Ensuring Accessibility: Q&A with EBSCO Web Accessibility Specialist Kyle Smith

Technology | Kyle Smith| November 14, 2019

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EBSCO’s Accessibility team works to ensure that accessibility is a key consideration in product development strategies. An EBSCO web accessibility specialist explains how.

Kyle Smith has been working as a Software Engineer at EBSCO. He discusses his background, inspiration for working in accessibility, and goals for the future when it comes to ensuring accessible products at EBSCO as a Web Accessibility Specialist.

What is your background?

My background is in front-end engineering, and I’ve been working as a web developer since early 2008, when I landed my first job building sales page templates for a company in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Since then, my focus has been primarily client-side development with a specialty for e-commerce web development. As an e-commerce developer, it was my job to ensure our client’s storefronts were WCAG 2.0 AA & Section 508 compliant. This provided the foundation for my accessibility expertise and I’ve been able to continue growth in that area over my career. Over the past decade I’ve had the opportunity to develop products for many large companies including UNC, Duke, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Cree and now, EBSCO.

How long have you been in your role at EBSCO?

I’ve been a Software Engineer at EBSCO since October 2018 and I’ve been acting as an Accessibility Specialist since April 2019.

What inspired you to work in accessibility?

I’ve always been someone who gets excited about new opportunities so when a former employer was looking for somebody to own the role of an e-commerce specialist, I volunteered to build the base theme that was used as the foundation for our products. Part of being an e-commerce specialist was ensuring our base theme was WCAG-compliant and met Section 508 requirements, which is how I started with accessibility.

You recently passed the Web Accessibility Specialist exam. Why did you decide to be a certified Web a11y Specialist?

I decided I wanted to be a Web Accessibility Specialist following the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in Anaheim, California. After hearing from experts in the field, I wanted to challenge my knowledge of accessibility with that of the community. We conducted some research and found that the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) had certified many of the experts that I have learned from and it inspired me to join this group of accessibility professionals.

My vision for accessibility at EBSCO is for us to be an empathetic, inclusive, adaptive company that looks to solve challenges for users of all types.

How have you shared your knowledge and expertise with your EBSCO team members?

The primary way I try to share knowledge and expertise is through the Lunch and Learn sessions we have at EBSCO along with and pair programming sessions. In addition to working hands-on with developers on specific issues, I’ve created an internal site with resources for designers and developers. These resources include free accessibility courses offered by reputable companies such as Google’s Udacity, as well as screen reader guides so developers can feel prepared when testing browsers for usability testing. Lastly, I spend a great deal of time collaborating with our internal community of experts in order to plan the accessibility blog posts, creating training courses and hosting presentations to share with the organization.

What are some enhancements in accessibility that your team has worked on and is working on now?

We recently built the new video user interface which incorporates accessibility best practices. We ensured there is a skip to link on each page so users can bypass the search bar and go directly to the main content. We used proper landmarks so screen reader users can quickly interact with all elements of the page. We also ensured unique language on the different button elements so the user could quickly differentiate between the video they were trying to watch — instead of having multiple “Watch Now” buttons; we have explicit “Watch Button”. Before we finalize the launch of a product, we run automated tests and ensure we don’t have WCAG violations and confirm we can complete our use cases using only a keyboard. It takes a little extra thought in setting up the page, but it is a great user experience for our customers and their end-users.

What is your vision for web accessibility at EBSCO?

My vision for accessibility at EBSCO is for us to be an empathetic, inclusive, adaptive company that looks to solve challenges for users of all types. We have a commitment to making robust user interfaces so we can be confident saying we’ve done our best to make researching a best of breed experience, regardless of how users interact with our content.

What do you like to do in your spare time, when you are not working on web accessibility?

When I am not working on accessibility, I enjoy traveling around the world with my wonderful wife Alyssa, spending time with my family and puppy (Bowser the Schnauzer) and hanging out with friends. I’m also a huge sports fan, primarily football and hockey — go New York Giants and Carolina Hurricanes!

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Kyle Smith
Software Engineer II, EBSCO

Kyle Smith is a software engineer and web accessibility specialist at EBSCO Information Services in Durham, NC. Kyle has a passion for great user experiences and focuses on front-end development and accessibility.

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