Empowering Accessibility with Via Fairchild
[00:00:00] Special Announcement
[00:00:00] Leo Dion (host): I wanted to make a special announcement today. Bright Digit is setting up a brand new Patreon page. That's right. You can become a member of a fan of Bright Digit and the content that I've put together, whether it's the podcast episodes, videos, articles. Even some of the code that I've been working on and get the inside scoop and early access to that You've been a great fan of this content, and it would be super Helpful to me But also it gives you an opportunity to just get early access and ask me any questions about some of the content interviews Maybe you can suggest some questions for future guests and get the inside track on what the recording schedule is And you'll get access to the slack as well.
[00:00:45] Leo Dion (host): So we'll set up a Fans slack channel for you to join in so take a just to think about it if you can You know put some money together and support this channel and the content that I've put together. I'd really appreciate it And I just want to hear from you if you've been a fan. I'd love for you to join our Membership as well.
[00:01:09] Leo Dion (host): Thank you so much for watching and just being a fan of this content. It's really been an inspiration to me That's all I had to say. That was our special announcement. Go ahead and enjoy the rest of the show.
[00:01:23] Why Accessibility
[00:01:23] Leo Dion (host): Welcome to another episode of Empower Apps. Today, I'm joined by Via Fairchild.
[00:01:28] Leo Dion (host): Via, thank you so much for coming on.
[00:01:31] Via Fairchild: My pleasure, I'm happy to be here.
[00:01:34] Leo Dion (host): Before we get started, I'll let you go ahead and introduce yourself.
[00:01:37] Via Fairchild: Yeah, so I'm Via Fairchild, also known as CodingMilf on Twitter and Mastodon. I do post semi professionally, it just was a gimmicky username that worked, so we're rolling with it.
[00:01:53] Leo Dion (host): So yeah, we met in Chicago last year at Deep Dish. You're a prolific Twitter person. And as far as like showing your coding skills and stuff. So I'm super happy to finally get you on. And I'm excited about what we're going to talk about today. Diversity and accessibility. I'm in the middle of testing my app for accessibility features and stuff.
[00:02:17] Leo Dion (host): Got you interested specifically in accessibility.
[00:02:21] Via Fairchild: The fact that I didn't know about it, and then one day somebody was talking about, what were they comparing it to? UI testing, and how it can also be helpful for accessibility. I was like, what is that? And, that's a very privileged statement. To say, I don't know what this is for accessibility.
[00:02:38] Via Fairchild: And that was at the very beginning of my apprenticeship at Big Nerd Ranch. And from there I was always just asking, what is this? It just seemed like this nice to have Elusive Idea because it's not considered a core of development, it's, as a junior developer, in the growing sense And self taught.
[00:02:59] Via Fairchild: I've never seen it brought up, which was really disheartening once I started learning more of really what it is. And I went into a position where they tried to meet ADA standards and above because they're a nationwide news and internet outlet. So thankfully they had some internal standards that they were bringing their current app to and then just their, They're brand new features.
[00:03:21] Via Fairchild: They were starting it from the bottom. They weren't like having to backtrack too much. So that was nice to see. And then just poking around on apps with my voiceover and dynamic text and realizing how many things are very broken. I was like, man, we need a whip this into shape. The whole industry and got a lot to learn.
[00:03:41] Leo Dion (host): Yeah, I'll give credit where credit's due. Apple usually tends to be pretty good about telling people about all the accessibility features and just letting people know about Like that. Hey, accessibility is important. What do you think so apparently, like you started off like many of us not knowing what accessibility is, what are some maybe misnomers or mis mischaracterizations that people don't get about what accessibility is and what it means for mobile iOS developers like ourselves?
[00:04:13] Via Fairchild: iN the sense of I guess maybe voiceover. It really is just another line or two of code more often than not. I think sometimes it can be overwhelming with thinking, wow, there's this whole world I'm unfamiliar with that I need to cater to, which we should hopefully be just doing that anyways but there could maybe be I had the idea that There is so much that I need to work into the app to make this usable for dynamic text and voiceover.
