The excellent Monkigras conference was on January 31st and February 1st this year.

Monkigras 2018 (videos) was about sustainability. This year it’s about inclusion.

Look at the Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit and this article about it.

Ben Fletcher @bjfletcher

When access works, everybody benefits.

When 11, he was hit by a cricket ball. Rapidly lost sight in one eye.

He wears shoes with thin soles (Beebo?). They help you to feel every bump in the road.

He went for a Cambridge maths interview - professor didn’t talk to him.

Studied at York University which had amazing accessibility facilities.

“How did I get here?”. Wisdom and a bit of age.

Now working at the FT. Principal Engineer managing 40 people.

When access fails:

  • Family not signing at Christmas. Wasn’t involved in the conversation.
  • When seeing the scan of his child they turned the lights off. His interpreter didn’t know how to do hands-on interpreting. So he missed out on the details of his first child’s stenograph.

Disabled people can no longer get supported to stand for parliament.

Home truths


A lot of the decision makers aren’t in positions of experience. So we’re relying on good will. Which leaves us in a position of having to plead and beg.

The Equality Act is crap. The term reasonable adjustment doesn’t provide us with a concrete solution to make sure we are included in society.

We need to get to equity, where people are provided for based on their needs.

What’s important

Attitude (his colleagues saying Happy Birthday Ben)


His colleague Laura has encouraged his colleagues to learn sign language.


Helps in many ways. Here’s one example. Uber transformed his ability to get about.

Who benefits?

Scope: 1 in 5 have a disability.

In meetings it’s very British to interrupt each other.

To address this he took an example from Native Americans. He used a small football which is passed around as a token for someone to speak. It brings a sense of calm. When people don’t panic in case they’re going to be interrupted.

EDF advert - access for everyone. Inverted equality.

The international sign for disabled people doesn’t always work. He asked for some assistance for disabled people (at the airport?). Then an assistant came wth a wheelchair.

He’s proposing a new international symbol for Diversity. Everyone’s a star.

Alternative diversity logo

What can you do?

Do we have an accessibility champion?

For those of you planning budgets, please plan in an accessibility line in that budget.

The hashtag for accessibility is #A11y (which looks like “ally”).

Today Ben’s asking us to be an ally.

James reminded us to think about clapping visually. Hands in the air.

Gender stickers. We may think we don’t need to sticker. But what about other people’s needs, and making them feel more comfortable? And the fact that they are saying we should make a statement.

Read the Monkgras code of conduct

Alex Chan @alexwlchan

The Curb Cut Effect, aka dropped kerbs.


Jack Fisher was isabled veteran and lawyer who lived in Kalamazoo, MI.

Kalamazoo had high curbs - 6 inches.

Curb cuts make the roads more accessible for wheelchair users and disabled people. But they aren’t the only people who benefit. Also the pram pushing parent, traveller with pull-along suitcase, skateboarder, cyclist.

Making something better for disabled people can make it better for everyone.

The typewriter was invented by Pellegrino Turri to help a blind women write love letters.

Vincent Cerf is hard of hearing and his wife is deaf. He invented email to help people communicate.

Closed captioning helps you if you’re in a noisy room, in a quiet room and can’t turn the sound up or with someone who talks during films.

Captioning is useful for other people too. Maybe the speaker is talking in a heavy accent. Maybe you stopped to check Twitter.

OCR is helpful for those who are visually impaired.

Alex helps to organise Pycon UK.

The Wellcome Collection makes historical medical documents available for free online.

Things don’t happen because they’re “fair” or “right”.

We often have to justify the value of inclusion.

“Do we really have to do this? How many people use it? Can we afford it?”

When you spread the cost over the much larger number of people it’s going to benefit then it’s easier to justify.

Equity isn’t zero sum game. I can help one group of people without hurting others.

Rachel Stephens @rstephensme

Building businesses cases for accessibility

The Social Model of Disability reflects the interaction between the features of a person’s body and the features of the society in which they live.

Let’s focus on how we can make holistically better products.

As a new parent, the only way Rachel could watch TV was through closed captioning so not to wake the baby up. Also she struggles to understand regional accents.

“Sidewalks with curb cuts are simply better sidewalks” - Steven Jacobs

Inclusivity - apply RACI framework (Responsible/Accountable/Consulted/Informed).

