A CSS Approach to Trap Focus Inside of an Element

I recently read this article by Keith Grant which introduced the newly arrived <dialog></dialog>. Excited by this new UI element, I immediately sat down to experiment with it to see how it can be used effectively as a modal — the most common use of it. While experimenting, I discovered a neat CSS trick on how to trap focus within the <dialog></dialog> element, a common accessibility requirement for modals, and a notoriously difficult one.

Disclaimer: The <dialog></dialog> demos in this article are tested on Chrome and Firefox browsers only. Safari has some weird issue where not all elements are focused while doing a normal keyboard navigation with Tab key!


A Browser-Based, Open Source Tool for Alternative Communication

Have you ever lost your voice? How did you handle that? Perhaps you carried a notebook and pen to scribble notes. Or jotted quick texts on your phone.

Have you ever traveled somewhere that you didn't speak or understand the language everyone around you was speaking? How did you order food, or buy a train ticket? Perhaps you used a translation phrasebook, or Google translate. Perhaps you relied mostly on physical gestures.

All of these solutions are examples of communication methods — tools and strategies — that you may have used before to solve everyday communicative challenges. The preceding examples are temporary solutions to temporary challenges. Your laryngitis cleared up. You returned home, where accomplishing daily tasks in your native tongue is almost effortless. Now imagine that these situational obstacles were somehow permanent.

Small Tweaks That Can Make a Huge Impact on Your Website’s Accessibility

For a beginner, accessibility can be daunting. With all of the best intentions in the world, the learning curve to developing compliant, fully accessible websites and apps is huge. It's also hard to find the right advice, because it's an ever-changing and increasingly crowded landscape.

I've written this post to give you some tips on small things that can make a big difference, while hopefully not affecting your development process too much.


Improving the Accessibility of 24 ways

I’ve been thinking recently about the nature of my work and which aspects of it I enjoy the most. In a role that will often straddle the realms of design and development, whether editing copy, evaluating the design of an interface or refactoring code, I've come to realize that my interests lie in the act of review and refinement.

My work on 24 ways is a case in point. Since Drew McLellan asked me to redesign the site in 2013, I’ve stayed on as part of the team, helping to review, edit and format articles. (more…)

HTML Email and Accessibility

You love HTML emails, don't you?

As a developer, probably not... but subscribers absolutely do. They devour them, consume them on every device known to man, and drive a hell of a lot of revenue for companies that take their email marketing seriously.

But most web developers tasked with building HTML emails merely want to get them out the door as quickly as possible and move on to more interesting assignments. Despite email's perennial value for subscribers, tight timelines, and a general loathing of the work result in things falling by the wayside; and, just like in the web world, one of the first things to be set aside in email is accessibility.


Advocating for Accessible UI Design

Accessibility is a hot topic these days, and the older we web-makers get, the hotter it's going to become! That might be a snarky outlook, but what I'm trying to say is that it's about time we start designing the web for everyone because the web was meant to be for everyone, and less and less are we able to predict where, when, and how our work will be consumed.


How to Disable Links

The topic of disabling links popped up at my work the other day. Somehow, a "disabled" anchor style was added to our typography styles last year when I wasn't looking. There is a problem though: there is no real way to disable an <a></a> link (with a valid href attribute) in HTML. Not to mention, why would you even want to? Links are the basis of the web.

At a certain point, it looked like my co-workers were not going to accept this fact, so I started thinking of how this could be accomplished. Knowing that it would take a lot, I wanted to prove that it was not worth the effort and code to support such an unconventional interaction, but I feared that by showing it could be done they would ignore all my warnings and just use my example as proof that it was OK. This hasn't quite shaken out for me yet, but I figured we could go through my research.


The Document Outline Dilemma

For the past few weeks there has been lots of talk about HTML headings in web standards circles. Perhaps you've seen some of the blog posts, tweets, and GitHub issue threads. Headings have been part of HTML since the very first websites at CERN, so it might be surprising to find them controversial 25 years later. I'm going to quickly summarize why they are still worth discussing, with plenty of links to other sources, before adding my own opinions to the mix. If you're up-to-date on the debate, you can jump straight to the "Bigger Dilemma" section.