[00:04:47] Via Fairchild: And it, it sometimes can get a bit complicated with the UI for dynamic text. But that's worth the effort, I think, and it's a lot of good learning. But specifically with voiceover, it's usually just adding on some accessibility traits which is not that hard if you know what to look for. We just maybe need to spend some more time on researching that generally.
[00:05:09] Leo Dion (host): So is most of your accessibility work in UI kit or Swift ui?
[00:05:13] Via Fairchild: UI kit. I, my last position was focused UI kit. And that was, it was between Zib, Storyboard, and Programmatic.
[00:05:23] Leo Dion (host): Okay.
[00:05:24] Via Fairchild: all of that.
[00:05:24] Leo Dion (host): Storyboard will allow that on this podcast.
[00:05:27] What APIs to Use
[00:05:27] Leo Dion (host): what are some like one on one or what are some first things people should do when they're adding accessibility to their app?
[00:05:34] Via Fairchild: The nice thing is, if you're working in Storyboard, you can see there's usually accessibility traits. It's pre determined and marked active for you, like for a button. So it'll read such and such button and it'll notify the user that it's a, interactive feature. So you can change that or you can at least make sure it's on.
[00:05:54] Via Fairchild: And let's see, what was the original question? I got excited to talk about that.
[00:05:59] Leo Dion (host): Just like what what are some first things you should do if you're going to set up accessibility in your app when you're using UI kit?
[00:06:06] Via Fairchild: Yes, yeah I would say just learn the traits and spend a few days with your phone on voiceover because it took me a good minute to learn the touch gestures, how to understand three finger swipe, or like the rotator, selector,
[00:06:24] Leo Dion (host): I actually don't know what the accessibility traits are or what should, what are they and what should I know about,
[00:06:29] Via Fairchild: Oh, man, I'm trying to think of all the ones from what I worked with. The most common ones that I... And you can recall are like headers. So you want a header to announce what is on the page, right? So you've got an article. So you've got article title. And maybe there's a button for I don't know, maybe there's a video feature, right?
[00:06:53] Via Fairchild: So you've got article title, video feature, and then a button to view more or something. So it's like key points of what's on your app screen in front of you. So you can just click through really quick. Or tap through, really, and it's just giving you the main highlights of what's on the screen, and then you can go further from there, you can do more detailed descriptions, and you can, you have to be a bit more careful with like truncation, like if there's a, an article summary, you have to make sure you're adding the right voiceover traits for that to make sure it's not reading the whole thing, or giving a glimpse of what you actually want.
[00:07:31] Via Fairchild: The user to see, or
[00:07:33] Leo Dion (host): That's really interesting. Cause I've been, so I've been doing a lot of Swift UI work lately in Mac OS for my app bushel and like Swift UI actually is really good. They've done a lot with accessibility as far as like labels and things like that. And there's the accessibility audit app, which is amazing and super helpful.
[00:07:53] Via Fairchild: Is that different than their accessibility inspector?
[00:07:56] Leo Dion (host): Or sorry. Accessibility inspector. That's
[00:07:58] Via Fairchild: Oh, it is that. Yes. Yeah.
[00:07:59] Leo Dion (host): And then with that app, you can do the audit and then you could also do the audit now with UI tests as well, which is amazing. But I noticed the accessibility header and I'm like looking at it and it's got like H1, H2, like all these H.
[00:08:14] Leo Dion (host): TML based tags and I'm like wondering what the heck it means and now that makes a lot more sense It's like a way to organize your content in such a way for voiceover, right? So yeah,
[00:08:24] Via Fairchild: Yes, yeah, the priority for the user.
[00:08:26] Leo Dion (host): Okay, that makes total sense. What are, like we went over voiceover, what other accessibility features should people know about besides what people use voiceover,
[00:08:37] Via Fairchild: one of the things that I thought was very... painful but also very educational was like an onboarding screen. A lot of onboarding series have really beautiful graphics and once you turn on dynamic text it breaks them terribly and a lot of the time if you don't have a scroll view in it you can't get down to the continue or the submit button because it's so blown up and so you're literally stuck in onboarding and then your app is quite Unusable.