Provide concrete guidance on organisational values: “we are committed to the values for these reasons and we prioritize upholding them in a meaningful way”.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Louise Miller - GDS @louiseamymiller

Louise talked about the challenges of being a parent in a same sex relationship with two children.

Government is not a shop. Government is providing services that people have to use.

The language used on some government sites can be improved:

“If the mother’s partner wants to take shared parental leave” – [this language] excludes one mother.

“Is this your first [child]?” – there are two parents. Both have given birth, one biological parent for each child.

“You sit with mummy while we have a look at your tummy.”

Only one parent can sign up for alerts from school. There’s an assumption that only one parent is available. And the other’s working.

Ben Carpenter - head of inclusive design.

GDS run meet ups on inclusive design.

Stay humble, and don’t make assumptions about your users.

Don’t try to paint a picture about what they might be doing.

Find your users’ paint points.

Look at the Service Manual guidance.

Real lives are messy.

Thomas Otter

Most job ads today are online. There is lots of law in this area. Also WCAG.

He has looked at 10 German organisations, to see how their job boards stacked up from an accessibility perspective.

Involved in the test were students who were either blind or had severe visual impairment.

Companies failed on accessibility checking.

Use PAC3 for testing PDFs.

German content, spoken with an English accent, doesn’t sound right.


  • One site looked cool, but images had no alternative text.
  • Form entry - no meta-descriptors.
  • Other issues. Massive amount of unnecessary complexity.
  • 300 item pull down menu is a nightmare of visually impaired people.
  • Calendar blocks are very difficult to navigate.

A German site had a really excellent search function. Simple. Powerful. But it didn’t work in IE.

If your assistive technology only works with Explorer, you’re stuck.

Joshua (one of the users): “This doesn’t work. Without help it is impossible, with help it is not fun and frustrating.”

VPAT is a voluntary statement of accessibility.

Facebook is using image recognition to place alternative text against images, e.g. “cat”.

The real problem in the UK is that there has been very little sanction.

Facebook - for some people it’s a life saver. Even with its ethical issues.

Joe Drumgoole

Joe has dyscalculia. He can’t teach himself to not freak out when he has to do mental arithmetic.

Asthma is a deficit. Drugs can ameliorate it, but the condition doesn’t go away.

There are bigger deficits: mental health issue, mental illness, autism.

Autism doesn’t come on its own; it comes with ADHD, with dyspraxia. Dyspraxia ruins your short-term memory.

Every persona Joe’s read is man over 40, Anglo-Saxon, earning over 40K per year.

The recruitment market is broken for the long-term unemployed, if you don’t earn a mobile phone or if you’re homeless.

Joe talked about the hackathon he attended in Manchester.

How would you solve the homeless problem? Meet homeless people and talk to them.

For example: You want to find a shelter, but you’re in a nice pitch. Is there going to be a bed available across town? Mobile phones are currency in the homeless community.

Hackathon idea: Publicise available beds on billboards.

The mobile phone is part of the solution but it’s not the only solution.

“The existential crisis that faces us today is one of mental health.”

800,000 people die every year from suicide.

Mental health has to be as important a part of the software development process as security.

H8Y: Put the humanity back in the technology that you build.

Think diversity, disability.

Deficits are always balanced to superpowers. But often we haven’t looked for the superpowers.

Amy Dickens @RedRoxProjects website

Amy’s PhD research involves accessible musical instruments

Amy is now an Ambassador for Women in Tech and Web Developer Advocate.


WCAG principles, paraphrased:

  • perceivable (“It must not be invisible to all their senses”)
  • operable (“It cannot require an interaction that a user cannot perform”)
  • understandable (“The information nor operation or the interface should be beyond the user’s understanding”)
  • robust (“It shouldn’t break easily”)

19% of the world’s population is estimated to suffer from some form of disability at some point in their lives. That’s of reported users.

Use “differently abled” instead of disabled.

Some instruments rely solely on lights to tell you whether something is playing. That’s useless to a non-sighted user.

Grace Owolade-Coombes @gowolade.

Young Coders, Community & Open Source

This is a group for those who want to code outside of school; they don’t feel that the school programmes are for them. School programmes tend to focus on high achievers.

