Presented by

  • Dawn E. Collett

    Dawn E. Collett

    Dawn likes to tinker with cloud infrastructure and security, and regularly goes down rabbit holes in a futile search for ways to develop systems that are both reliable and impenetrable. As well as accidental accessibility advocacy, Dawn can regularly be found sharing knowledge within the Melbourne cloud infrastructure and DevOps communities. Outside work, Dawn is an occasional author, kitchen alchemist, and raging sportsball fan.


Our day-to-day lives are shaped by public infrastructure. From roads and footpaths to power lines and fibre-optic cables, we rely on basic foundations to access both utilities and communal spaces. Similarly, much of the Internet is built on top of open-source frameworks that make it easy to develop complex websites and applications. Not all of our public infrastructure is easy for people with disabilities to access. However, the Internet is far less accessible than physical public spaces. Various sources have come up with different numbers for 'the percentage of public websites that disabled people can't use'; most are over 50 percent, and depending on the specific disability referenced, some are as high as 98 percent. What are the barriers that have resulted in that figure being so high? There are quite a few of them, but one important reason is that so much of the modern internet is built on frameworks, plugins, and extensions. In the same way that complex signage in cities stops people with cognitive disabilities from travelling independently, and crumbling sidewalks limit wheelchair users to their homes, inaccessible frameworks create a lot of difficulty for folks with disabilities. Anyone creating a website using them has to do a lot of remediation work if they want the final product to be accessible, and due to time and budget constraints, that work often doesn't happen. Of course, provided that they're open-source, anyone can contribute to the common frameworks that power our software. This gives us an opportunity to make improvements that others can leverage, rather than just remediating issues in your own work. However, this requires more than just web development skills. If you want to contribute to accessibility upstream, there are a few things that you'll need to know. This talk will cover the differences between remediating accessibility issues in your own code, and doing so in open-source projects. We'll learn how to identify the types of issue that we should attempt to fix upstream, and answer some common questions from open-source maintainers about why accessibility improvements are important. Finally, we'll go over ways that project owners can test changes to ensure that they're usable by people with disabilities, and how you can use them yourself before you start submitting pull requests.