I am a web developer, hard of hearing, and an a11y advocate, Ask Me Anything!

ashleemboyer profile image Ashlee (she/her) Updated on ・1 min read

Really, anything. I don't claim to be the spokesperson for all disabled people that need web accessibility, but I'm here to give you my own personal perspective.

Additionally, your questions don't even have to be about web development or a11y. If you have general questions about what it's like to be hard of hearing, please, ask away.

See you in the comments!


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Not a joke question. I’ve only seen the term a11y online and have never heard it pronounced. How does one say it?

“Eh one one wai”?
“Eh eleven wai”?

Thanks for the post. Important stuff! I have a friend whose parents are both deaf and a great amount of things in their life revolve around using the internet well.


Dan, I have no idea to be completely honest. 🤣 I say it like the word "ally". That makes it have a double meaning, I think.

I'm glad you have been around people that were able to give you some insight into the world of being disabled. A lot of people just don't know until they're told about things. It's so easy to take things for granted.


I think in my head when I read a11y I’m going to stick with “alevenie” from now on. With the a being like in a in Apple. (Until someone informs me otherwise lol)


I think because i18n is “eye-eighteen-en” and l10n is “ell-ten-en”, I’ve always said it as “Ay-eleven-why”

Hmmm good points. Who is the expert on this? Hahaha.

Maybe no one is...not even the people that made the word up!

So just like the other acronyms it would be "Eh Eleven why" but whenever used in conversation I as at Ally or just Accessibility.


It stands for accessibility. That's how you say it. Count the letters.


We know what it stands for. It’s not uncommon for people to say and use shortened versions of words.

Oh ok sorry, I've never said "ally" or "I 18 N", so I thought everybody just said accessibility and Internationalization (god that's a long word) out loud.

I’ve definitely heard people say “eye-18-en”, so that’s why we’re all confused! It looks like the word “ally”, but “aye-11-why” also seems like it works too. We need an expert here haha!


I found a thing! If you scroll about halfway down this page, it tells you how "a11y" is pronounced.



The plot thickens!

This is informative! Thank you!


Hi Ashlee! Hope you’re having a great Friday!

Now for my question: as someone who is hard of hearing, what is the number one accessibility issue that you personally encounter when interacting with the web? How can that user experience be improved?



Hey George :) I am having a good Friday! Thanks for your comment. I think my answer falls somewhere between two things:

  • poor audio quality
  • lack of closed captions

The latter is probably higher on my list than the former, though, because most audio quality is really bad.


That’s great to know and keep in mind. Thanks for the response!

I’m always trying to keep a11y at the forefront of my mind and I think the best way to do that is just be informed of issues people are encountering.

It’s interesing the comment about audio quality, becauss it’s something I personally haven’t noticed. If most of the quality is poor, how would you compare it to a different medium that has better sound quality?

Yeah, I think one of the biggest barriers to a11y is the lack of information. Too many devs think it's super hard to make sites accessible, but it's really not; especially if you incorporate it into your early designs and code.

What I often find is that people sound like they're talking into a bucket, don't speak into the mic itself or go in and out from it, or they just don't speak very clearly. It can be a time-consuming thing to go back over audio and re-record bad pieces, so I sort of get it. But what people should try to do is practice becoming better speakers and also invest in better equipment if possible.


It is wonderful to see this. How are you finding the world of web development? I’m profoundly deaf with cochlear implant and it’s rare to meet deaf / hard of hearing in this industry. I think we are like gold dust 😂.


Hello, new friend! It's hard to meet people like us in general! I'm starting a new job soon and I met a woman there who just got hearing aids. I have never met another woman outside of my family with hearing aids, so it's super cool that I'll be working with one!

As for the world of web dev... I'm pretty comfortable for the most part. The most frustrating thing in this regard is when people try to tell me how to feel about a11y.

