AccessU 2021 - Julie Shedd

Sessions attended:

Digital Accessibility as a Civil Right: Legal Update for AccessU

About session

This class will offer the fundamentals of why accessibility is a civil right of disabled people and share up-to-date developments in the digital accessibility legal space relevant across the public, private, and education sectors.

taught by: Lainey Feingold |

The ADA is not there to restrict anyone or create excuses for lawsuits. It is a civil rights law.

It's important to "bake in" accessibility from the beginning of a project - once you've baked the muffin, you can't really put blueberries into it.

Feingold provided a brief overview on the history of the ADA and other disability laws and lawsuits in the US and around the world.

There is a proposed law in Congress now - the Online Accessibility Act - that is bad for disability rights.

There's a bill in the Nevada state legislature that would apply public accommodations policies to websites -

Lots of recent wins for disabled citizens seeking to participate in the public process, Amazon employees, HBO viewers needing transcriptions and captions, Patreon users

Cases to watch: Winn-Dixie (; Domino's Pizza; Walmart self-check

More links:

Introduction to Accessible PDF

About session

In this session, participants will be introduced to the various tools available in Acrobat Pro DC. We will walk through the workflow to take a document, convert it to a PDF, and remediate some of the basic tagging issues.

taught by: Krishna Vemuganti & co-presented by: Cornelius Chopin

Accessible PDFs need: tags; descriptive hyperlinks; alt text for images; proper color contrast; etc. Use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC with tools Accessibility Checker and Reading Order.

(Keynote) Moving from Awareness to Action: XR Opportunities

About session

This talk will briefly introduce XR (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Spatial Audio Experiences) and Accessibility. We will discuss opportunities we have to create spaces and experiences for our future selves.

taught by: Regine Gilbert

XR = umbrella term for VR, AR, mixed reality, etc.


  • VR makes a person feel like they're somewhere else
  • AR shows digital images on top of the real world
  • Mixed Reality blends the physical and digital
  • Spatial Audio gives you a sense of space beyond conventional sound

97.81% of the world hasn't tried VR yet.

AR is often a highly visual experience (ex.: Pokemon Go). Through working with blind/low vision, Gilbert found that we can enhance AR for the blind with audio cues, haptic feedback, and other accessibility considerations. Can your app be operated with no visuals? sound? hands?

People with a variety of disabilities like VR and think it could be beneficial, but are prevented from using it by accessibility problems. The two biggest were the inability to customize the experience and the necessity of moving certain parts of the body.

Ian Hamilton said, "Thinking about accessibility = inspiration; thinking about accessibility late = remediation."

Tools and organizations:

  • WalkinVR - tool for adapting VR games for people with disabilities
  • SpatialXR - realtime captions for virtual meetings
  • Mozilla Hubs - web based 3D environment
  • A11y VR - meetup for people interested in making VR accessible
  • W3C - created web content accessibility guidelines, working now on XR guidelines
  • XR Access - community for making XR accessible (symposium June 10-11)
  • PEAT (Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technologies) - writing the book on accessible emerging technology development
  • XRA Developers Guide
  • Oculus Virtual Reality Checks - focusing on audio, visuals, interactions, movement, etc.
  • Equity-Centered Community Design - a creative problem-solving process based on equity, humility-building, integrating history and healing practices, addressing power dynamics, and co-creating with the community
  • Regine Gilbert's resources -

Inclusive Design Workshop

About session

Learn about some key areas to address accessibility in your design. Learn how addressing so-called "edge cases" can lead to a better experience for everyone.

taught by: Mary Jo Mueller & co-presented by: Hope Turner

Accessibility issues can come from unexpected places. For example, the Frankfurt airport experienced an increase in elderly travelers asking where the restrooms were - because that was the only place they could clearly hear the PA system announcing departures/arrivals.

Approach problems from a human perspective. Talk to actual people with disabilities and other access needs. Learn about their actual needs. For instance, providing ASL interpreters will help a lot of Deaf/HOH people, but possibly not late-Deafened people who haven't had time to learn ASL. Braille signs may help many blind/low vision people, but late-blinded people might not know Braille.

IBM Equal Access Accessibility Checker -

Inclusive design can be seen as the intersection between user experience (how specified users can use your product) and compliance (conformance to accessibility standards).

Empathy maps can be great tools. You create a simple persona (name, occupation, other basic details) and go into what the persona might say, think, feel, and do.

Accessible Project Development, Planning to Delivery: Here’s the Playbook and Tools to Get It Done

About session

Infusing accessibility across the product delivery lifecycle requires strategic action, as well as using the necessary tools. IBM has done the research in both areas, and in this session you’ll learn about our recently announced, free offerings that help product teams with their accessibility journeys.

taught by: Alexandra Dean Grossi & co-presented by: Will Scott

IBM Enterprise Design Thinking

  • Principles: a focus on user outcomes, restless reinvention, diverse empowered teams
  • The Loop: observe (immerse self in real world), reflect (come together and think about it), make (give concrete form to abstract ideas)
  • Keys: Hills (align teams on meaningful user outcomes), playbacks (exchange feedback frequently), sponsor users (get user feedback) - a toolkit to help dev teams work like accessibility experts

IBM Equal Access Toolkit - provides guidance according to product phase (plan, design, develop, verify, launch)

  • Levels for dividing up the work -
    • Level 1: most essential tasks, least investment - addresses many of the top concerns of people with disabilities
    • Level 2: addresses next most important issues
    • Level 3: full WCAG compliance

They have an accessibility checker available for Chrome, FF, Node and Karma - shows violations and how to fix them, explains how each affects users with disabilities - newest version lets you create multiple scan reports. Looks very useful for building empathy and showing people the context of the code decisions.

