React Podcast

116: Marcy Sutton on Accessibility and Fighting for Work You Believe In

Episode Summary

Marcy Sutton cares about the humans trying to use your site. In this episode Marcy illuminates the value of accessibility on the web, her favorite tools and services, and the necessity to "shift left" — ensuring that accessibility becomes a discussion at the planning phase instead of on "nice to have" at the development phase. Marcy shares killer strategies for doing work you believe in, even when your job makes it hard.

Episode Notes


Marcy's doing a workshop!

Don't miss Front-End Accessibility Masterclass November 6th with Smashing.


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Marcy Sutton — Twitter, GitHub, Website
chantastic — Twitter, GitHub, Website



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Episode Transcription

Chantastic: Marcy Sutton welcome to "React" podcast.

Marcy Sutton: Hello, thanks for having me.

Chantastic: [laughs] I'm super excited to have you on the show today. I wanted to invite you, but I haven't had gotten up the nerve...


Chantastic: ...because you're just a superstar in my mind. It was like, I had to work myself up to it. I'm grateful that you're here today. I want to start by talking about some of the work that you've done. You've done such incredible work in accessibility.

Your work on axe and your writing around that has become so integrated into the standard tooling that we have today, to build more accessible apps. I want to ask you how did you get into this field, this subfield of Web development? What is it that attracted you to it, and that continues to get you excited?

Marcy: Originally, I was working at an agency as a Web developer, growing my JavaScript skills. I didn't know anything about accessibility. I tell the story a lot that I was assigned to work on the Target account at the time, and Target had been sued for accessibility. They're a great brand.

It was a match made in heaven for me to be the spudding new developer who's compassionate about people. I was like, "Wait, I can make the Web more accessible for people with disabilities and work with people's disabilities?"

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: Target's QA team, there were some blind people on the team. We would have these phone calls, and my colleague Steve Sosin would be like, "This is pretty awful to use right now. The REO you've put on here is making it way worse than it has to be. Why don't you try stripping that out of there, make it simpler?"

At the time -- this was probably 10 years ago or more -- the tooling wasn't as good, the browsers and accessibility APIs weren't as good, but I learned to simplify because I was getting it wrong at the beginning. I was so eager to do it. I really cared. Like, "Is this going to work for Steve? Is this going to work for people with disabilities?"

That's how my interest in it was born. I haven't been able to turn that part of my brain off ever since.

Chantastic: It's such a big problem. So much of the Web is inaccessible at this point. [laughs] I can imagine that once you start thinking about it and diving in, it's one of those things that it's like an infinite playground. There's no shortage of problems to captivate your mind with. [laughs]

Marcy: No. It's depressing. I tried to go find good examples...

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: ...and it is a very pervasive problem still even with all the talks I've done, and other people have done. We've been at this for years. People were at this for years before I even came along. That's how I was able to benefit from blog posts and things that people had already published when I was getting started. It's still pretty bad out there...


Marcy: ...for accessibility, but I see light bulbs go on all the time. I've seen that influence actually change hearts and minds. I know it's working to some degree, but we need everyone to get on board and to try and resist the super inaccessible experiences that are still going out day to day.

It's still a problem, so we keep beating that drum and trying to make it better every day. Fortunately, I tend to land on the optimism side.


Marcy: "It's cool over here. You should go make this accessible." rather than being demoralized and depressed about it. It's like, "Well, today's a new day. Let's make it accessible."


Chantastic: What are some of the shining stars, the projects or websites that have stood out to you, and you thought, "Oh, my gosh. They actually did it well. They got it as right as they can be expected to get it right?"

Marcy: I wish there were more examples. I catalog them on my blog, "Accessibility Wins," have feats, and starts of finding content to go on there. The accessibility project or it's probably my most recent shining example. Tatiana Mac worked to design it, and they redid it all. It's bold design, and gorgeous, and accessible. That's a good example.

In terms of intricate mechanics and JavaScript heavier stuff, there was an application called "Learn from Blackboard." It's a higher education site. I haven't seen it in the last two years, maybe. I did work on it for a little bit.