[00:09:08] Via Fairchild: That was a hard realization of
[00:09:12] Leo Dion (host): can you tell me what apps are like that, that
[00:09:16] Via Fairchild: the one I was working on, we had Spectrum News, which we fixed it. That was my ticket. We fixed the onboarding. But it's really you just need to put it in a scroll view, which you wouldn't think of because it's like. dEfault text, it's just fine,
[00:09:31] Leo Dion (host): right
[00:09:32] Via Fairchild: beautifully.
[00:09:33] Via Fairchild: But once you take it all the way to that top font accessibility, it's just totally blown up because it needs to be. And it's stuck. The constraints are just set to what they are. There's and the, with that too, you have to make sure, oftentimes, this is more of a design preference, but you want your image to scroll up with the text beneath it.
[00:09:59] Via Fairchild: Am I making sense?
[00:10:01] Leo Dion (host): yeah no, I totally get it
[00:10:02] Via Fairchild: Okay, it's hard to verbally, I'm like, I can see it in my head, you scroll and
[00:10:09] Leo Dion (host): welcome, welcome to the world of podcasting yeah I keep forgetting about dynamic test text. That's a really good one. The other one I think about is like one handedness. If you only have one hand I don't know about you. I'm an Apple watch user, but there's always using the nose to touch your Apple watch screen because your hands are full.
[00:10:28] Leo Dion (host): There's always things like that, that I think accessibility offers that we often don't think about. But yeah, that's a really good point. So we covered traits, covered headers, voiceover, dynamic type, what else when it comes to accessibility? Are there any like steps you would take if you're going to run an app and be like, okay, let's test this out.
[00:10:51] Leo Dion (host): So you would enable things like voiceover, I guess you'd play around with dynamic text. There's accessibility inspector running an audit and that. What other tools should people know about?
[00:11:00] Via Fairchild: I would put a gentle caution about Accessibility Inspector, just because it is super out of date. They haven't sent out any updates for a while, so sometimes it can break and it might seem, especially if you're running in the simulator for voiceover perhaps or something it might give you mixed feedback for what is actually functioning or not in code.
[00:11:20] Via Fairchild: So I would just... Suggest maybe doing the the hardcode, like the device itself, if you can. I'd love for Apple to, to update that, but it's okay. It makes sense. It's a back burner
[00:11:33] Leo Dion (host): yeah. What other tools then, maybe besides those?
[00:11:37] Via Fairchild: I think. Just
[00:11:38] Leo Dion (host): settings in the iPhone that you should be enabling to test it out?
[00:11:43] Via Fairchild: I Would definitely make sure you know how to turn off voiceover before turning it on.
[00:11:49] Leo Dion (host): If you're going to be in public, yeah, that'd be good.
[00:11:51] Via Fairchild: Yeah, I think honestly, just from my experience, there could be better ways and I'm totally open to hear them, but I think the best way is to just act as the user would if you're just testing dynamic test text. Have it cranked up and test it on all spectrums of the font. It goes down to really itty bitty to big and you wanna make sure that just for, for UI reasons as well as accessibility that it's reasonable to navigate.
[00:12:23] Via Fairchild: But yeah, definitely spending time with your phone on. voiceover and be prepared to be bothered with how much it reads out to you if the screen lights up. It always is oh, it's, 1400 and it's so many degrees outside. So I had to keep the dimmer off. Just let it always stay on because it would bother me every time I would go to test something.
[00:12:49] Via Fairchild: I'm like, ugh, it's impossible to get into it.
[00:12:52] Leo Dion (host): Yeah. Have you done anything with accessibility and SwiftUI?
[00:12:57] Via Fairchild: No, but I was looking at it, and it seems like it's got a lot of things for free, which is really nice.
[00:13:03] Leo Dion (host): Okay. One thing I've done recently is really, especially since I'm doing what's great is if you're doing UI testing, It works with the accessibility stuff. So like the better your app is accessible, the better it works with UI tests. So for instance accessibility identifiers, like I just, I've been putting those like crazy all over my app.
[00:13:25] Leo Dion (host): So that way I can start saying, click here, do this, do that. And then running the audits. We talked about that in the episode with a poll, but just like now you can run a whole accessibility audit and. Like it'll tell you, Oh, this color is not the right contrast, or this button is too small, too big, things like that.
