Jesse’s job is to ensure that Salesforce is developed so all customers can use it. Some customers may not be able to use a mouse to interact with the application, or may have vision impairments that require a screen reader or other assistive software or hardware. Assistive technologies need web pages to be written semantically so the technology knows how to describe the content to a user.
Jesse’s work is important for Salesforce out of the box, but Salesforce is also a platform. There are tens of thousands of developers and partners (including my company, Skuid) building custom pages and applications on Salesforce using Visualforce, Lightning, and other frameworks. How can we ensure these developers are also building pages that are usable by everyone?
The goal of our presentation was to explain to developers building on Salesforce how assistive technologies interact with the web, and to provide real-world Visualforce and Lightning code samples. The challenge with accessibility in most web applications isn’t coding them to be accessible: it’s that many developers don’t know how assistive technologies hook into a web page, so they don’t realize when their code prevents AT from interacting with the page. Many code samples on the web today — which developers rely on when learning a new technology – are written inaccessibly, and there aren’t a lot of resources explaining the hooks that Visualforce, Aura and the Salesforce Lightning Design System provide for accessibility.
The highlight of the evening for me was the follow-up talk from Adam Rodenbeck, who described his experience as a blind developer. In UX we think a lot about users who are new to an application, or have varying levels of sophistication about computers. But until Adam’s talk, I hadn’t thought much about the different levels of experience among assistive technology users.
Adam told the group that he sometimes needs to use three different screen readers in order to understand what’s going on in a page. What about users who haven’t mastered multiple screen readers — or who don’t even know that they can do that? The experience of a person who has lived with a disability since birth is going to be different than someone who has recently acquired it.
(While preparing the examples for the presentation, I uncovered more blog-worthy detail than could be covered in an hour. So expect more posts coming up with the accessibility tag.)