That was cool to see how they handled focus management. I had all these layers that would come in which "All right. That design decision had been made..."

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: "...How can we make it the most accessible?" I thought they actually did it pretty well. I got to take something that already had quite a bit of accessibility and then add things and take it to that next level. I want to see more applications like that.

Yes, simplifying is great. It's easier to get accessibility right, but not every site is going to be a simple content site. There are going to be interactive Web applications that need to be accessible. That's really where my passion is, is showing up to this space knowing JavaScript's not going away.

How can we make this the best it can be? I think that's the tension that my internal battle is like. This drive to simplify but then...I don't know. We want to make the complex experiences accessible, too. That's really what I'm trying to do, is get that message heard by developers who are creating these interactive complex Web applications.

Now that's the stuff I really want to see become more accessible.

Chantastic: I love that because I think that in the era that we probably started Web-developing in there was this big push to, "How much can we do in JavaScript? What is JavaScript capable in really pushing the edges of that, maybe coming out of Flash and whatnot? What can we actually do with JavaScript?"

Now a lot of that stuff is significantly easier. There's a lot of libraries that make some of this stuff possible. The question really does seem to be turning to, "How do we do it well now? How do we do it better? How do we do it in a way that is a delight to sighted users but then isn't ostracizing literally everyone else?" [laughs]

I love that you're at the intersection. Not just saying, "Hey, let's opt out and just go back to HTML, HTP pages. Saying, "How do we get both? How do we do it in a way that pushes our industry forward but then also honors all of the people who are using the Web and want to use [laughs] the Web?"

We might just dive into the deep end really early on. What are some of the challenges, I guess, in this very interactive Web? Your experiences put you right directly in the middle of what's happening in JavaScript for all content.

I'm curious. What are some of the challenges that we're facing right now? What's the problem that is right in front of us as JavaScript front-end developers trying to make the best, coolest sites we possibly can?

Marcy: I think the biggest problem doesn't actually have anything to do with code at all. It's the education issue because what I see happen is, for the most part, sites that I see get launched have just zero consideration for accessibility.

It's not even like, "I tried it, and it's not as good as it could be." No, I'm talking like nothing, [laughs] completely reliant on the mouse. Which, I mean, come on.


Marcy: We got to do better than that. We have to start really at the basics and understand that not everyone can use a mouse. There's just that step-one acknowledgment that having a mouse-only inaccessible experience is not going to cut it. That's before you even talk about the type of technology that's being used, like a React app or anything.

That awareness is the thing that's right in front of us that we can all do better at. That's been my goal, is to make people so comfortable getting into it, having them feel welcome so that there's no shame. If your boot camp didn't tell you about accessibility, that's not your fault. That's the boot camp's fault.


Marcy: I will say they need to do better at their education. Fault isn't really helpful at that point. It's more about, "All right. What do we do now? How do we get people on board? How do we make them feel welcome and supported in making things accessible?" Starting now, the moment you hear about it is the perfect time.


Marcy: Better now than never. See, the education piece is huge because from there it builds that curiosity and that compassion. Then you can get into more complex nuanced topics of client-side routing or "Should this be server-rendered?"

All those technical details are really just implementation details. We need that square-one understanding that people with disabilities use the Web. What an opportunity and responsibility it is to actually make things accessible. That's super powerful. That's what's right in front of us, for sure.

Chantastic: That's interesting, because it sounds like that's more of a empathy human problem and not so much a technical one. I think a lot of us would love to have maybe a technical answer of like, "You just need to run it through these processes and you're good."

Marcy: The challenge with that is automated tools can only find certain things because limitations in the platform or the tests haven't been written yet, the tooling doesn't exist yet. Even if it did, there's design questions that a tool might not be able to answer for you.

That critical thinking and understanding that will keep developers employable, we're not going to get them replaced by robots.


Marcy: I don't think, because we have to have these critical thinking and analyses and those skills to translate designs into working things. Sometimes, that process means talking more with design and prototyping things early to get those things answered earlier because the design has to set you up for success as a developer too.

