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Accessibility and Security - For Everyone. Gotchas to Avoid.

Nicolas Steenhout (Part of a Whole)
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Did you hear about the double arm amputee who was refused service at a bank because he could not provide a thumbprint? Did you hear about the online petition to increase services for blind folks, that blind folks couldn’t sign because of CAPTCHA? These are examples of security practices that cause barriers to people with disabilities. We don’t set out to create barriers, but some policies or code can have unintended consequences. Security can create barriers to access for users, with or without disabilities. However security doesn’t have to reduce accessibility!

Does your application use CAPTCHA or session timeouts? Does it validate data, or get users to confirm entered data before transactions? Is there data loss after re-authenticating? If you answered yes to any of these, this session’s for you.

We will begin with a brief overview of the business case for accessibility. We will then explore the main security features that can impact accessibility. Relevant W3C accessibility guidelines and techniques will also be investigated. Finally, a list of online resources will be provided.

Security should be built into applications, not tacked on as an afterthought. Accessibility should also be built into from the get go and not offered as an add-on. It can be complex to work both accessibility and security together from the start – yet it is mission critical to make it happen.

Photo of Nicolas Steenhout

Nicolas Steenhout

Part of a Whole

For more than 20 years, Nicolas Steenhout has been addressing inclusivity head-on as a web accessibility expert. As a developer in the mid-’90s, Nic was approached by colleagues, clients, and friends with web-based issues that weren’t yet part of the public consciousness: Images weren’t being properly announced to people who are blind; video-only tutorials didn’t account for people who are deaf; overengineered web pages made it impossible for those with ADHD to engage. Nic quickly realized that amid a major technological revolution, a significant part of the digital landscape was being neglected. In 1996, he took on a federally funded position in the US disability sector. The world of nonprofits allowed him to work closely with people with a wide variety of impairments and gave him an even greater understanding of the web’s shortcomings. At the same time, the experience introduced him to new assistive technologies—technologies that were breaking barriers for people with disabilities. Over the next two decades, Nic has continued his work for both the nonprofit and private sectors. He has held several executive positions and currently provides his services as an independent consultant to businesses and government agencies that seek Nic’s expertise in strategic planning and training. All over North America, Europe, and Australasia, he’s engaged with thousands of individuals with disabilities. These interactions have fueled his passion for storytelling. A public speaker, avid blogger, and podcaster, Nic provides real-world insight into everyday accessibility issues and explores everything from disability awareness and security to how JavaScript can be used to better the web for all. He’ll even share the occasional anecdote about his service dog.