Ben Myers is a web developer, accessibility advocate, and human T-rex. He is also the host of Some Antics, a weekly educational livestream.
In this episode we discuss the processes that lead to inaccessible websites, the mental models fullstack developers need to build accessible websites, the tools they can leverage to improve their site's accessibility, how to keep a healthy skepticism towards accessibility focused products, and the necessity of centering accessibility efforts on the experiences of disabled users.
- Putting RedwoodJS Docs to the Test
- JAWS - Website
- NVDA - Website
- VoiceOver - Website
- axe DevTools
- GOV.UK Design System
- Lighthouse accessibility scoring
- Lighthouse accessibility audits
- The Automated Accessibility Coverage Report
- Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM)
- Deque Systems
- The A11Y Project
Ben Myers, welcome to the show.
Howdy. Howdy. It's good to be here.
Why don't you introduce yourself to our guests and let us know who you are and what you do?
Absolutely. My name is Ben. I've been doing web development full time for nearly three years now. I try to be a force in the community for accessibility advocacy. Web accessibility is a big passion of mine, I like to blog about it. Recently I've started a weekly Twitch stream where I bring on guests and they teach me something about web development, core web tech and/or accessibility. So if you've seen me around, that's likely why.
We've gotten to know each other through the React Podcast Discord, we actually just talked with Chan yesterday. You have now spun off your Twitch channel, Some Antics, which I really like I think that's a really great name for an accessibility channel.
I was really excited that you were doing it because we had already been talking about doing some sort of accessibility themed stream for RedwoodJS. We got to do that for Some Antics and I had a great time. I would love to hear a little bit about who your influences were in terms of creating it. I kind of have an idea, but I think our listeners would find it interesting.
So in terms of that stream, the main influence would be a Jason Lengstorf and his Learn with Jason show. For viewers, or I guess listeners who are unfamiliar, Learn with Jason is a twice weekly show where Jason brings on guests and they cover various aspects of the Jamstack. It's really great because you get to see just a wide variety of the web development world. It's such an open, inviting community, which I really appreciate.
I've been trying to sort of, I don't want to say like, ape that whole thing. But, I've been inspired by that approach, bringing on people in the web development world. People who can show off interesting things that perhaps they don't always have the platform to do. And just teach me and teach the audience a new thing the web.
I focus on core web technologies because. I think that's really foundational to the stuff that we do on a day in and day out basis. We have tons of frameworks. We have meta frameworks, I'm sure at some point we'll have meta meta frameworks, but at some point it all comes down to the building blocks. And I think the single most impactful thing I can do for web development is really focusing on getting absolutely solid with those building blocks.
I'd be really curious to hear, how did you first get it programming? Like what was the first kind of program you ever wrote or your first programming language or your first website? Anything like that?
Okay. I have always been a computer guy. This goes back to even as an infant, as a toddler. One of my favorite like family stories that gets passed around every once in a while, is that my parents realized like, "Oh, Ben's probably been on the computer too much as of late and we need to wean them off of that." They turned the computer off and you know, this was in the day where all computers by default had towers and everything that people weren't really using laptops.
They turn the computer off and they stuck a post-it note over the power button on the tower. If it said no little toddler me really wanted to use the computer. So he took the sticky note off, turned it upside down. So it said on stuck it back on, turn the power on and started using the computer. Just really and truly computers have been a big part of just me growing up. They were a big part of my childhood.
I actually made my first website back in like 4th and 5th grade. I used one of those free website builders and it was atrocious. I do not look back on that site with the most kindness, perhaps, but it was my first site. I got to college and I had this idea that I was probably going to end up doing something technical, but I wasn't sure what that would be.
I was undecided for my major, but I figured, you know what? I like computers. I'm going to play around with computer science as well as the business IT program that we had. Ultimately I ended up taking computer science and really enjoying that. That's kind of my journey to getting into programming, a childhood full of computers.
Yeah, it definitely resonates with, I'm sure, me and Chris, same sort of situation growing up. We're really excited to have you here because something that I talked about when I was on your stream is that we're really focused on full stack development here, obviously this is FSJam, fullstack Jamstack. Part of what we really enjoy about that is that it allows solo developers to go really far by themselves with these tools. But what comes along with that is a responsibility, I see, of having a whole end to end understanding of...