We're rare gems. 💎


It’s clear we are passionate about a11y and for everyone else, it is an afterthought. Yet it is worth discussing about and implementing it as we go along. Have fun in your new job and always see it like a playground!!

I’m working on an embroidery piece that addresses just this. I’ll make sure to share with you when I’m done! It’s gonna be a real good one. 😈 and thank you!!


Okay so I recently did a post on accessibility, titled accessibility is a myth, I know what it sounds like but it's not what you think, check it out and let me know if you agree. Also thanks for posting that was very cool of you


Can you link it? I'll take a peek!


I mostly agree with everything you said! Accessibility shouldn't be a huge deal. It should be the default. For now, it is a big deal. Celebrating people who do it right will help us "normalize" (for lack of a better term) making web sites and apps accessible.

I don't even agree with myself sometimes! but the point stands and you are 💯 correct on this, accessibility is a huge deal right now, perhaps some sort of failing has been recognised, or tooling is better and Canada is a desirable market, whatever it is, it's exciting.


Oh, that "anything" tempts me to ask some really important stuff Ashlee!

1: Trap, rock, pop or classical?
2: Dance in the best place you can imagine or coding in google?
3: What can you say to a man who is gonna graduate from college in one month?
4: You think this whole life is kinda unfair?

  1. Classic rock. Like, Chicago and Bob Seger.
  2. Dancing for sure! Life's not all about coding for the big names.
  3. ENJOY BEING FREE. Go do things that excite you. You have all kinds of time now!
  4. I think some phases can be unfair, but nothing lasts forever. Life has a lot of ups and downs.

Hi Ashlee! I am a second year CS student and I was wondering what advice would you give to a college student who does not exactly know if he wants to be Web Developer or not. I have interest in Web Development but I have interest in other fields as well. It really depends on my level of interest but wanted to hear from you on what made you decide you want to be a Web Developer.

Thanks for the AMA!


I didn’t know I wanted to be a web developer until I tried it out. My senior project was angular front-end and express back-end. That was my first real exposure, and I just fell in love with it.

So, my advice is to try anything that sparks your interest. My “ideal career” changed about 75 times because I kept discovering things I enjoyed doing.

On that note, when you find what you love, freaking embrace it. People are weird and judgy about all kinds of stuff, but don’t let what other people think of you dictate your life. They won’t be paying your bills. 😉


Awesome. Thank you so much :D


Hi! I hope I’m not too late for the discussion, but this question popped up in my head and thought you would be the best person to ask.
I support accessible web — not because I need it but because it makes for a more inclusive space. And I know almost everyone can benefit from more accessible websites and environment — I tend to turn on subtitles on most videos I watch (mainly so I can watch them at 1.5x or 2x speed); and I also sometimes tab through websites because it’s practical (not that it’s always well implemented).
Now for the real question; how could one respond to people saying “we don’t need to limit our website for old people”?
It’s a tough question, I think, because I have a hard time answering without popping a forehead nerve. But I think many people honestly think that accessibility is only for elders or for a very limited group of people. When I mention the uses I give to accessibility tools, or cases of people I know, I’ve been told “yeah but nobody tabs through websites” and similar.
How does one respect peacefully and calmly? Maybe by mentioning statistics?


I imagine I'd also have a hard time answering this question if I wasn't disabled. However, since I am, if anyone ever asked me that ridiculous question, I have two possible answers:

  1. Do I look old to you? (I'm 24, btw.)
  2. I hope you are fortunate enough to never have some sort of accident that causes visual or physical impairment.

Thanks a lot for the reply. I know what to tell the person who asked, the next time I talk to them :)
I hope my question wasn't offensive at all, and I apologize if it was

Not at all! In place of the first question, you could always say you have a young friend who needs accessibility options online. It’s not uncommon at all! Completely outside of the fact that people who’re born with disabilities are young for a very long time lol... anything can happen to any abled person at any time. Someone could fall down their porch steps and break both arms. They’re going to hope the internet is accessible if it ever happens.


