Interview With Steve the Accessibility Wizard

In this interview I had the honor of being joined by an amazing individual. This guy was a blast to interview and I’m thankful that Mr. Steve Sawczyn gave me his most valuable commodity that is time. Today we’re going to talk about accessibility and how it makes the user interface better for everyone. If you like today’s podcast don’t forget to leave a review.

Originally from Maine, Steve now lives in Minnesota with his wife. He works from home on accessibility projects while blogging and podcasting as a completely blind person.

His journey to his current job started after graduating college. When a friend asked him for advice regarding accessibility in his new job, Steve agreed to help him and was asked by the state if he’d be willing to do more of similar work. From there, he taught Jaws and Braille N Speak training, and now works for a consulting company which works with accessibility for large companies.

Thinking about his beginnings in the field, he goes back to the early days of Type Lites and devices that lacked a Braille Display. Back then Steve used to have to teach people how to log into a shell in order to check email. “Those were the days.”

Now we can record conversations and check notifications from our wrist. Steve’s definition of accessibility is “ensuring that people can access a website.” It goes beyond blinds and includes people with limited mobility, deafness, and a whole lot more. Therefore, it is super important that people realize accessibility is not just making things usable for the blind but making sure everything is usable for everyone. This is what Steve does for his current employer. There is a lot that goes into making sure a website is accessible and Steve works with companies to create and maintain accessibility for a company’s webpage, from training modules to credit card processing and everything in between. His ultimate goal is to develop a plan with a client so that in the future they don’t need him to come back and go over their website.

Making something accessible ultimately makes it easier to use. Implementing contrast standards on a mobile friendly screen decreases glare and makes the page easier to use for a perfectly sighted user. Even text messages were created originally to allow the deaf to communicate on a cellphone. There are a lot of resources out there to make something accessible depending on your needs. Google what you’re trying to accomplish followed by the word “Accessibility” for information related to your work. Some examples are

Accessibility Programming Guide for iOS – Apple Developer,

Accessibility Programming Guide for OS X: About … – Apple Developer

Accessibility | Android Developers

WebAIM: Web Accessibility In Mind

and

Deque University: Web Accessibility Training and Courses

Steve adds that although he doesn’t know everything, he is glad to be a resource for others. If he doesn’t have the answer, he probably knows someone who does, so could point you in the right direction.

Steve attributes his success to his braille teacher who pushed him to learn technology and generally succeed in life. He is also influenced by the book “to Kill A Mockingbird,” because the book talks about standing up for what you believe in. He can’t live without Google Docks and various NPR podcasts including Radio Lab. If Someone were to go blind tomorrow, his message to them would be “you’re not alone. You’re not the first person to go through this and you won’t be the last.”

You can contact Steve on Twitter @steveofmaine. You can also send him email at steve@sawczyn.com

 

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