We can't just fix everything with ARIA. You could try but sometimes the problem, you need to shift it left, as we say in accessibility. There's all kinds of places where we can optimize and make things more accessible, but it really does start with design and the whole organization, getting your PMs involved and leadership so they know what's...

If you don't include it, that's going to be pretty costly when you have to come back and then do it later, which I think is why a lot of people don't. If you think about it earlier, you can put a lot more energy in it. I don't know. You can benefit from making something innovative and accessible. I think that's a huge selling point.

Because it is so rare that if you're the one web app that is accessible, we're going to be championing it. People can actually use that. That can help sales because you don't have legal risks. There's all kinds of reasons why it's worthwhile to do.

I agree. It is a bit more of a people problem than a technical problem even though there are really cool technical aspects to it.

Chantastic: Sure. I want to talk about the whole organization thing that you're talking about. I want to clarify a term. What does "shift left" mean? I'd actually not heard that term before. I'd love to learn about it.

Marcy: I think it's a holdover from the waterfall style of things, how you have discovery, requirements gathering, design. Then it moves all the way over to development, QA, and all that stuff. In a more agile, modern workflow, we could still think of development as like, "I'm a developer. I've been given this design, but it's got some issues with it."

Maybe the data visualization things they've got are gendered in ways that aren't inclusive, or this just has...I don't know. It relies really heavily on a mouse and the style guide doesn't have focus outlines specified. There's all kinds of things that we have to go back to the design team. That's the shift left thing. It's the conversation needs to happen earlier.

The back and forth is healthy. The most successful stuff I've ever done was early in my career getting to pair with a designer and provide that technical guidance and a voice early when decisions are being made that then get presented to a client.

They're not getting sold on something and then it gets handed to you as a developer, they're like, "Actually, I don't know if that's going to work." It could be potentially more successful having a voice at the table earlier. That's shifting it earlier in the process than being in this you hand it to me and I build it, and I polish a turd, so to speak.

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: We try to get accessibility thought of earlier. Development and design are huge parts of that.

Chantastic: I love this notion of being more integrated, having a more virtuous process. I know that ideally, an organization would be structured to have these conversations holistically. Unfortunately, none of them are.


Chantastic: I'm curious what successful strategies you've had in shifting things left, being able to work in an organization that has these rigid guidelines where things just keep getting thrown over the wall to the next group, being able to take that job, identifying the inclusivity issues with it, and starting that conversation over again. How have you found the best ways to introduce that to an organization?

Marcy: That can be really tough because sometimes you don't have...It's kind of funny talking about agency, agencies working at agencies. You might not have the "agency" to be able to make those sorts of changes when you're like, "OK. I'm just here to do my job and doing the best I can."

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes getting it wrong and having a lot of technical debt. It's painful because, as someone who cares about accessibility, it's like watching it in slow motion. You can predict how it's going to end up but you have to go through the motions and see it fail.

Then being a supportive voice that people want to work with, not the "told you so," but the "OK, how can we do this better the next time." Being that voice that people want to work with and taking that opportunity of seeing it not go very smoothly, that might open the door with leadership to be able to present alternative ideas for making it go better the next time.

Sometimes it's a quick call to just sync earlier, get some feedback earlier in the process, even if it's not a full prototype effort. In organizations that are not set up to work that way, unfortunately, I feel like it would take seeing it crash and burn a bit to then have this opening to suggest alternatives.

It is an art trying to convince people to change their process. That does not always go well. I've thought a lot about friction and what stops you from getting things done. It can be very, very difficult, depending on the personalities and the egos that are involved in...

Every team and every person you're trying to persuade could potentially require a different approach. We talk a lot about what's called the carrot and the stick. Does somebody respond to dangling a carrot? The like, "Hey, this is really cook and altruistic." We should just do it because it's the right thing to do.

Then there's the stick which might involve talking to the legal or compliance team, or getting the bad feedback. I'm talking about the stick. Wait for it to crash and burn if you're not getting what you need by using the carrot approach.

We have to pick and choose what's going to be the most effective based on the people that we have to persuade? That's like managing up, which is hard. It's not going to be super repeatable because it's going to pend on you, your personality, who you're working with. Do they care? Are you in this perpetual battle all the time?

