A11y Hacks for the Blind: Navigating GitHub & the W3C


Recently, Birkir Gunnarsson wrote two pretty great blog posts for Blind Accessibility Testers Society (BATS). The site is the brainchild of Birkir and fellow web accessibility evangelist Lucy Greco. It’s a place where blind people working in the accessibility industry – as well as in other roles like software development – can better understand how to utilize and work with the tools of their respective trades.The hope is that the BATS site will evolve into “a library of tutorials and tips for how to use technical tools, as well as workarounds for visual interfaces.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Birkir’s work, he was one of our best senior subject matter experts here at Deque (and an ex-paralympian bronze medalist, to boot!) He also blogged for us. Birkir wrote about the importance of having unique ID attributes in one post; in another, he spoke candidly about why web accessibility is really all about the user.

Birkir has since moved on to other career endeavors, but his posts for BATS are so helpfully informative that we felt compelled to share them here.  

Mastering GitHub with a Screen Reader

The title says it all. In this post, Birkir details how to master GitHub with a screen reader (no easy feat!) He details everything from how to configure the environment to creating a project, with easy to follow, step by step instructions. The post is also informative for those just getting started with using GitHub, as Birkir explains the ins and outs of the site, including the main aspects of how to use it. One example is how he explains about forking a repository and cloning a project, with helpful suggestions and tips on where to find the cloning menu.  But this post is so much more than just a standard how-to. He covers virtually everything a non-sighted user would need to know when using the site – including working around some of the less accessible site features.

Participating in W3C Conference Calls

One of the most important projects for anyone in the accessibility is working on the W3C. Since the W3C is heavily invested in making the world wide web accessible, it would make sense that accessibility evangelists – especially those with limited or no vision – would be involved in these calls. The irony, as Birkir explains, is that while these conference calls are at the center of their efforts for the W3C, the W3C calls aren’t fully accessible. This applies even to the accessibility working groups! Birkir outlines some of the accessibility challenges of these calls in the post, and how they can be worked through. Like the post on GitHub, Birkir gives step-by-step instructions for how to join and use a WebEx conference call (in a variety of different formats, from dialing in to text chat and more). The post is full of helpful hints and little hacks – like what to do if you’re using an iPhone with headphones (spoiler: don’t get too close to the screen, as the screen reader voice will start bleeding through!)

For more information, please visit the BATS site, follow them on Twitter at @blind_bats and be sure to check out more valuable posts from the “BATS cave.”

Birkir Gunnarsson is a former Deque Senior Subject Matter Expert. A CPACC certified Yale graduate and ex-paralympian bronze medalist, Birkir has been an active advocate for web accessibility policy, awareness and legislation in Europe and North America. He has been a member of various technical W3C Working Groups and currently serves on the WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices taskforce.

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