I was introduced to web accessibility in 1993 when I worked in the disability services office at the University of Denver, providing academic accommodations and technical training for students with disabilities; at the same time I worked in the university’s human resources department as an equal opportunity / affirmative action specialist and in a community service learning program. In 1997 I left that role to pursue a Master’s degree in education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. During my time there I did an internship at the WGBH Teacher Center and worked on accessibility in educational resources. One of my classes was taught by the co-founder of CAST and I impressed him enough to get hired there after graduation. I was hired to develop technical approaches to providing self-adaptive learning materials for students with disabilities, but I also eventually became product product manager for Bobby, the first accessibility evaluation tool on the market and which I had used in my earlier roles. In 2002 we sold the tool to Watchfire, where I continued my work as Accessibility Product Manager and moved to Ottawa, Canada. In 2006. I joined the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), with my employment hosted at MIT.
My involvement with W3C began in 1999 as I coordinated Bobby checks with the in-development Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. I continued to work on evaluation and repair techniques, and when I joined Watchfire I brought that focus to testing for the in-development Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. I joined the W3C primarily to complete that project, and it was released as a W3C Recommendation in 1998. In addition to supporting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (now the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group), I joined the Protocols and Formats Working Group (now split to the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group and the Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) Working Group). In this role I contributed to the early Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) technology, in particular helping with quality assurance and testing. I also conceived what would become the Framework for Accessible Specifications (FAST), which aims to document user needs comprehensively and translate them to requirements for technologies to support accessibility. The thinking behind this has also been incorporated into the design of W3C Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0, which is a major rethinking of web accessibility guidance still under development. I also supported the integration of WCAG 2.0 into worldwide regulation, including ISO/IEC 40500:2012, and updates of WCAG 2.1 and 2.2.
In addition to these projects, I helped to mature the “horizontal review” process which engages accessibility review in all W3C publications. As part of this we published the Media Accessibility User Requirements, which were important to motivating development of accessibility features in the HTML 5 media element. The W3C won its first Emmy award for bringing (accessible) media to the standardized web. We went on to develop accessibility user requirements documents for a number of technologies and use cases. We expanded this by creating a number of task forces to work on various aspects of accessibility, such as for users with cognitive or learning disabilities, low vision, or users of mobile devices, to research accessibility issues of upcoming technologies, and explore new accessibility technologies.
In 2023 I left my role at W3C. I plan to apply the expertise I have gained to new ways of supporting the development of accessible technology.