(Keynote) Tara Voelker: The Good in Gaming

About session

Gaming isn’t just something kids spent too much time on when they should be outdoors. It’s a hobby that offers deep social connection, access to culture and personal benefits. In this session, learn why not only why gaming is important, but accessibility in gaming is more important than ever.

taught by: Tara Voelker

"Inclusive design doesn't mean you're designing for one thing for all people. You're designing a diversity of things so everyone finds a way to participate."

Inclusive Design - Understanding the User Voice

About session

Panelists will share individual user experiences, what barriers they face, and their thoughts on how a program like Teach Access can support their independence.

taught by: Shea Tanis & co-presented by: Wayne Dick, Meryl Evans, Julian Wang

What's the most accessible device or software you own? - Microsoft Word, speech-to-text, Zoom or other virtual meeting programs

What's missing when non-traditional users are left out (cognitive disabilities, anything outside the usual deaf/blind/mobility issues)?

Eight Traits that Make or Break Your Interface

About session

For interactive UI components to be recognizable, eight traits of object recognition need to be evident both visibly and text readably: role, name, value, state, rank, target, behavior/outcome, identity. Ensuring the perceivable, operable, and understandable display and announcement of just these eight traits offers a simple heuristic that designers, developers, and testers can easily learn and apply.

taught by: Robert O’Connell

Identity is innate, inherent, essential. You can change your name or your role, but your identity remains. This goes for individuals and for groups. For any class of interaction elements, an interface trait is one that doesn't or shouldn't vary among elements of that class.

Example: <button>. "Button" is every <button>'s identity. It can have different roles (date-picker calendar, menu control, slider handle) but it's always "button". Can have many names (Search, Pick Date) but is always "button".

Apply a role to a non-button element and that element becomes an impostor - it tells screen readers it's a button, but it doesn't behave like a normal button.

Every button has a set of essential identity traits: viewable, focusable, hoverable, clickable/touchable/commandable/keyboard-actionable, on view and on focus and on hover and on click, announces to screen readers "button".

Every user-facing element plays a role. Sometimes the role is self-evident (example: a Save or Submit button, a link that names its target Home). Other times, the role needs to be made evident (example: buttons that act as popup callers; links that act as content-togglers "Expand/Collapse"). A role needs to be made evident when its action is not self-evident. Complex components need a component role label.

Every user-facing component needs a name, a visual- and screen-readable callsign or handle. The name should be unique within a page or page region, so it can respond specifically to a voice command. Values should not be used as names, but are always associated with a name.

Not all UI elements have a state, but if one does it should be indicated visually and screen readably. Ex: a checkbox's state is either "checked" or "not checked".

An element's rank relates to its position among its peers. Ex: a step within a task flow ("1 of 3") Can be persistent, variable, or hierarchical.

A target predicts a transfer of cursor focus. Never needed on links that just load a new page within the same window. Is needed on anything that opens a new window or tab, a modal or popup or flyout, etc.

An outcome is the result of triggering a process the control initiates. Ex: close controls on a form

An element's identity should match its appearance: no button should look or act like a link, no link should look or behave like a button, no input should look or act like anything other than a button. The identity should match what the users expect.

Micro Interactions: More Like Micro Aggressions

About session

With the popularity of micro-interactions on the rise as mobile technology continues to grow, the barriers they create for people with attention-related and other cognitive disabilities rise along with it. In this talk Shell Little will discuss the difficult place we are at with these standard-less patterns that help some and block others using a variety of examples including in-the-wild patterns with a focus on mobile-based micro-interactions, all to answer the question ‘what is micro enough?’.

taught by: Shell Little

Begins with a brief overview of neurodivergency and spoon theory.

Purposeful design decisions can greatly affect neurodivergent users or other UWDs. Ex: having a moving image; lots of distracting images

Microaggression: a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination, regardless of intent. Can come in the form of misguided "compliments" ("You're so brave!" "You're too pretty to be in a wheelchair.")

Cognitive microaggressions: deceptive or dark patterns, hostile or hijacking patterns, unavoidable motion, flashing blinking content. Protection: read-only mode, ad-blockers, prefers reduced motion.

WCAG is great, but not so much for cognitive disabilities. Testing for these disabilities is difficult. Many of the considerations for them are AAA-level for this reason.

Distractions are bad! Websites should respond to your action, not your being on the page to be advertised to.

Barriers - "subtle" animated elements you can't stop; parallax scrolling; lots of small ads that add up to a lot of space (recipe sites are the worst for this)

Animations can be OK, if they are in context with the content. Animation for the sake of it is no good.

Speed of response matters - not too fast, not too slow. 1 second - seamless, but users sense delay. 5-10 sec - users feel at mercy of computer. 10+ seconds - users with working memory issues may have trouble. But too fast and users may not realize things have changed or that their action has worked.

Highlighting should provide a high-contrast experience. Let users highlight text. Make sure the highlighting doesn't obscure the text.

Auto-play videos - Bad!

"No 'delightful' experience is worth the health and safety of users." These "micro" issues have real physical, mental, emotional effects on real people.

Microinteractions can provide a lot of accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities - the point is not to get rid of them altogether - just use them wisely and with CogDis in mind. Let your users decide, via settings, what they want and how much of it.

AccessU 2021 - Troy DeRego

Day 1

The WAI to Web Accessibility: A Tour of New Resources from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative

Shawn Lawton Henry

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is focused on make the web accessible and usable by all through advocacy and education.  There is a tremendous amount of content on the website ( As one of the lead contributors, Shawn Lawton Henry presented a tour of these resources.

Although it is always a work-in-progress, one great feature is the points-of-entry for various audience types. The needs and interests of a "policy maker" are very different from a "developer" or "designer" and this is a way to help curate the experience.