It's going to vary. It takes some persistence at it. For me, how I keep that alive is always the thought of "What's the end user's experience going to be?" Being a champion for end users with disabilities, that's what gets me out of bed in the morning. It's how I persist through friction, but I definitely had to modify my approach when I'm frustrated.

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: That doesn't always get you very far, especially as a woman in tech. We get tone policed. It has happened with me a lot where they're focused on the style of the message and not the content of the message.

I've had lots of time to experiment [laughs] and try to find the best approach. Often coming with quick wins that maybe you've already done or that you could do, bringing solutions and time estimates for how you could do this within scope.

Being professional about it and trying to give team members and leadership every reason to say yes. Make it a yes situation and not this adversarial fight. Those are some of the techniques that I try to employ, but it can be challenging. I'm not going to lie about that.

Maybe that's why people give up. I think about those end users, and I'm like, "They're going to give up on using your site." It's like, "Do you want people to use your site or not?"


Marcy: I do. Otherwise, I wouldn't be working on it.

Chantastic: It's very clear that you're embracing the challenge, running into the spike. Because I think there is a mindset that says, "It shouldn't be the thing that you want because it needs to 100 percent be this other way," and not embracing the desire that every company has to have something that looks and feels cool to their own capable eyes. [laughs]

I find this interesting. I love talking with people who live inside of some type of tension. It's interesting to hear you describing this as the tension to want to do things that are stable and reliable for everyone and use the tools that are there and already established.

Then, also, that tension of businesses are what pay for us to actually do this work and move it forward. How can we find some middle ground where we're working harder to serve both? [laughs] I'm trying to remember who it was.

Marcy: These business needs and user needs?

Chantastic: Yes. Chris Toomey talked about that one of our episodes that, as a designer, developer, you're in this position where you're holding both hands. You're holding the hand of the company and the hand of the user.

Living in that tension really is your job. [laughs] If you can't do your job, then you need to, maybe, find another place or figure out more advanced strategies for doing that. [laughs]

Marcy: Totally. It's fascinating. I think some of the biggest impact you could have to try and put more weight on that user side is to show your teammates and your leadership what it's actually like for someone with a disability to use their site.

I don't know if your audience has done much usability testing, but being behind the glass, just in the room watching someone trying to use something, and you're like, "Just click here."

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: You want to help them so bad.

Chantastic: Like, "You're doing it wrong." [laughs]

Marcy: That's not the real world. That's not how people use the thing. Watching someone with a disability struggle to use it like, "Ah." I don't know who that wouldn't affect.

I think if you're struggling to get buy-in, finding feedback from people who are struggling to use it, especially video from someone trying to use a screen reader, have someone come into the office. Maybe not around COVID time.


Marcy: Actually, exposing team members to the reality of what that experience is like. That's probably the most transformative thing that you could do. There's groups that you can work with. There's a startup out of Toronto called Fable. I worked with them to do some research on client-side routing and accessibility.

There's another group called AccessWorks from Knowbility. There might be something local to your area. Those are groups that you can engage with to pay for user tests. Users testing your product, or prototypes, designs.

They can review all kinds of things. You get video assets out of it that you can then share with leadership and other team members. That could potentially move the needle. Especially the...I've hit some really big egos where they're like, "My vision's fine."

Focus out ones don't belong in a style guide. Those kinds are like, "You are so wrong right now." I can only do so much to convince someone having someone with disability struggle how to use it might be more effective. It probably is more effective.

Chantastic: It's interesting because you see this in a very small way when people who are responsible for making those decisions have their first kid or something, and they experience, what's the term, momentary...

Marcy: Oh, a situational disability or temporary disability? Yeah.

Chantastic: Yes, a temporary disability. Now you're shushing a kid, and also trying to respond to messages on Flack. All of a sudden, they come back from paternity leave with a whole new vision for what's important because they've experienced these disabilities for the first time. [laughs]

Marcy: Yep, or you got a baby in one arm and a cup of tea in the other. Yeah, there's all kinds of things. The selfish angle, it sucks that that works, but sometimes it does. Showing that just because you don't have a disability now, doesn't mean that you can't in the future.

