Remotely educating our team on web accessibility

This post focuses on our experience of educating on web accessibility across a truly remote team. Read on to gain an insight into how we supported team members spread across Europe and Australia to create an accessible game.

Web accessibility in Tau Station is primarily supported and managed by the front end developers as this is where the experience lies. The requirements touch the user interface (UI), user experience and the narrative content so responsibility also lies with the designers and design decision makers.

Implementation is guided by the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. For a novice they can be overwhelming to interpret so we produced guidance documents to educate the designers and developers, supported by external videos:

Our initial implementation followed WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. In June of this year the WCAG 2.1 recommendation was published to expand the W3C‘s accessibility guidance ‘… including expansion of mobile, low vision, and cognitive and learning provisions’ (WCAG 2.1 is a W3C recommendation). We will review this update in due course to see where it may be applicable to our existing UI and our training guides.

Training designers on accessibility

As the rest of the team had little or no experience of web accessibility we appreciated that we were asking them to incorporate an additional layer of implementation in their work practice. So it was important that we were available to support as needed. For the designers we did this through design reviews and generally being available for questions in weekly UI meetings via Google hangouts, 1 to 1 Google hangouts, or via Slack.

For the designers’ implementation guidance we described how we (the front end developers) assessed their designs for accessibility. We looked out for things in the designs such as:

  • How we would communicate relationships visually implied by the design, and the potential hierarchy and structure of content.
  • Will the design components work within a flexible and responsive interface?

We also provided guidelines on color use, interaction rules (regarding hover and focus) and form rules. We didn’t just explain how but also why a particular guideline is important to a particular user.

Our designer guidelines are contained in Accessibility Guidance for Designers. For the demonstrative videos we linked to the appropriate sections of the excellent free Google course on Web Accessibility provided through Udacity.

Training front end developers in accessibility

In our document to train and direct front end developers – Front End Accessibility Standards and Testing Process – we focused on the following:

  • Who accessibility is for and why it matters
  • Understanding what is required from of the designers so that we can support them
  • Obligatory completion of the entire Udacity Web Accessibility course
  • Rules on our approach to development and testing
  • Resources that can assist the interpretation and implementation of the guidelines.

With an appreciation that web accessibility will be new and challenging, developers more experienced in it provide feedback through code reviews. Support is also provided through 1 to 1 Google hangouts and via Slack to discuss the accessibility of features if needed.

Player Feedback

We implemented a bug reporting form which players can use to provide feedback on any aspect of the game that is not working well for them. This form generates GitHub issues for review by the relevant team. For the front end this has also been an invaluable feature to provide real user feedback especially on complex UI.

Overall, we hope that by educating our remote team on the accessibility considerations relevant to their work – and with the help of user feedback from our community – we can continue to ensure that Tau Station remains a truly accessible experience for all web users!