Developing Applications for those with Cognitive Disabilities

Michelle Ranae Wild, BEST

Michelle is the founder and CEO of Brain Education Strategies & Technologies (BEST) and works with a team of experts including members with traumatic brain injuries to develop apps which help users with cognitive disabilities manage day-to-day tasks. A very interesting by-product of this process was discovering that the tools and methods user of this app need to structure daily routines are similar to the iterative design methodology used to develop the app: Plan > Monitor > Evaluate > Repeat

User research revealed to the team that pre-injury, most activities are performed on "auto-pilot". After a brain injury, this changes for most, and each step in a process requires focus and attention and cognitive overload becomes a major road block. This is also a lesson for designers to be aware when they are operating on "auto-pilot" allowing biases to creep in instead of paying attention to user needs.

Inclusive Design Workshop

Mary Jo Mueller, Hope Turner - IBM

As a provider of enterprise solutions for businesses, IBM has a vested interest in making sure their products are accessible by all. They have a team dedicated to setting inclusive design standards, documented here:

This session was a hands-on work shop and everyone participated in creating an Empathy Map based on a suggested persona. It was a valuable learning experience, but not for the intended reason. Personas are a standard design tool to help understand audience types, build empathy, and lead to new discoveries. I find them to be fraught with problems, mainly in that they seem to reinforce the existing biases in the design team instead of learning from actual people. In the case of persons with disabilities this can lead the team down the wrong path. This was the case in the exercise performed here. Instead of making discoveries, the group narrowly focused on how frustrating and worrisome it would be to experience the suggested disability. It is not likely that that has anything to do with the day-to-day experience of a person who has faced this challenge their entire life and has a series of strategies to manage the challenge.  This is impossible to simply slap on to a persona and really understand this audience type. (This way of thinking will be confirmed and stated more eloquently in a Day 2 session!)

Day 2

Inclusive Design and Research

Shea Tanis, Coleman Inst.

"What is inclusion? belonging, respect, value"

"What is inclusive design? Considering the full range of human diversity."

Shae Tanis presented a very thorough overview of inclusive design and research methodologies. The main take away is that inclusion needs to be considered at every stage of the process in order to avoid "advocacy theater". This is when diverse audience members are included in discussion and research, but their contributions are not fully valued and they are not involved in testing the results to see if their needs have been met.

Shae also made an important point about why simulations, or the creation of personas, don't work. Individuals are resilient and adaptable, traits which are not reflected in the creation of personas. This is similar to how a sighted novice screen reader user testing a site is not anything like how an experienced person who depends on a screen reader uses one. Only actual users can provide the expertise and insight that leads to discoveries.

Designing Accessible Forms

Jim Allan - W3C

Great technical overview of HTML form elements all documented and available here:

Make a Splash: In depth dive into ARIA

NIcholas Steenhout -

ARAI is a set of attributes added to HTML elements to provide some accessibility functionality that was missing. HTML5 added some of those features. This is why ARIA usage has become complicated and widely misunderstood. In most situations semantic HTML5 is all that browsers need to make elements accessible in a predictable manner. Adding ARIA parameters can confuse or even break the accessibility. So the mantra has become: the best way to use ARIA is to not use ARIA!

Of course there are several cases where ARIA is essential. Here are some examples:

  • aria-live - alerts users to newly presented dynamic content.
  • role="log" - is used for constantly updating elements such as a time counter or stock ticker.
  • role="dialog" - is used for modal windows. Use with caution as browser support is spotty.
  • aria-required - is a preferred method to the HTML5 "required" implementation which can be problematic in the way screen readers announce it.

Day 3

Eight Traits That Make or Break Your Interface

Rob O'Connell - designer at USAA

I am a long time user of USAA digital services and have seen the improvements by the design team over the years, so it was interesting to gain some insight into how they approach the process. 

The "eight traits" are a bit of a misdirection. The theme of this presentation can be summed up by saying that interface elements have an identity which has inherent behaviors and a predictable presentation so user know what it is when they encounter it and it does what is expected. The "traits" are parameters that are part of the HTML standards and must be used to accurately describe interface elements to screen reader users.

What is unique to this approach is the focus on the DNA of each element and respecting that identity all the way to the presentation to the user. This idea will aid in the creation of a component library where we break each element down and ensure usage is consistent as it is added to other objects.

Designing Inclusive User Experiences

Henny Swan - Tetralogical

Henny is an digital accessibility consultant. She presented a list of tips and things to consider to improve the accessibility of websites. I appreciated her user-centered approach to this, for example, making sure alternative text for image is conversational and makes sense in context, sometimes conveying the emotional meaning of an image as opposed to just the literal. She urged us to consider the users situation when using an app or website, such as a running app which is impossible to use without reading glasses (I totally get this one!)

In the design process, it is vital that designers clearly convey the intention of designs so it does not get misinterpreted in development. Annotations are good way to do this, but be careful to only include what is needed to avoid cognitive overload causing developers to tune out and miss the information.

KEY NOTE: Judy Heumann

Judy is an activist who's work led to the Americans with Disabilities Act. She went on to work in the Clinton and Obama administrations and is still active in the movement. Listening to her story, some of which is presenting in the documentary "Crip Camp" (available on Netflix!) and her new memoir, was the perfect balance to all of the technical and legal presentation of the conference. We are all working to make the web better in some small way, to ensure guidelines are complied with, which is important work, but none of it would even be a discussion if it weren't for brave individuals like Judy who spoke up and demanded their rights. She is inspiring, and asks everyone who points that out, "So what are you going to DO with that inspiration?"

How to Develop an Efficient A11y Testing Process

Lyssa Prince - ABLE Tech

Lyssa gave us an overview of the various website accessibility checkers, such as Siteimprove, and how to compile the results in to an actionable report for clients.