Repetitive use injuries, nerve damage, or traumatic brain injury, there's all kinds of things that come up in life, not only for you, but your family members. Sometimes that appeal works. I've been trying to focus my attention on people with disabilities first and foremost because that's what accessibility is all about.

For the rest of us, for people who don't have disabilities, you might have the privilege of that being temporary. Then you can go back to the way you were. For a lot of people, that's not reality. There's some nuance and some balance there. Sometimes what every gets people on board at the end of the day, go for it.


Chantastic: You're fighting a good fight. Sometimes you have to take some cheap victories to get win on board.

Marcy: Yeah, like my absent family. We have very different politics. Like a parallel example, not to accessibility necessarily, but getting someone to care about climate change. If they fundamentally don't, their politics don't agree with that, but they ski, like, "Don't you want to ski later in life? These glaciers are melting."

That's a selfish appeal to someone. Sometimes personalities, that's what clicks for them. That's not great, I'm not proud of that, but if that's how I can get through to someone, by appealing to their selfish side, I'm going to chock that up as a win. It's better than the alternative, which is not convincing somebody of the importance of an issue.

Chantastic: At some point we're looking for numbers, not morality from everybody necessarily. [laughs]

Marcy: What I'm looking for is a good outcome. I want to see accessibility improve. That's what I care about the most. In my own advocacy, I try to center and uplift voices of people who need to be heard, people with disabilities who have that first-hand experience, those first-hand accounts of how blocking these barriers can be.

You want to do your grocery shopping online and you can't, your banking, or whatever, that's where the lawsuits come in. People are trying to live their lives online, especially as more services and products are going onto the Internet.

It's hard. Even if something is somewhat accessible, it can be very difficult to use. The good outcomes is what I care about. However we get people on board, it's better that way.

Chantastic: You said something earlier that I misheard, and I like my mishearing of it. You said something about...When we were talking about shifting things left, you said something about syncing earlier, with a Y-N-C I'm assuming, but then the alternative is also to sink earlier, like to run into those problems, like I-N-K earlier.

I find that a interesting strategy because even in terms of visibility, this is often a problem that is not visible to abled people. Making that visible and finding opportunities, working with organizations like you mentioned, Fabled or AccessWorks from Knowbility, to bring those stories into the product work is so important.

Making that problem and that challenge bigger than a bunch of invisible people to this organization may or may not have a problem.

Marcy: Yeah, it takes if from being this classic thing we hear of like, "Ah, that's an edge case. We don't have users with disabilities." You see someone struggling to use a product, that's not an edge case, that's a person.

That can be truly impactful. What I love about the testing initiatives you can do with groups like Fable, is that it goes beyond solving the one problem in front of you, and it teaches the team how to think and challenges your own biases. That is life changing stuff. It changes the way people work.

We were talking about doing more that at Gatsby when I was there, and I got the why should we do this question. Especially during COVID with finances and everything getting tightened up a bit. I was like, "It's teaching the team how to think."

That is a lasting impression that goes beyond any one screen or any one prototype. That's information that people will take with them for their entire careers if done right. I'm a big proponent of that.

Especially because you can get that experience surfaced to teams in a authentic way so they can be like, "Shoot, wow, yeah I really messed this up. Let's fix it." It's in front of you, how could you ignore it at that point? It's a huge deal to be able to experience that. I would super recommend it.

Chantastic: I love that you framed so much of this in terms of critical thinking because I think it's something that engineer types can resonate with of like, "Well, I am a critical thinker." [laughs] This is natural bristling of like you're describing me, but you're not describing me type thing.


Chantastic: I love this notion because these are transferrable skills. These are things that you want to, in any job, be developing in yourself so that you can take them to the next thing and the next set of problems that might look different, and challenging yourself.

This is an important way to challenge yourself. Talking about selfish interests just for your own benefit. [laughs]

Marcy: Yeah, when your elbow flares up and you've got carpel tunnel, and you're like, "Ah, I can't use a mouse anymore today." You're going to be glad that you enabled the keyboard.