Grace found out about STEM; and then the Raspberry Pi. Then went on a Raspberry Pi academy Python course.

Grace’s son loved hacking Minecraft on the Raspberry Pi. “Can we set up our own Raspberry Jam?”

They’ve run sessions at HackHorsham.

The momentum from these sessions has come from Femi (Grace’s son) wanting to share his love of coding.

Young people need to think about enterprise work. Is there a way to engage with enterprise to support voluntary work (for example, by running paid courses)?

Femi ran workshop at Barclays Rise; it was sold out. And he bought robot parts.

Femi says:

  • Reach out and collaborate with people
  • Partner with enterprise; Femi organised a young coders conference (the Tate Exchange)
  • Self-organise and persist; it’s about organising, self-belief, and to keep going

Being persistent can make you a pioneering force in a community.

Support young people to develop the skills you’ve already got.

If children self-direct their learning, and we support that, it works really well.

Joyce Park

Chronic Illness for Web Makers

Joyce runs the 106 Miles meetup.

One of the issues around accessibility is physical health.

We’re all going to face issues of accessibility.

Joyce had a brain aneurysm (which was thankfully treated successfully) and diastolic heart failure.

Chronic conditions come with medications that change our behaviour and perceptions.

Chronic illness is when you still have to eat healthy food. Terminal illness is “when you need to get the calories in however you want”.

Joyce’s blood pressure is 100 points higher than it should be. So yoga or beet juice is not going to help. She is positive that she had her aneurysm because she was working 14-to-16 hours days for a long time.

Voice is really making a comeback.

Consider writing APIs that could accept a voice interface. - large ugly layouts are effective.

Steph Johnson - creating ease at work

People on the autism spectrum will happily work unpaid overtime as long as they are enjoying themselves, because they don’t have a social life and they don’t know any better.”

(So we need to be mindful not to let this happen.)

Align yourself with someone powerful, who represents an under-represented group [if you identify with that group].

Philip Burguieres, part owner of Houston Texans and CEO of fortune-500 company has spoken about mental health.

And so has, Emma MacElroy - CEO of WildFang.

People who talk opening about their vulnerabilitys make it better for others.

Eriol (“Er-ol”) Fox @erioldoesdesign

Politics of Design by Ruben Pater

Eriol identifies as non-binary transgender, in spite of appearances. Their pronouns are they/them/their, and title “Mx”.

Erol is a queer person and has an ‘invisible’ disability/illness (PTSD). They work for Ushahidi.

Do stock photography sites give an accurate representation of the people you are wanting to serve from your site?

Think about “this is what a [trans person] looks like”.

Make products usable simple and relevant for everyone to use.

How is “female-friendly” different to “friendly”?

Make the site less like a job interface, and more like a recreational site.

Making products “man-size” is excluding people. Saying “you should not be buying this”.

Some people can identify as multiple ethnicities.

Don’t capture things unless you definitely need them.

Also for gender. Some people are proud to say that they are transgender. So male/fenale/”prefer not to say” are not sufficient.

Dave Letorey @dletorey

Head of Change at Squids

Different types of empathy:

  • Social empathy - recognising what another person is feeling
  • Empathic concern - of a mother to her child
  • Cognitive empathy - put yourself in their place

These can be permanent, temporary or situational.

Read Dave’s blog post: accessibility isn’t just for screen readers.

Different types of colour blindness:

  • Dueteranooia 10%
  • Protonopia 1% of males
  • Tritanopoa 1 in 50000

A chargeable mouse is an impediment if you forget to charge it.

Website: no more craptions

People with dyslexia read words by their shape. So all caps words put boxes everywhere and make the words harder to interpret.

Read Terence Eden post UI for drunk people.

On getmehome sites e.g. CityMapper, the “get me home” button gets bigger throughout the day.

Here are the links Dave mentioned in his talk.

Day 1 taught me a number of things:

  • that the way I perceive someone else initially may not be how they identify
  • that empathy is much easier when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes
  • that deficits come with superpowers
  • that Mothership Beer is very good
  • the making something better for those with disabilities can make it better for everyone
  • the positive attitude of those who contend with greater challenges than many of us is a reminder to focus on the things we can be grateful for