The W3C Authoring Practices list is a vital resource in creating a checklist and understanding the intended functionality of elements.

Performing Task-Oriented A11y Walkthroughs

Sarah Pulis, Andrew Arch

The problem task-oriented walkthroughs solves is that accessibility checkers, such as Siteimprove, can point out issues, but simply passing one of these checks does not guaranty accessibility or usability. Testing based on specific user goals can be a better indicator. 

Of course this approach is useful, but in this presentation it is based on personas, which as described earlier can be problematic. The concepts presented here would become many times more valuable if tested on actual users.

Final Thoughts

I don't know if there really is some kind of collective theme, or if it is just my own journey of discovery, but it the theme last year was that accessibility enhancements benefit all users, then the theme this year was that accessibility solutions require true inclusion of persons with disabilities at every phase of design and implementation.

"Advocacy theater" is when representative of target audiences are brought to the table, but their contributions are left there. Persons with disabilities are the experts who are facing and overcoming challenges every day. They are the team members that can drive innovation and measure the results.

As much as I appreciate and am inspired by the incredible work of the presenters of AccessU, I still feel that much of the discussions present accessibility as an "add-on" and persons with disabilities as a separate group that must be considered. I understand that some distinctions need to be made in order to have a discussion, and that they are not the one's who defined themselves an "others". We are all working to undo this situation, and much work remains. However, I look forward to the time when we can simply consider these as usability issues. As user interface designers we all have a certain bias of what we consider the norm, mostly based on our own capabilities, like what we can easily see or click on. Even the smallest sampling of user tests will quickly reveal that our own concept of the "norm" is not enough. We need to get out of our own way and listen to our users and expand our notion of usability to include all users. There is no line between the "norm" and an accessible alternative. There is only a spectrum of presentation in various ways that can be used or combined to create whatever experience is best for that user at that particular moment.


Over the last two weeks, your DIWS team has been virtually attending DrupalCon, a massive conference about the Drupal content management system. We kept notes as we attended sessions, and you can read them all at .

We learned a lot about much more than Drupal, including how to implement continuity planning (as we say, preparing for "the bus"); tools that can search multiple services at once; creating meaningful and diverse mentorships and teams that help people of all backgrounds succeed in IT; the real-world climate-change implications of having a large and poorly-designed site; how to increase accessibility for a variety of users; a new data management and sharing tool; and how to document all of this so that future developers can easily continue our work.

Springshare updates

Earlier this month Springshare announced a code release. Some of the highlights:

  • LibCal
    • A new interactive mapping module is available (for an additional cost). Give Springshare your floorplans and they give you back an interactive map that can lead users directly to your meeting room, study room, or office.
    • Webex integration is now available for online events. (If this is something we want to pursue, I will need to set it up, so let me know!)
  • LibAnswers
    • Admins will now be able to see statistics on how much time was covered on LibChat and how many chats were fielded by each team member.

In more local update news, I deleted a bunch of LibAnswers accounts for people who no longer work at the if you're assigning tickets, the list of possible assignees is a little shorter now.

Scholars Junction

The migration is starting to move more quickly now. It's not quite ready for people to submit items, but people all over the world are finding it, so feel free to take a look at the progress!

I've finished preparing our undergraduate research collections (Honors theses, etc.) for import and will send them once bepress signals that they're ready for more collections. After that, I'm tackling our scholarly articles from across the University; then I'll do theses and dissertations; and finally I'll collect any remainders. I am hoping that we will be able to open up the site by June 1 at latest.

Presenter: Amit Chourasia, Sr. Scientist, San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC San Diego

Abstract: An award-winning data management system for teams struggling with intractable data organization and data access.

Problems: access, storage, dissemination; missing context (emails, missing notes, protocols); scattered across systems

It's not enough to just store data - you need context to give it depth and meaning; otherwise it is harder to find and use, becoming "dark data"

Data creation, use/reuse increasing; research teams are larger and more heterogeneous; data doubling every year; sprawling data governance issues; subpar realization of data value. Not a lot of rich data management solutions out there.

SeedMeLab seeks to make data

  • accessible on web via browser, API and command line
  • sharable with access control
  • annotatable with context and metadata
  • presentable in rich format

The framework seeks to be

  • easily usable, customizable, extensible
  • turn-key deployable
  • mature and sustainable

Uses specialized Drupal modules for data management, REST service/client, visualization plugins, SSO

Add files via drag and drop; organize in folders; add rich description including formatted text, links, lists, tables, images, videos, equations; authors and users can comment, starting scholarly discussion and giving evidence of communication

Admins can add custom metadata fields across the file system

Auto generate and present visualization for any filetypes via plugins

Full indexing - can search filenames, descriptions, even comments

Built in user management/roles; SSO through OAuth2 and LDAP add-ons (wonder if we could get CAS?)

User can grant specific access on files/folders (not hugely complicated, because implementing sharing is hard, but can share at top level)  - global role-based permissions for viewing, sharing, inviting, etc.

Lots of customization - filesystem fields, data list views, visualization plugins, processing plugins, layout, theme, branding

REST client

FolderShare module under hood - no dependency besides Drupal core - implements virtual file system for Drupal; includes search indexing of page/files, task scheduler, pluggable file formatters


Use cases:

  • providing a branded DMS for research groups
  • integrate with existing systems for scientific apps
  • become a service provider

Specific apps:

  • FlowGate - science portal for diagnosing cancer

Users say it allows for swift feedback, makes it easier to write papers, fulfills data share requirements

Full demo available on the website

Currently no integrations with IR systems - this takes a huge effort. Looking at existing filesystems that might facilitate something like it but no plans to create any at this time. (We could always just encourage faculty to submit "finished" data to SJ.)


