Richard's Journey - using Accessibility Scanner to test user-facing changes

“Learn about accessibility as early as possible, preferably at the same time as learning everything else, so that it becomes a habit and not something you have to force later on.”

Q&A with Richard

  • A: I’ve been building Android apps since 2011, when I was in graduate school studying for my Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering. I built my first Android app using Eclipse which seemed to be a great tool at the time, at least until Google’s Android Studio was released for the first time in 2014. Android Studio is such a powerful and phenomenal IDE! I’ve been using it to build apps for Android phones, tablets, smartwatches, and TV. It is amazing how the Android Accessibility Test Framework integrates with Android Studio to help us catch accessibility issues in our layouts early on.
  • A: My favorite tool by far is the Accessibility Scanner. As a developer with a hearing disability, accessibility is very important to me. I was born with a sensorineural hearing loss, and wore hearing aids up until I was 18 when I decided to get a cochlear implant. I am a heavy closed-captioning user and I rely on accessibility every single day. When I was younger, before the smartphone era, even through the beginning of the smartphone era, it was challenging for me to fully enjoy TV or videos that didn’t have captions. I’m so glad that the world is starting to adapt to those with disabilities and the awareness of accessibility has increased. In fact, I chose the software engineering field because I wanted to create software or apps that would improve other people’s lives, the same way that technology has made my life easier. Making sure the apps I build are accessible has always been my top priority. This is why the Accessibility Scanner is one of my favorite tools: It allows me to efficiently test how accessible my user-facing changes are, especially for those with visual disabilities.
  • A: As an Android engineer on Twitter’s Accessibility Experience Team, one of our initiatives was to improve the experience of image descriptions and the use of alt text. Did you know that when you put images in your Tweets on Twitter, you can add descriptions to make them accessible to people who can’t see images? If yes, that is great! But do you always remember to do it? Don’t worry if not - you’re not alone. Many people including myself forget to add image descriptions. So, we implemented Alt Text reminders which allow users to opt in to be notified when they tweet images without descriptions. We also have been working to expose alt text for all images and GIFs. What that means is, we are now displaying an “ALT” badge on images that have associated alternative text or image descriptions. In general, alt text is primarily used for Talkback users but we wanted to allow users not using a screen reader to know which images have alternative text, and of course allow them to view the image description by selecting the “ALT” badge. This feature helped achieve two things: 1) Users that may have low-vision or other disabilities that would benefit from available alternative text can now access that text; 2) Users can know which images have alternative text before retweeting those images. I personally love this feature because it increases the awareness of Alt text.
  • A: What an exciting time to start! I have three tips I’d love to share:

    1) Don’t start coding without reviewing the specifications and designs carefully. Draw and map out the architecture and technical design of your work before you jump into the code. In other words, work smarter, not harder.

    2) Take the time to read through the developer documentation and the source code. You will become an expert more quickly if you know what is happening behind the scenes. When you call a function from a library or SDK, get in the habit of looking at the source code and implementation of that function so that you can not only learn as you code, but also find opportunities to improve performance.

    3) Learn about accessibility as early as possible, preferably with learning everything else, so that it becomes a habit and not something you have to force later on.

You might like

See how other developer communities are taking on big challenges, and making an even bigger impact on our world.