Chantastic: We were going to reserve this for the end, but I am curious, this has lent itself to talking about career, and it's something that we talk a lot about on the show. I know that you've been in a very abrupt career change. You left Gatsby, and now you're working freelance.

I'm curious, how are you thinking about that transition? Also, what did you do at Gatsby to prepare yourself to be independent during your time working there to be prepared for now, instead of devoting all of your efforts to whatever the company needs?

Marcy: Sure, yeah. I've wanted to go independent for a couple of years now for various reasons. Wanting to be the leader of my own destiny. I can make business decisions and not hit that friction. That was a big driver for me to want to be independent.

At Gatsby, I got to try management. I got to lead a team. I got to hire a team. I learned I don't want to be a manager as it turns out.


Marcy: I never thought I was ready to go independent, or I would have done it much earlier. Now I know I should have just done it. I've seen people go out on a limb to start a business or do the thing. I had my ducks in a row way more than I thought I did.

The big transformative thing that I started moving in this direction was evaluating what's my vision for my career and my life? 5 to 10 years down the road, where do I want to be? I was in a van in a ski area parking lot, was struggling to call-in to a one-on-one as a manager, and I was like, "I want to be a ski bum part-time."

That does not seem like I could be someone's manager, because I like to have the disconnected time. I could write, I could code, I could just be on my own. These parallel lives, different directions were not jiving together.

That was the first inkling I had that my career needed to change. I started taking steps to get out of management, and my next role at Gatsby didn't quite work out. I have various life reasons, including a pandemic and things.

I sort of got shoved out of the airplane. I was like, "All right, I'm doing this thing." It's been fantastic so far. It was made easier being 11 years into my career. I already had network connections. I had some savings, that definitely helped. I had some stability that made that possible.

It's been super worthwhile, I'm still figuring it out. I think I'm early in month two. It's going. I'm figuring out what types of work I am fulfilled by, what I have time for so I can enable this ski bum, van lifestyle that I'm dreaming of so much.

I guess my best advice, no matter what people are into, is to think of a vision. What would make you the happiest? What do you want your life to look like? Then work back from there. That's super fulfilling. I remember having a VP of engineering...I was being pushed toward project management, which happens to a lot of women unfortunately.

Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. For me, I was like, "I'm an engineer, that's not what I want to do. That's not what I'm signing up for." I had this VP of engineering at the time call me on the phone and be like, "I just wanted to talk to you as a friend, and say that I'm proud of you for staying true to what you want to do because I wish that I had done that."

I could hear him say it out loud. He was like, "Crap, that's what I should have done." He quit and went back to engineering after that. I'm like, "Sorry. Sorry not sorry." I'm glad he went to...

Chantastic: [laughs] Sorry to have motivated you so well. What could I do?

Marcy: It was like I heard it, he was going through the thought process and realizing it for himself. You get off track, you get pushed into things, so I think it's important to get that vision and that end-goal of what you want your life to look like.

You can shift the boat, take steps to move in that direction. Anyone that's changed careers or gotten more education and things, they're doing that to get toward that end goal. Periodically, you might be comfortable.

Things have been steady for a while, and maybe that's a good time to re-evaluate and see. Are there adjustments you'd like to make, or are you right on track, like excellent? [laughs] Whatever is going to work the best.

Chantastic: [laughs] I think you bring up a really interesting point too that I want to press into a little bit is, how much more difficult this is for women in tech, minority groups in tech. You're fighting a battle all the time just being...I don't know how best to put this, but not fitting the mold today for what the engineering role is designed for.

You've mentioned getting pushed into management as a pretty standard practice for a lot of women in tech. Getting tone checked earlier, and how hard it is to stand up for something that you believe without falling into a perceived stereotype. [laughs]

I'm curious how have you managed your career while also managing all these additional expectations that aren't on people who have the benefit of being able to show up for their job and have it go pretty smoothly for the most part. [laughs]

Marcy: I guess the first thing that comes to mind is like, "I have a lot of privilege," especially with my recent departure from full-time employment to freelance. That made a lot easier being more senior. Like I said, having stability in my life. That made that possible.