Presenters: Laura Ballay, Director of Digital Experience, ImageX; Bjorn Thomson, Senior Digital Experience Architect, ImageX

Abstract: Accessibility is not just about compliance, why the user should be at the center of your organization’s decisions.

Open Y project

Contracted with Blind Inc., a company that offers accessibility testing with actual disabled users, and ImageX, who builds Drupal projects

ImageX conducted automated WAVE testing; Blind Inc could do detailed manual testing

Presenter: Jill Moraca, Director, Web Development Services - Princeton University 

Abstract: Lessons learned from migrating 300+ campus websites from a legacy CMS to Drupal and plans for upgrading 1000+ Drupal 7 websites.

Migrating 38 custom D7 sites, 362 D7 multisites, and 800+ D7 OpenScholar sites! to 1 D9 platform.

Stay informed: Educause, Chronicle, your institution's roadmap/goals/strategic plan

Plan for future:

  • Classify websites by complexity (more complex sites will take more effort to deal with in future) - assign point values, points = time
  • Categorize (characteristics, commonalities, content counts)
  • Make inventory
  • Automate when possible

As we've seen over the last year, having continuity plans is important because when Things Happen, we all have heightened fear, anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.

Challenges discovered over the last year:

  • Teammate health
  • Teammate is caregiver to ill person or children
  • Work is impacted by life

Planning benefits:

  • Anticipate risk
  • Protect teammates
  • Recover quickly
  • Better communication/trust
  • Turn stress into assurance

When bad things happen, knowing what to do makes things easier.

In practice:

  • Be empathetic (build and foster psychological safety; avoid frustration and discouragement)
  • Control what's controllable

Planning workshop framework

  • Who do you interact with when doing X?
  • Does someone authorize it?
  • Who might be blocked if you can't do X?
  • Where's the documentation for X?
  • What internal/external systems do you work with?
  • What other colleagues know this system
  • Impact on your work?
  • Description of impact
  • Who do you meet with (clients)?
  • How often?
  • Other teammates present?
  • Impact of these meetings?
  • Description of impact?
  • What could slow the team down?
  • What key milestones are at risk?
  • What blind spots did you uncover while working through this list?

This can help you see the possible risks and what you need to plan for. Then do a pre-mortem of about 50 mins:

  • Review all risks team identified
  • Determine mitigation strategies
  • Look ahead at other possible challenges

Finally, share and compare:

  • Make the environment safe; encourage transparency, openness, and support
  • Share plans with other departments
  • Make sure the plan works across departments
How green can a website be?

If the internet were a country, it would be the 7th largest polluter globally. - Sustainable Web Manifesto

More people are gaining internet access and increasing usage, and page weight is growing a lot, especially on mobile devices.

How does a website consume energy?

  • The computer it's sitting on draws electricity
  • Devices that display it require electricity

The typical page load produces about 3 grams of CO2. A website with 100,000 pageviews per month might produce 360k of CO2 emissions per year - about the same as burning 41 gallons of gas.

How can we mitigate this?

  • Hosting and infrastructure
    • Websites require a lot of supporting infrastructure that is always running even if no one's visiting.
    • Traditionally we've had to overprovision for traffic - predict how much space we need / traffic we might get and build a big machine to suit. Today we can use virtual machines and other tools to decrease how much hardware we need.
    • Cloud and data center providers are committing to reduce their carbon footprint.
    • Newer versions of software and frameworks reduce energy consumption - keep stuff updated!
  • Design
    • 76.2% of a page's total weight is imagery, video, and custom fonts. Cut back on these and improve efficiency. Images alone make up 65% of the page weight. Use them appropriately, size them sensibly.
    • Don't use autoplay on videos.
    • SEO makes searching easier and faster, which reduces the energy users expend to find your content.
    • Use darker colors - they require less energy. Blue consumes 25% more energy than red or green! Provide a dark mode for your users.
    • Set a page weight budget.
    • Scale images to be the size at which they should display - don't make the browser scale them
  • Development
    • JavaScript is more energy-intensive than other code
    • Watch your extensions, plugins, tracking scripts, etc. Use modular libraries to avoid unused code
    • Use CSS instead of JS for animations and interactions
    • Webkit now has gauges of your site's CPU usage etc
    • Use modern file formats like WOFF, WOFF2, WebP
    • Use system fonts
    • Limit video length and compress video
    • Use CDNs, static sites, AMP, progressive web apps, client side caching - these prevent re-rendering which saves energy
    • Block bad bots - 24.1% of internet traffic in 2019 was from bad bots - these waste energy


Speak about your lived experience, which might not look like anyone else's. Be willing to speak honestly, and apologize honestly if you cause harm (this is up to the person who is harmed, not you - impact over intent).

Feeling safe in a job search:

  • Applicants want to feel seen, heard, respected, and valued for themselves and their contributions (not just because they tick a box)
  • Applicants aren't just applying as "Firstname Lastname" - but as "Firstname Lastname, a black/queer/disabled/neurodivergent woman/man/non-binary person" - you can't separate these things from their work life, they're part of people
  • Don't expect minorities to help you with future diversity hires, unless you're hiring them for a position that expressly does that

As a company you need to have hard conversation about safety, inclusion, intersectionality. Build a foundation to support diverse staff.

At Kanopi they weed out applicants who aren't willing to be dedicated to diversity and inclusion with a statement right above the "start the application process" button. If they select "no" they're disqualified and can't proceed.

Tips for building inclusive hiring teams:

  • Be willing to address failings, learnings, and next steps
  • Be willing to openly discuss questions without getting defensive
  • Use inclusive interview teams
  • Operate transparently

Understand that people with certain intersectional identities are usually the only one of their "type" in the room or even in the organization.  

Understand that not all applicants have the same background or access to tech and education.

Check diverse tech communities - Black tech Twitter, Black Girls Code, Latinx tech Twitter, etc.

