About the Accessibility Team
The Yahoo Accessibility Team is a tightly knit group of Accessibility professionals who love technology and care deeply about people with disabilities. Our team was founded in 2007 and includes several members with decades of experience designing Assistive Technology and developing Accessibility guidelines and standards. Our mission is singular but our activities continue to evolve and expand to keep pace with change in the industry and rapid advances in technology.
Advocacy and Training
As members of the Yahoo Accessibility Team, we advocate for users with disabilities. We also conduct regular training sessions on accessibility techniques and technology. Training is typically conducted by a member of the team, but we also enjoy inviting outside experts as well. Training topics vary from social issues to disability etiquette to accessibility coding techniques. Unfortunately, we’ve found that designing and implementing Accessibility on the web and in mobile devices is a subject not well-covered, or even introduced, in most secondary or post-secondary technical degree programs. We find this training essential.
We evaluate product accessibility internally using a variety of techniques and tools and rely on user testing and evaluation by accessibility experts. We favor evaluations that are performed using the same Assistive Technology as our users, like JAWS, Zoom-Text and Window-Eyes, but heavily favor products that are both widely available and more affordable. These include NVDA for Windows, VoiceOver on iOS, VoiceOver on OS X, and TalkBack on Android which are available at no cost and in the case of VoiceOver and TalkBack, pre-installed on devices.
Our web page evaluations follow industry standard WCAG 2.0 guidelines. For mobile devices, there isn’t yet a specific set of accessibility guidelines so we are participating in a W3C (Worldwide Web Consortium) working group to help create them. In the meantime, we are applying a similarly stringent assessment process for our mobile apps as we do for our web pages which includes evaluations by experts and user research. In both cases, we maintain the highest regard for the product usability over “checklist results” in identifying issues and prioritizing fixes and development work.
Our goal is to ensure that individuals with disabilities are always able to use and enjoy every Yahoo website and every Yahoo app. For that reason, we rigorously and continuously evaluate the accessibility of our products and we rely as well on feedback we receive from our ongoing and extensive user testing.
Our web page evaluations follow industry standard WCAG 2.0 guidelines. For mobile devices, there isn’t yet a specific set of accessibility guidelines so we are participating in a W3C (Worldwide Web Consortium) working group to help create them.
Because there are too many guidelines in WCAG 2.0 to list here, we’ve chosen to briefly describe those that contribute most frequently and most significantly to the accessibility of our products.
Great products start with great ideas, but great ideas are made even better when we consider users with various disabilities. At Yahoo, one of the ways we do this is through User Studies. With the individual's permission, we observe a user with one or more disabilities perform common tasks using a Yahoo product. Sometimes it’s a product they use every day, and other times it may be a new product or product concept not yet available to the general public. The insights we gain by carefully observing and listening to users during development help us improve our ability to identify and correct potential barriers to accessibility.
Yahoo User Nights
In addition to gathering accessibility feedback through specific user studies, events, email, and social media, Yahoo hosts “User Nights” which always include individuals with disabilities. At a User Night, Yahoo software developers sit side-by-side with users to watch and learn how they use their Yahoo product. Individuals are asked to use products just as they would at home, work, or on the road and "think out loud" to describe what they’re doing. We’ve found that while developers can learn from studies and product evaluations, nothing is as impactful as when they sit next to users and learn for themselves where there is an unexpected barrier to usability or accessibility.
Participation in User Nights and User Studies is by invitation only, but if you are in the New York Metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay area, or near Los Angeles, and would like to be considered, we invite you to submit a request by completing a short survey.
The Yahoo Accessibility Lab
We created the Yahoo Accessibility Lab in 2007 when we found that having our product teams experience a disability first-hand had a more profound impact than trying to describe it. It became personal. It became lasting.
Visitors to the Accessibility Lab include Yahoo designers, developers, product managers, and executives. The Lab also hosts members and representatives of consumer and advocacy groups, public and private organizations, students, and other companies. And, on occasion, even news crews from around the world.
In the Lab, we invite every visitor to perform a familiar task using a Yahoo product while experiencing a simulated disability. This is accomplished using gloves, goggles, and a variety of other apparatus.
- Take a photo of a colleague using an Apple iPhone while blindfolded. (Yes it’s possible.The iPhone talks and identifies where there are faces in the Camera app)
- Compose and send an email using only a stylus to type on the keyboard
- Find, enable and experience closed captions while watching a video wearing earplugs
For Yahoo’s designers and engineers, these kinds of simulations prove especially valuable. Not only are they exposed to a wider range of user experiences, but they’re also exposed to these experiences while using the very products they are in the process of creating. When they discover for themselves how certain features of their product may present unanticipated barriers, they become more deeply engaged in finding ways to overcome them.
In the business world, keeping secrets from competitors is often a critical necessity, but Yahoo’s Accessibility Lab is not meant to be a secret. It is meant to be shared. As a result, we are delighted when companies visit our Lab and follow our lead by creating their own labs too. Ideas about accessible design are, in our view, too important not to share.