That was a reaction to not having jobs that were quite right for me. I had a string of them where I think my career succeeded in spite of the difficulty I was having. I had five or six years of jobs that were not quite right for various reasons. I had this glowing sign being like, "Go independent. You need to."

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: Because it was a struggle. I had so much friction and trying to make changes, but it took crashing and burning for me to see it for what it is because it's tough to make suggestions to products and things when people don't see you as a source of where those ideas should be coming from.

I just needed a fundamentally different working experience to break through some of that, because it can be very hard getting like...I don't know. One idea that I suggested for X-Core, in particular, that is a huge shortcoming of that automated testing framework.

I suggested the thing. It just like the friction that I met when I suggested that will stick with me forever. The GitHub issue might still be open.

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: That's where other products come along and other jobs or other things. If you're hitting that much friction, it's probably [laughs] time to go do something else. Start your own thing. Go do other things that are going to be healthier and happier.

I can try and change my tone and change the way, bring more solutions to the table. That is great stuff to do. You have to do that and improve that, and I'm going to keep working toward being an effective communicator like that.

Sometimes, people don't want to change. How long are you going to struggle through that before you find something that suits you better? I guess, if I did go take a full-time job anymore, I have way better questions to ask now like how are decisions made...


Marcy: ...especially ones that impact accessibility. Who's going to overrule this? Then, who's going to be held accountable if there is a legal situation that comes up? I know Twitter's been talking about that a lot of having accountability so that when they do ship something like Twitter voice that doesn't have captions or any accessibility built in...


Marcy: ...that the people who overruled the accessibility team, or whoever voiced those concerns -- because I'm sure people are -- whoever overruled that needs to be held accountable for it.

There's all different scenarios and situations that come up, and it's just like never-ending battle of personalities. It's trying to do the right thing and balancing those business and user needs. Sometimes, just doing your work somewhere else might be the solution. For me, that has increasingly been clear that I can be more effective and happier being independent.

Lately, that's been consulting with organizations, doing some training, and things that really, I feel like I can give the most impactful part of myself back to the community and not have it be used up doing tasks that are unrelated, like managing a team's Twitter DMs. You don't need an accessibility specialist for that.


Marcy: That's a fine thing that needs to get done, but I tried to double down on what's the stuff that is my unique value proposition that makes me happy and that I know will make the web a better place? That's my, I don't know, my North Star of where I want to get to. My hope for other people is that you can find that North Star for yourself, whatever that means.

Because it's super-worthwhile to move in that direction if you can. I guess not everyone's going to feel that way, I should say. I'm driven by that. Some people are like, "Eh, it's just a paycheck. I'm just doin' my work," and there is nothing wrong with that.

I think, do what you need to do for yourself. If that means having your work just -- you compartmentalize, and you just get through it, and that's fine, because your energy's going to your family or your other interests. There's nothing wrong with that.

I think for me, I've found some success. Seeing the light bulbs go on and seeing that impact be made -- I wanted to keep doing that because I felt like that was a way to put my privilege to use.

Chantastic: Yeah. I love that so much. I have a follow-up question in that same vein. I know that you were in an education role at Gatsby.

I'm curious. For people who are looking to migrate towards their dream -- things aren't on fire yet, and so they kind of want to migrate slowly towards their dream -- I know you'd mentioned doing some accessibility projects in that role.

I'm curious, how do you hold on to both things? What are some recommendations you have from people who are migrating towards their ideal position?

Marcy: I think for me, when I was at Gatsby, I did some accessibility stuff on the side. It was not part of my role, and I think the risk you run with that -- the biggest risk -- is burnout, especially because you really want to put your energy toward the things you care about.

Those are unappreciated or at worst, at odds with your other job duties and then your -- if doing the things you love becomes like taking a bite out of your effectiveness at the things that get [laughs] you your paycheck, that can be difficult, but I think it's really worth putting in that bit of extra effort to move toward the things you want.

People who go to school after work -- those things -- to move toward your goals, you have to put in the work, and you have to do some of that on the side. For me, doing the accessibility stuff on the side while I was at Gatsby was a way to keep that dream alive while I was gaining other skills, trying to make an impact.