Don't expect your diverse hires to answer these questions or remind you of things - self-educate! Your behaviors are your responsibility. You can RESPECTFULLY ask someone if something you read sounds good but back off if they don't want to answer.

Foundational best practices:

  • Align company with inclusivity
  • Openly discuss DEI
  • Hold space in hard times (be empathetic)
  • Create intentional internal mechanisms
  • Align benefits with DEI practices
  • Support orgs that elevate underrepresented
  • Create internal guideposts for inclusivity
  • Evolve and be teachable

Presenter Donna Bungard grew up as the only abled member of her family.

  • Assume positive intent - Even if you feel there's room for improvement in your team or organization, don't assume they're acting in bad faith right away. Get to know them and where they're coming from. Thank people for trying. Everybody has a lot going on. Give the grace you want to receive.
  • Build accessibility into planning. A project isn't "done" until it passes accessibility checks.
  • Make sure your personas and tests are inclusive. Your persona list should include "users" with various disabilities.
  • It's hard to account for unknowns, but you have to - disabilities come in a wide variety, and every person is different. Build in a little space for uncertainty to account for whatever might pop up.
  • If people start to get tired of hearing about it you can remind them that "once accessibility is what we do, we won't talk about it as much."
  • Common problem areas - navigation, forms, headings, alt tags, skip, carousels, captions, contrast. Understand these and avoid "flying monkeys" (unexpected trouble).
  • Accessibility is not just for visually impaired users.
  • Any testing is better than no testing.
  • Inclusion matters.
  • There are no shortcuts to accessibility. Advocate for patience.
  • Practical accessibility helps more. Don't do things for users - do things that help users do things themselves.
  • When working with new clients, introduce accessibility as part of onboarding.

Helpful tools from the chat:

Developer relations is, basically, caring about developers and investing in them with education and growing the dev community. This is especially important in the open source community - developers are at the core of every open source project.

Exemplary communities for dev relations: VueJS, ReactJS, Gatsby, Drupal


  • Provide feedback avenues
  • Provide and encourage great documentation for the project
  • Encourage collaboration with other communities
  • Provide more tutorials and use cases
  • Organize talks and webinars
DrupalCon 2021 - Troy DeRego

Day 1

Welcome Session

The event is being hosted on a platform called HopIn, with a single browser page interface with an event wide chat, dozens of concurrent event rooms, and networking spaces. It is a bit overwhelming at first and too easy to post a message in the wrong chat, but overall a giant step above other large events I have attended hosted on WebEx or others. Will add more thoughts on this at the end.

The turnout is large, a few thousand, and quite diverse and international.

Heather Rocker, president of the Drupal Association, and Dries Buytaert, the creator of Drupal, opened the event with a quick presentation. Two of the strategic initiatives they hope to advance at this event are making sure the Drupal community is diverse and inclusive, and preparing Drupal to be decoupled and work with JavaScript, or other, frontend platforms. Theses initiatives are related because they recognize the create strength of Drupal is not the technology or even the create number of site around the world that use it, but it is the community and the contributors and that community is stronger and smarter when all are included. Opening Drupal to the much larger ecosystem of JavaScript developers will help it evolve and remain on the forefront of web development.


Views cookbook - advanced recipes for every web occasion - Anna Mykhaillova

This was a very brief overview of all of the pieces that work together to create and render Views on a Drupal site. There is already a tremendous amount of configuration available in the Drupal interface to set up views, and up to this point I have not run into any requirements on a project that needed custom configuration, but when that occurs, this presentation will serve as a great roadmap to know where to dig in and get started.

Building Frictionless Customer Journeys with Drupal, Mautic & Unomi - Leen Penders

The focus here was mainly for marketers, but the personalization concepts could be a solution to help us manage our very diverse audience types.

Unomi ( is an open source customer data platform that complies with all of the latest global privacy standards. It can be used to collect user data and create audience segments. When integrated with Drupal each component can be customized for each segment and when a user of a specific segment visits the site they will have a personalized experience.

Of course, personalization is not new, but how user data is collected and tracked, and the minute control over the personalization is what is unique here. Worth checking out.

Enable Drupal content creators to support cognitive accessibility - Rain Breaw

Rain has been helping to draft the new W3C Guidance for Users with Cognitive Disabilities (COGA guidance).

This has been challenging due to the difficulty of measuring the effectiveness of these solutions compared to the WCAG guidelines regarding visual, auditory, or mobility issues. The list does set some very clear standards that will most likely impact all users.

Webforms: Choose Your Own Adventure Workshop - Jacob Rockowitz

Jacob is the creator and maintainer of the Webforms module. Webforms is a super powerful form builder and I have been a bit overwhelmed by it and have not dug into it yet even though it is part of the ITS collection of modules. This presentation combines each of the presentations he has made over the many years that Webforms has existed, so even though it is a great overview, it is also a bit overwhelming. Here are a couple of concepts to encourage me to dive in:

  • WebForms ships with default settings, so set up and use can just be a couple of clicks.
  • Jacob always recommends seeing if the core contact form module will suit the needs of the project before expanding into WebForms.

Day 2

Decoupled Menus Initiative Keynote - Baddy Breidert, Gabe Sullice, Liam Hockley

This initiative sprang from the call last year for an initiative to bring the JavaScript frontend development ecosystem into Drupal. The team is working on a menu component that can be exported and included into frontends built with JS frameworks. The main purpose, however, is to help advance from being simple a repo for the Drupal application code base to an ecosystem that can maintain component libraries and the code base for other tools such as Drush.

This presentation set the tone for many of the others that followed on this day with a focus on decoupling to allow Drupal to really play to its strength as a data management platform and allow the community to take advantage of the advances in frontend frameworks and the much large pool of developers that can now work on Drupal projects.