Hello Ashlee. Here's some AMA questions:

  1. Why did you choose Rose-Hulman?
  2. How many years into web dev are you?
  3. Most embarrassing, yet harmless, mistake as a web dev?
  4. What's your biggest frustration with front-end dev work? And have you done back-end dev work?
  5. And for fun: favorite dinosaur?



Hey there :)

  1. I originally went there for Chemical Engineering. An older friend of mine got a ChemE degree from there and recommended that I go to Operation Catapult the summer before I graduated high school. It's a ~2 week engineering camp. I fell in love with the campus and really felt like I fit in.

  2. I have a lot of other coding experience with internships and course work, but I've been focused on web dev for 2 years now—1 year professionally.

  3. Literally happened a couple of days ago. I tried to raise a number to a power in JavaScript, and used ^ instead of **. 😂

  4. Hmmm. I go through phases on this one. Right now, I'm trying to learn about how to optimize drawing lots of pretty things on the screen which, in my situation, is requiring optimizations on the front- and back-end. Since I don't work as much with the back-end, I don't really know all the ways to optimize things, which sometimes blocks my work on the front-end. I have done back-end work and very comfortable with it. Sometimes just requires some extra Googling. 🤓

  5. Pterodactyls! I love birds, so this makes sense.


Favorite resources for making products more accessible? I’ve yet to find a “definitive guide” and I know I can do better.

Also, any suggestions for how to add (and how to pitch adding to my boss) accessibility features to large existing projects?


Great questions!

Someone else might know of a "definitive guide" (please chime in!), but The A11Y Project is one of my favorite places to start. There are a ton of links over there for things you can read up on, tools to help test a11y, and other places where you can continue your research.

This is a tough one. I've not been really successful in my own experiences. The two best approaches, to me, are the following:

  • Writing accessible code significantly improves code quality, it's a way to be a better developer
  • It's the right thing to do. Knowingly not doing it is excluding an entire group of people.

What do you think it will take before web developers finally take #a11y seriously and start developing for accessibility by default en masse?


This is a tough one. If people can't get with a11y simply because it's the right thing to do, I don't know if they can be convinced. I think our best shot is to reshape how web development is taught. a11y can be done well if we do it from the beginning of the project, and that's what we need to do in education.


This is one area government regulation could help. It would be really hard to enforce though.

I definitely think we need more specific laws on web accessibility. Not sure how I feel about the govn't getting in education on it though.


Hey 👋
With closed captions, do you do things like:
"[sarcasm] I love this cake"
To convey the tone / way something is said?


I've been using captions since I could read, and I don't think it's super common. Most of the time, whoever is speaking is also being shown on screen, and their body/facial language is typically enough for me. While we're on the topic, anything off-screen should definitely be described. Knocking, for example, would just say [knocking at door] or something. I'm not an expert caption writer. :D


I am interested in building a application like Adobe PDF and I wish to publish on the web. But, I have no idea building it. Would you mind helping me.


A little off-topic here, but I guess you can’t be off topic in an AMA? 😁 Can’t help you here, sorry friend! You might start by checking out some already existing apps and frameworks that help with displaying PDFs in the browser, for example.


Because you have difficulty hearing I would assume that video and audio would be the most difficult things. What is something that is challenging with the web that I wouldn't expect?


You probably wouldn't expect how many large companies don't manually put captions on their videos. A lot of places use auto-generated captions, but those are no good if the speakers in a video don't speak loudly or clearly enough.

Something I'd love to see if companies can't get on board with captions: transcripts. Just have someone type it up. I'm sure it's cheaper and faster than adding captions to a video if you don't have an expert doing it.


On video or audio content do you prefer captions or full transcriptions? Or maybe both? Or is that overkill?


I would like to learn about web development. But, I am not sure about the best resources. Would you like to suggest any?


I think 2015 was the first year I was exposed to web development. I used Codeacademy and really enjoyed it!