That work did have an impact. The client-side routing research, I've heard, Svelte and Vue, other frameworks that are not React frameworks, have been reading the research, applying the findings. Ya, that's what I wanted.


Marcy: That was not part of my job. I think finding opportunities in your job are the best. Sometimes it means starting a side project, the sustainable thing that you can do to have on your resume.

Find internal opportunities to maybe shift your role or focus into the things you want to do. Yeah, you sort of have to gain experience in the stuff that you want to move toward, either through your full-time role or adding on a side project or two or three or five.


Marcy: However many you have time for, just to get that experience if you don't have opportunities to do that through your work.

Chantastic: It's funny because we barely touched on the actual practical parts of accessibility. I'm kind of glad because I think that this touches on I guess the more -- broader notion of accessibility in a bunch of different areas, which is having empathy and having intentionality about your work and where you work, and maximizing your impact, and making sure that your efforts in these regards are actually seen.

You mentioned earlier on that one of the most difficult things about this is actually finding good education. I'm curious -- where do you recommend people go to find education that's going to help them in this regard?

Be able to have answers. Be able to be seen as an expert locally with their company, and move things forward. Add to the numbers of accessibility experts.

Marcy: For accessibility education, there's a ton of different places to learn things. Looking at the a11y hashtag on Twitter is great. Even another one is Disability Twitter would be fascinating too because you can hear from users with disability and people with disabilities, not necessarily in a Web development context.

Let me find it. Disability Twitter. Those two sides of the coin, the industry, a11y, which by the way is a numeronym for accessibility. There are eleven letters between the a and the y if you see that. I call it a-eleven-y as people pronounce it differently, but...

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: ...the industry side with a11y on Twitter and then the Disability Twitter as another source of information can be interesting because you can see what people are talking about. People might be sharing what they're learning or things they're struggling with. That's all the time. Twitter is such a source of information. I would look there.

The a11y project website is great, and they're always looking for contributions too. I have a resource list on my website that could help because that has a bunch of books and tools. Various things. I just dropped that in the chat. I collect things there. There's definitely a lot of learning material out there.

I've got a course on Frontend Masters and a workshop for Smashing Magazine coming up in November. There's no shortage of ways to learn about it. Once that door is opened like, "Oh, awesome. I can learn so much about this."

People can hit me up on Twitter if you ever got a technical question or something. If I don't have the answer...Hopefully, I see it. Sometimes I don't catch...

Chantastic: [laughs]

Marcy: ...absolutely every question. I try to connect people to the right information if I can. If you look at the a11y hashtag as well, you might find other people who can answer you too. Lots of ways to learn about it. Having that awareness first and foremost.

That's usually the gap that we're trying to overcome. The sites that get shipped that clearly, they did not think about accessibility at all. That's the bigger problem because once you know about it, then it's like, "Oh, OK. I can Google it. There's a ton of information out there."


Chantastic: Awesome. How can people find you and follow along with the work that you're doing and your very excellent writing on the topic of accessibility, and particularly accessibility in a very interactive JavaScript-heavy world?

Marcy: You can follow me on Twitter. It's @marcysutton. My website is I've started writing more regularly, which is exciting now that I have a bit more time on my hands. There will be lots of topics coming there.

I'm also in talks with Egghead to be producing some more learning resources for testing and accessibility. I have lots of stuff coming. I also just added a mailing list on my website. You can subscribe for updates if that's the kind of thing that keeps you informed. I'll have lots of new articles and learning things coming out over the coming months.

Chantastic: Awesome. That is a great place to leave. I recommend you follow Marcy's stuff because it is great and squarely at the intersection of things that I think people...The technology that interests people on the show, and then the industry at large.

Then, also the technology and the critical thinking that's going to get your product to the most number of people and serve all of your customers really well.

Marcy, thank you so much for your time today, for being here. It was a real privilege for me to talk with you, and meet you today, and take an hour of your time. Thanks so much for being here.

Marcy: Thanks for having me. I had a great time.