An Iterative Approach To Decoupling Your Existing Drupal Site With Gatsby - Brian Perry, Matthew Ramir

The team at Bounteous wanted to build a decoupled version of their company site and decided to experiment with just building out a portion of the pages while continuing to present the rest with Drupal. This is a tempting option since completely rebuilding a frontend can be complex and time consuming, and difficult to justify for the performance enhancement that is the main reason for using a JS presentation layer.

The results are impressive as can be seen on their home page ( with a quick load time and slick animations, but most of their discussion revolved around the challenges of serving up a mixture of Drupal and Gatsby pages (solved by some clever routing using the .htaccess file), and trying to explain to the marketing team why it would be difficult to combine components from each on a page.

This was a very detailed presentation and I will definitely refer back to it for tips, but my main takeaway is that it makes more sense to develop a parallel decoupled site, or app for specific functions, along side a full Drupal site rather than try to combine sections...

Decoupled Horizons: Drupal's next decade - Gabe Sullice

Gabe used this time to ask some big thought provoking questions rather than make any bold predictions. Kind of a refreshing change of pace from the minute details of these other presentations, but not much to share about it here.

What we learned from migrating 80+ sites during uncertainty 

This was a debriefing of a major migration project by Trinity University and a Drupal design firm called ImageX. There are many lessons to be learned from their experiences, but the key takeaways are the importance of a well structure team, division of roles, understanding of what areas require a deep level of institutional knowledge and which require a fresh outside perspective, and most of all, a Project Manager to organize and lead the process.

Building decoupled informational web for Czech government

A great example of decoupled Drupal can simplify and speed up development. This pandemic related project provides information and resources to the Czech people. With Drupal as the data repository behind a firewall, it could be managed safely and securely. The frontend displays an exported version of the data. This set up allowed for two different teams to work independently at the same time, and also allowed for a hand off to the Czech government where development has continued. 

Manually Curated Solr Search Results

This was a brief overview of the site search platform that can be integrated with Drupal.. There are some powerful tools to control search results, but even in the presentation it was clear how this can easily become complicated and have unexpected repercussions. I don't believe Solr is an option for us on the ITS server, but really the main takeaway here is that managing search results using SEO tactics rather than configurations will always be preferable.

Day 3

Easy Out of the Box Initiative Keynote

This initiative is about ensuring that Drupal remains simple to use with "low-code" options for new users. This includes projects like Layout Builder, the Claro admin theme, and the Media Library. As the team gave their updates I got the notion that this might be the right area for me to contribute to the project. These are the parts of the Drupal experience that can either be inviting or turn new users away. Even though I don't necessarily use these features now, I fully understand how important they are in creating that welcoming open door.

After the session I enrolled in the contributors meeting in the afternoon.


Dries Buytaert is the creator of Drupal and his keynote address is always a highlight of DrupalCon. He opened with some statistics about the increase in the number of site globally built with Drupal and made a special note of that three of the big four Covid-19 vaccine producing companies use Drupal. 

He discussed the four initiative, that each have their own keynotes during the week, as well as the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, and then proposed one more for a "Project Browser" to simplify the installation of modules. This is really part of a bigger concept of making Drupal more inviting and easier to get started building sites. This is exciting to witness because this is how new ideas get introduced and sometimes take Drupal into new and unexpected places. I am sure there are plenty of suggestions over the years that went no where, but sometime a call-to-action and many volunteer hours designing, developing, and testing lead to something that inspires a whole new crop of Drupal users to create great things.


Strategic User Experience for Stanford's Fingate

Stanford University's financial management web site had gotten out of hand. The audience types that make use of the site were very different, but could all agree that the site had become a difficult maze. ImageX was hired to help them with user testing to understand better how the users envisioned the service and how best to label and organize content and features. 

Easy Out of the Box Initiative Contributor Meeting

I have been seeking a way in to start contributing to the Drupal project for as long as I have been using it, and every time I make an effort I run into a road block or get too intimidated as describe in the Driesnote (see above). This experience was not different as the challenge just to enroll and find the breakout rooms was a challenge. Even the mentors were having difficulty, so instead of finding someone to help me get started, they were all just trying to learn how to navigate the "rooms". 

Day 4

Automatic Updates Initiative Keynote

This is a vitally important initiative, although it is not one that I really understand the nuts and bolts behind it. The idea is to be able to perform automatic updates to Drupal core and modules in the way it is done in the WordPress ecosystem. The biggest issue here is remaining secure, so being able to push security updates in a timely manner will help prevent attacks.


Habitat for Humanity: Building a foundation for digital success - Caroline Self, Vicky Walker, Will Rusk

Habitat for Humanity had a really out dated site overrun with content. The worked with ImageX to migrate the site to D8 served on Aquia. The transition allowed them to perform a content audit and archive a good deal of old stuff. Most importantly, they have had a great step up in performance providing better service for their users. It has opened up many new opportunities as well, such as interactive apps to help get their message out to more people.

Accessibility for Deaf Beyond Video Captions & Sign Language

Day 5

A few notes from Hallway conversations:

  • Training Drupal developers really needs to be by training them as Drupal site builders so they can create mental models how how nodes and views are put together with contextual relationships.
  • Talked with the project lead for the Oliveto core theme about becoming a contributor. He showed me a few small issues to get started with and will mentor me through the process of committing my first patches.

Drupal 10 Readiness Initiative Keynote

D10 is coming next year, but just as it was for the arrival of D9, it will be a bit anti-climactic because most of the new features will be in place well before that time. The team has learned a great deal about how to make these big version updates go smoothly. The process can become complicated by the number of contributed modules each with their own set of dependencies that can cause conflicts, but they have some great tools in place to report on these potential problems, automate the changes that are needed or suggest a manual fix.