[00:13:45] Leo Dion (host): And it's been amazing. And it's been great working with SwiftUI with that stuff. It's not SwiftUI definitely has gotten a lot better in the last year or so, and it shows,
[00:13:56] Via Fairchild: That's fantastic. Yeah, that I've taken a year off from it, so I should jump back into it more.
[00:14:01] Leo Dion (host): Yeah, understandably. Yeah. And I don't know if you've ever done UI testing, but if you're doing anything with UI testing, if you have good, you like accessibility, then the UI tests are just so much easier as far as getting that working and saying, okay, click this button, do this, do that.
[00:14:16] Leo Dion (host): And then, yeah. So anyway, just, I can't plug that enough. Yeah, it is.
[00:14:22] Making Accessibility a Priority
[00:14:22] Leo Dion (host): what else do you want to talk about when it comes to accessibility?
[00:14:26] Via Fairchild: Oh, just that maybe it would be wonderful if... If we considered it a part of developer foundations, especially for self taught, I think I think we have to go out of our way to learn about it and to suggest integrating it into work. And I think slowly that's shifting, but I'd like to see a little bit more energy around pushing that through to just the community.
[00:14:56] Via Fairchild: I think we have some role models in the industry that are trying to push it more, and I think that's really helping sway the attention. Otherwise I wouldn't be very aware of it myself.
[00:15:06] Leo Dion (host): right, apple does do a good job. They always have a few talks on it.
[00:15:10] Via Fairchild: BuT
[00:15:11] Leo Dion (host): I
[00:15:11] Via Fairchild: hearing your mom talk about it, yes, mom. I know I need to clean my room, but.
[00:15:16] Leo Dion (host): I think honestly, what it comes down to with all this stuff is money is if a business is willing to pay a developer to do it, then... Yeah, it's going to become more important in the industry. And I do think it's shifting that way. It's just how it has to because we have a wider audience than we used to when it comes to technology.
[00:15:59] Leo Dion (host): So I think businesses are shifting in that direction.
[00:16:02] Via Fairchild: Yes, yeah, it's quite interesting. One of the clients at Big Nerd Ranch, it was a very large client, and they were backtracking to integrate accessibility to avoid being sued.
[00:16:16] Leo Dion (host): Yep,
[00:16:16] Via Fairchild: Which I think is where a lot of apps are, unfortunately. So hopefully industry, the industry giants will say, oh look, we need to just Let's start from the bottom with this, not backtrack and add it.
[00:16:30] Leo Dion (host): Yeah, and like we've said it's like accessibility isn't just you know We always think of the most extreme cases of Somebody's blind or somebody doesn't have the ability to use their hands or something like that or deaf or things like that But I think there's a fine gradient to it's like we did that episode with Casey talking about the different kind of permanent, temporary and situational issues arm injury or ear infection, the small parts not the big drastic parts that can be temporary.
[00:16:59] Leo Dion (host): So yeah it's good to keep that in mind.
[00:17:02] Via Fairchild: yeah. The term universal what's it called?
[00:17:05] Via Fairchild: Universal design. Universal design is the design of buildings or products or environments to make them accessible to people regardless of age, disability, or other factors. Addresses common barriers for participation and things that can be used by the maximum number of people possible.
[00:17:23] Leo Dion (host): It's good to know. The thing actually what I was thinking of was the curb cut effect where it's like The idea of being like the curb cut or it's not, it's originally for people in wheelchairs, but it's helpful to everyone. Like we said, like baby strollers, dollies, whatever it is and I think that's another thing to think about is going back to my whole rant about UI testing is if you start implementing this stuff in accessibility, like there's benefits outside of just.
[00:17:53] Leo Dion (host): Making it accessible to everyone, UI tests, or just somebody is temporary, temporarily disabled. It becomes valuable to them as well. Yeah. So if you need to like I guess I'll ask you if you need to sell accessibility to your client or the company you work for. That's one way of doing it, right?
[00:18:14] Via Fairchild: Yeah, the general, the universal diversity, the universal accessibility.
