Over the last two years, it’s been my responsibility to build and maintain the Wiki Education Dashboard, a complex website that has become our primary tool for keeping track of hundreds of courses and thousands of students each term. It’s been an amazing journey so far — one I started with almost no experience in web development — and I’ve learned little bits of lots of facets of writing software and running a website. One area where our Dashboard is better than most sites is accessibility — but unfortunately, that’s not saying much.
Since the beginning of the Dashboard project, one of my most important power users has been Wiki Education’s Helaine Blumenthal. As our Classroom Program Manager, Helaine needs to be able to use the Dashboard efficiently to keep up with now more than 300 courses per term. Helaine is blind and uses a screen reader to navigate the web, which means that if a site isn’t accessible by screen reader, it’s broken.
I’m always looking for ways to improve the usability and accessibility of the Wiki Education Dashboard, and I’ve still got a lot to learn. Now that I’ve dipped my toe into web accessibility, I find myself losing patience quickly with big software companies and open source projects that don’t even try.