The war on PDFs - Danny Bluestone (Cyber-Duck)

Danny began the presentation with that fact that 25% of the global population experiences some form of disability, either temporarily, situationally, or permanently. We must take this in to consideration when we design and build digital experiences. One report showed that the experience of accessing a PDF on a mobile devices for a visually impaired person can be excruciating. The same report showed that HTML on a desktop can be much better, but much of the remainder of the presentation went on to make the case that PDFs are not going away, and that when created properly can be Accessible. 

The takeaway for me is that we should always ask ourselves if a document really needs to be a PDF or not. If it does, then make use of the Accessibility tools right from the start.

Add a robust Events Systems to Your Drupal Site in Minutes - Martin Anderson-Clutz

This was a demo of a new contributed module called SMART DATE ( It includes some great enhancements for date input and display, and a reoccurring event feature that seems really well thought out. Can't wait to try this out.


There were some technical challenges, and some difficult user-interface puzzles, but nothing that wasn't overcome with a bit of patience. In the end, it wasn't anything more than we would have encountered with two long days of travel and a giant convention center to navigate, so this did not take the place of an in-person event, but there were some great benefits. The event-wide chat and the built in messaging system made it easy to reach out and meet people. Even though the contributor session proved to be a road block, I managed to have a one-on-one conversation later that had the same result of getting me up-to-speed.

The official theme of the conference was "Contribution", but the unofficial topic for a good portion of the presentations was "de-coupling". This is still only a glimpse into the future as it can be difficult to balance the benefits against the added complexity and development time. The best examples were not versions of "headless Drupal" but multi-headed Drupal. There is a great use-case for building apps alongside a tradition Drupal site. Another exciting use is to consume data from a variety of sources to be displayed quickly and efficiently in a modern front-end. In this situation, Drupal can play to its strength as a content manager and not be left behind as front-end development evolves and advances.

For me, the success of this DrupalCon will be determined by my ability to make my first commit to the Drupal project and finally become a Contributor. I managed to get my foot in the door, now it is time to walk through and get to work!

DrupalCon 2021 Higher Education Summit 

Drupal Summits are gatherings of special interest groups that happen around the same time as DrupalCon. We joined the Higher Education Summit on the Tuesday following the main event for a few presentations and roundtable discussions. Most of the attendees were from institution going through large-scale migrations to Drupal and managing wide-ranges of content creators and editors. This was a great opportunity to make note of specific methods and tools others are making use of in these situation, and to make connections with teams at other universities developing solutions that may be of interest to us as our project evolves.

Software that extends and builds on Drupal

Rethinking Drupal nodes as metadata fields, presenter created the "Strawberry Field" - a JSON blob, plugins that expose JSON/values as Field Properties; when you attach a Strawberry Field, any bundle becomes a Digital Object; events, subscribers, logic, computed fields, JSON API, Search API; mediates Files/Storage; ReactPHP background processor

Includes custom linked data webform elements; LoD reconciliation endpoints (Wikidata, Library of Congress, etc)

Twig based self rendering Drupal Entity - transforms JSON into any metadata schema on the fly; Twig output as endpoints; formatters for 3D, images, audiovisual, books, archived websites, etc.

Tabular UI/UX batch-driven importer/updater

Can generate files, new JSON, do OCR

28 deployed instances currently - small community of libraries and other institutions, metadata catalogers, vendors, developers, students

Trinity University presenters

"Web Champions" / "content owners" in each department, responsible for their department's website content - good strategy, but watch for outdated/decentralized content.

Used "Marie Kondo" method to focus on what helped end-users and improve info architecture.

Worked with ImageX - Trinity worked on the sites that required a lot of institutional knowledge, let ImageX deal with less visited and more common pages

They had a 6 month timeframe for all of this! a 3-person team!! with other projects to do as well!!! No time for wireframes, so they built a design system and reusable web components. This helped clients visualize what a site would look like without having to have a full-scale mockup. Also used forms to help report what exactly needed to be transferred, what the page's goals are, etc.

Biggest challenges: resources/staffing; prioritizing; knowing when enough is enough/preventing scope creep; scheduling meetings with 80 sites' stakeholders

All of this during the pandemic. Had to work on patience and grace and understanding where people were in their own work-lives. Empathy, respect very important.


Unsurprisingly, POC find it more difficult to find mentors and employment opportunities. Desired changes: diversity recruitment, task forces to combat existing bias, 1-on-1 support from existing employees.

Challenges for mentoring POC are different than for mentoring majorities. POC's path is different, they will need different training than what's worked for white/male employees.

Career trajectory - POC are promoted more slowly, if ever. Women POC have the highest rates of being passed over. POC work is less valued in general. Eventually they lose interest in their work.

Providing a strong network of mentors can help break the barriers down. A single mentor leaves mentees alone and vulnerable if that one mentor leaves. A network also allows for a more diverse mentorship - you don't want to only have white-mentor-POC-mentee situation. Build a network of different teaching and learning styles. Include admin. Allow for open discussion of how race/ethnicity has affected mentees' experience at your organization - don't just talk code.

POC in tech can feel like outcasts. Mentors need to be both coach and counselor, ready to handle emotional issues to some extent. Build trust. Seek to understand why mentees are on their career path, why they were assigned the specific work they're doing. Listen, without speaking, especially when you are a majority and your POC mentee is venting.

Provide good feedback and a clear path forward. Give specific suggestions. "No clear path forward" is the biggest barrier to POC women getting promoted. Watch for "protective hesitation" - refraining from giving suggestions/feedback to POC/underrepresented for fear of being perceived as racist/sexist/etc. If you aren't sure, check with a colleague to ensure you're not speaking from bias. (Another way a mentor network is helpful!) 

Mentoring is hard - give yourself grace, learn from mistakes.