that it’s on Wednesday, May 9, from 11 to 4 Eastern time.  If they want to register, I have our website at, which is Internet shorthand for accessibility.  If they want to check out your stuff, your blog, the work you’re doing, is the best place for them to go or are there other places you would recommend as well?

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Yes, and, if you want to check out the accessible twitter web app. You can find me at or always on Twitter at DennisL, two “n’s”, D-E-N-N-I-S-L.

WADE WINGLER:  Dennis Lembree is the creator of the Web Axe, Easy Chirp, sort of a rock star in the world of web accessibility, and has always been a good friend of our program.  Thank you so much for being on the show today.

DENNIS LEMBREE:  Thank you very much, Wade.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find other shows like this, plus much more, at The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners.  That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.

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