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Inclusive Web Design with Accessibility Engineer Parham Doustdar

How do people with vision loss experience the web, and how can we improve their experience?

In the context of Class Central’s Free Web Development Bootcamp, which started six weeks ago and has close to 8000 enrollments, we’ve been holding weekly live streams with guest speakers to learn about web development and related topics.

In previous sessions, we had the pleasure of listening to Barbara Oakley and Zach Caceres explain how to become better programmers by understanding the neuroscience of learning. And we were introduced to human-centered design by UX designer Florence Okoye.

Over the past weeks, our Bootcampers have been learning about Applied Accessibility, or how to make websites usable to a broad audience — most notably, people with disabilities. 

In this week’s guest talk, we had the pleasure of listening to Parham Doustdar, engineering manager of the accessibility team at booking.com and himself born blind, talk about inclusive web development: how to create websites that everyone can access and enjoy.

Inclusive Web Development

For a long time, the internet was largely inaccessible for people with certain disabilities — for instance, people with serious visual impairment, who must rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers to experience the web.

Over time, things got better as specifications were drafted and technologies were updated to enable the advent of a more accessible web. But for these to make a difference, developers must use them. And that requires a certain mindset. Parham’s talk is precisely about that.

I’m aiming for a future in which every single person matters. If you’d like to join in creating that future, you’ll need […] to bring a certain mindset that ensures you design, develop and test with everyone in mind. 

Topics Covered

The first time I learned about accessibility was back in 2017, when I took part in the Google Developer Scholarship. It led me to take Udacity’s Front End Web Developer Nanodegree, which had a substantial section dedicated to accessibility. But admittedly, back then I was mostly concerned with graduating and probably not in the right mindset, so most of it didn’t stick.

In his talk, Parham explains how to adopt an inclusive mindset in regards to web design, development, and testing. This will let your websites reflect your creativity and personality, but also ensure that they can be accessed and enjoyed by more people.

More specifically, here are some of the questions Parham discusses:

  • How do assistive technologies such as screen readers work?
  • How does semantic HTML markup help make websites more navigable?
  • What’s it like to experience the web for someone with visual impairment?
  • Why should empathy be a central concern for good web developers?
  • How can you concretely test whether the websites you create are accessible?
  • How does accessible design actually benefit all your users?

In addition, Parham spends a lot of time answering our Bootcamper questions. So if you’d like to gain a better understanding of what accessibility is and how to use it, or if you’re curious to know which of the following is the “sin of all sins” in accessibility — radio buttons, checkboxes, or drag-and-drop — I encourage you to watch Parham’s excellent talk below.

Manoel Cortes Mendez Profile Image

Manoel Cortes Mendez

Software engineer and online graduate student in computer science passionate about education, technology, and their intersection.

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