[00:18:20] Leo Dion (host): Yeah. Totally. Totally. coOl. Anything else?
[00:18:24] Diversity and Accessibility
[00:18:24] Leo Dion (host): Or should we talk about diversity more?
[00:18:25] Via Fairchild: I feel like it all goes together. It's all about love and acceptance. Kumbaya. We need it.
[00:18:32] Leo Dion (host): you wanna, yeah, go ahead and expand upon that I guess. What do you think, what do you mean it goes together?
[00:18:38] Via Fairchild: oKay, so I was just interviewing with a gentleman who He's blind himself. He's a blind web developer, and he was talking about making a greenfield app as an example for just for high quality accessibility So so maybe that'll pan out eventually, but again funding so one thing that we were talking about which I really appreciate was the idea of having a diverse team to really Drive home.
[00:19:11] Via Fairchild: The accessibility of the app, because when you have a diverse team, you get so many angles, and he was talking about wanting to get more blind developers on the team, and more women, just people of underprivilege, and I think of, like, all of these minorities that are very slowly finding their footing in the tech world, and there's a lot of wonderful organizations out there to support it, but it's really wild to see how much of an uphill battle it is.
[00:19:48] Via Fairchild: Like, when we were at that conference earlier this year, Deep Dish Swift point one, one, 1. 0.
[00:19:56] Via Fairchild: Josh did a fantastic job with his lineup of speakers and diversity. And I just can't, I just can't applaud him enough for that. But it was so interesting to be on stage and to see a sea of white gentlemen, which is totally fine and normal and expected.
[00:20:15] Via Fairchild: But it's also There was a group of gals and we all got excited and did a dinner and it was, I think, a total of maybe twenty women or so in about three hundred. Gentlemen that were attending a conference, which was funny because we're celebrating that. We're excited about the growing number, right?
[00:20:35] Via Fairchild: But the percentage comparison is just offbeat still.
[00:20:41] Leo Dion (host): yeah, do you... What do you think are the barriers to why that is currently as low as it is?
[00:20:50] Via Fairchild: That's, I could talk about that for hours alone. I don't know, like I just went to a career day at my son's elementary school and I think it really starts there. Just what we're teaching our children, and conformities for how we think brains work for girls versus boys, and I think there are some fundamental things, like I'm watching my son go through some difficulties in school, and I'm like, okay, I think this might just be because of how he was DNA created, right?
[00:21:20] Via Fairchild: But I think at the same time, there was a little girl who came up after one of my sessions and she was like, your job is so cool. I want to be like you. And she's wearing cute pink frilly stuff. And I, it was so heartwarming, but it's also man, I hope that she'll be I hope that there will be people to support that further.
[00:21:40] Via Fairchild: I'm coming from a background of cosmetics, ironically, so very female
[00:21:46] Leo Dion (host): cAn I ask, how did you go from cosmetics to opening up Xcode?
[00:21:51] Via Fairchild: I was tired of being poor. To be frank.
[00:21:54] Leo Dion (host): That's, okay, I'm just gonna keep probing it if that's okay, but why mobile development, IOS, like, why specifically iOS development?
[00:22:02] Via Fairchild: That's really what fell into my lap. I was
[00:22:05] Leo Dion (host): Okay.
[00:22:06] Via Fairchild: unaware of the world of tech. And when I talked to a friend of mine, he was like, This is what I do. I'll mentor you. Let's do it. And
[00:22:13] Via Fairchild: Put all my eggs in one basket.
[00:22:15] Leo Dion (host): Okay. Okay. Yeah. And that's interesting. I'm just trying to go backwards to probe the question about why is were you like, were you ever interested in technology or development before
[00:22:30] Via Fairchild: I think in ways that don't directly compare. I have a unfinished degree in event planning and small business. And putting the pieces together of a bigger project, that's something that was really satisfying to me. I think in an indirect way, it compares to the joys I find in development because I can find those more detailed, those detailed things that need attention and pull it into the bigger project.
[00:23:00] Via Fairchild: So I don't think it, there's never really been any point in my life where I'm like, computers are so fantastic I want to spend my life working on them, until recently. But yeah, it's been a big adjustment in that sense.
