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Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) aims to build awareness around accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. The goal is to get everyone thinking and talking about how we can build inclusive digital experiences that work for everyone.

We’re so glad it’s GAAD! We thought it’d be the perfect day to update you on some of the progress we’ve been making to improve our own approach to accessibility.

Finding insights with felt

Back in March, we introduced you to the work we’ve been doing with the rockstar students from Governor Morehead School (GMS), the flagship school in Raleigh serving the special needs of visually impaired students.

We’ve continued to build on our GMS partnership over the last few months, and in April we hosted our first hands-on design workshop. We gave each student a felt board and several pieces of felt representing different types of web content like navigation, article, or comments. We asked the students to design a webpage, organizing the pieces of felt on their boards in a way that would make it simple for them to navigate on a laptop.

Once they’d had a chance to work as individuals and refine their designs, we asked them to present their boards to their group. All of the students had great insights to share. One student with no vision said that when she uses a website, she visualizes where the content might be rather than only thinking about it sequentially.

GMS Workshop Student and Board

Another student with low vision compared the process of designing to a popular computer game, saying “I like to visualize the end product…web design can be compared to visualizing the end structure in Minecraft before starting a design.”

GMS Workshop Student and Board 2

Listening to the students explain their choices helped us gain a better understanding of how they think about and access content on a webpage. These observations will inform our research moving forward.

Making contributions inclusive

Starting today, we’re asking that contributions to the current version of PatternFly meet new accessibility criteria before they can be added to the pattern library. The criteria may seem simple, but they make a big impact:

  • Patterns have to be keyboard accessible.
  • Patterns have to meet to the 5 rules of ARIA.

Looking ahead

Recently, we released an alpha.1 of the next major version of PatternFly (learn more about PatternFly-Next in the Roadmap Update). With that alpha, we included the first version of the PatternFly accessibility guide, providing techniques and suggestions to help design, develop, and test UIs to ensure that everyone has a good user experience.

We’re still in the early phases of design and development for PatternFly-Next, and the accessibility guide is also a work in progress. Your feedback is always welcome, so if you have an idea or recommendation, visit our community page and learn how you can get in touch.

We’re committed to improving our approach to accessibility and learning more every day. As we build on our approaches, we hope we’re able to help PatternFly designers and developers build accessibility into components and products from the beginning of a project to support an inclusive and accessible user experience.

GAAD is about education, conversation, and sharing, so we’d love to hear about your own approach to and experience with accessibility in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this post to help us spread the GAAD word.

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