[00:23:13] Leo Dion (host): Yeah. Sorry. Yeah, it's just interesting to me people's stories and where they're going. Obviously, there's a lot of money in software development, and it makes sense. There's just demand, regardless of, there's just, there's always a demand out there for that stuff. And it's just I think part of it is I think it's going to get better.
[00:23:33] Leo Dion (host): I don't, I think the trajectory is going to continue to go up, but it's it's your social circle, right? If your social circle brings you awareness of it and, things like that, I think that's going to be super helpful. Yeah, as a dad, it lights my heart anytime my second grader says she's interested in what I'm working on, I'm just like, yes, yeah, please,
[00:23:53] Via Fairchild: Ha
[00:23:53] Leo Dion (host): I could go on this all day, and then, they get bored because they're sick of dad talking about it, but still, it like, it does light my heart whenever they're interested in it yeah, I totally get it.
[00:24:03] Leo Dion (host): What do you what do you see as ways of encouraging your kids and maybe your daughter specifically to pursue software development?
[00:24:13] Via Fairchild: I Think now, generally, the world of tech has clued in to needing to level out a bit. So there's some really great tools for children, like Scratch, Playgrounds is growing more and more. I keep hearing about this computer I'm thinking about getting for my son. Kano computer? It's basically children's version where you build the computer and then you can code on it.
[00:24:37] Via Fairchild: From what I've understood.
[00:24:39] Leo Dion (host): that sounds really cool. Oh, Kanna with a K. Alright, we'll put that in the notes. That's very cool.
[00:24:45] Via Fairchild: Yes, and Just the idea that, you know, even down to like gaming is, gender equality. I think since the start of the industry really, early 90s, it's been very boy focused except for maybe Tamagotchis.
[00:25:00] Via Fairchild: So it's good to see that slowly leveling out and I think that's really where it's gonna continue to grow as Ground Up, but there's a lot of support for adult women as well.
[00:25:11] Via Fairchild: And I think, just in hiring process, there's a lot that can be grown to make that available.
[00:25:18] Leo Dion (host): Yeah. Agreed. Agreed. Yeah. What, do you have any links or recommendation, recommended resources for folks like yourself as far as helping women and the industry?
[00:25:32] Via Fairchild: Yeah, there's a couple of them. I'll send you away for the show notes. Off the top of my head, Underdog Devs with Rick Wolter, I think is how his last name's said. He focuses on... Underprivileged and formerly incarcerated. There's a lot of people that can fit into that that world.
[00:25:49] Via Fairchild: Which, it can be life changing if you fit in there. He's got an amazing thing going. I'm in a Slack channel called Women in Tech, or Women Who Code. And there's a lot of Resources there that I'll send your way as well, but there if you look for it, you'll find it even in My local iOS developer slack community, there's a channel for women and I think I'm about the only one Every once in a while, I'll see a female and I almost think I startle them.
[00:26:19] Via Fairchild: I'm like, oh my god a woman and they're like Oh, what's your name? . But I just get so excited. I'm like female. Yay. So
[00:26:29] Leo Dion (host): can imagine. Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. Via, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.
[00:26:34] Via Fairchild: my pleasure. I'm glad to have a chat with you. Thank you.
[00:26:37] Leo Dion (host): Yeah, where can people find you online?
[00:26:40] Via Fairchild: I spend most of my time on a Twitter X, still . I do have a Mastodon account that I'm still getting used to. Otherwise you can reach out to me on an email or LinkedIn.
[00:26:53] Leo Dion (host): Thank you so much. It's been great. People can find me on Twitter or X or whatever we're calling it at Leo G Dion Leo G Dion at c. im on Mastodon. You can also find me on LinkedIn. We also have just set up a Patreon page. So if you love episodes like this I would love your support.
[00:27:11] Leo Dion (host): We'll have a link to that in the show notes for bright digit companies, bright digit, please also take some time and subscribe. If you're watching this on YouTube or post a review on your podcast player, if you really liked this episode, thank you so much. And I look forward to talking to everybody later.
[00:27:26] Leo Dion (host): Thank you. Bye.