Majestic historic temple in front of a blue sky.

Over the last year, the name of a city is coming up in German news more often than I like it to be: Aleppo. It is not just a city involved in the war in Syria, it is the scene of a standoff that is lasting for months.

This city, the mention of its name on the news, the descriptions of the cruelty that happens there, is especially painful for me. When I was in elementary school, we had Syrian neighbors who fled during the Gulf War. Mohammad and I shared a class. We were good friends, played football together, learned together. I still long for his family’s traditionally baked bread sometimes.

After a few years, that felt like a whole life for me as a child, they had to go back. Although quite well integrated, there was no way for them to get a permanent working permit, and they were happy to get back into their home country. (Of course I don’t know if that was really really the case, but that was what I gathered as a child.)

The children, Mohammad had a little brother and – I think – a baby sister, were not too happy to leave, having their friends in that small town where I grew up. One day, we said goodbye, and they made their way to their home city of Aleppo in Syria.

The thought alone, that those people, including my elementary school friend, might be injured or dead is gruesome to me. Hearing from injured or dead children makes me think about the potential children of Mohammad and his siblings.

For most, the war in Syria is far, far away. For me, it feels close. This is why I think getting to know other people, other cultures is so important. It allows us to be close with people and to not brush this conflict away as “someone else’s problem”.

Image: Palmyra – Temple of Bel: A cultural heritage that was destroyed during the war. Uploaded by Juan Llanos on Flickr. See how that site looks today.

I’m happy to announce here that I will be speaking at Accessing Higher Ground in November, representing Knowbility. The conference is in Westminster, Colorado and coins itself as an “Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference”.

I will do two three-hour long workshops:

  • Advanced Accessibility: A Deep Dive for Developers
    Tuesday, Nov. 15th, 9am

    Focused on UI widgets, WAI-ARIA techniques and semantics, with some JavaScript as a garnish, this workshop will teach how to implement complex widgets in an accessible way that is true to the nature of the web.
  • Simplify your development life with tools, tests and procedures
    Tuesday, Nov. 15th, 1:30pm

    Developers are lazy. I know this because I am one. So having tools, tests and procedures in place that help developers to produce accessible templates and widgets is helping everyone. This workshop will give a broad overview about the possibilities and will also show how to implement some of the provisions in day-to-day work.

Also, I will give two talks:

  • Semantic Subtleties
    Thursday, Nov. 17th, 8am

    This talk takes some of the semantic particularities that come also up in the workshop and will put them under the microscope and examine their meaning.
  • ARIA Serious?
    Thursday, Nov. 17th, 4pm

    Here, I will presumably give a few good and lots of bad examples of ARIA implementation and show where the pitfalls and chances of using ARIA are.

If you are still thinking about going, maybe the fantastic lineup of speakers can lure you in. Register now at accessinghigherground.org.

I always thought that it is not so difficult to find resources about these basics, the recurrence of that question prompted me to finally write my own take on this topic. So here it is, my list of absolute web accessibility basics every web developer should know about.

A very solid overview of basic web accessibility techniques by Marco Zehe.

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Over the past years my social web interaction shifted from Twitter and this very blog more and more to Facebook. I have so many contacts and interactions there that it feels very overwhelming and occupying a good chunk of my free time that I would love to spend otherwise: Hiking through the sun, having random thoughts and ideas, read long-form articles or play video games.

I was under the impression that engaging on Facebook – and to a lesser extend on Twitter – would allow me to relax, to have social interactions and would be worth the time. I have realized that this became less and less the case. Either things are fairly irrelevant for me, or there is in-depth political discussion. This made Facebook feel like a burden for me now, and the only way to reevaluate my usage is to stop using it almost completely.

While I had a pinned tab with Facebook open at all time, as well as the mobile app installed, I have now closed that tab and removed the app from my iPhone. I have disabled all notifications. This is day three and I only had brief looks into Facebook on the mobile web version to check for important notifications. I also allow myself to syndicate content to Facebook – like this blog post and via an iOS extension called Linky (which doesn’t currently support sharing to WordPress, e.g. this blog hint hint) but also using custom Workflows.

Although my brain doesn’t yet know what to do with those free cycles, it feels like a change for the better. I want to continue at least for another week or two. Then I probably need to make significant changes to the websites and people I follow to reduce the load.

The experiments of CGP Grey and Myke Hurley inspired me for this time-out. They outline their methods of “Dialing Down” in an Episode of their (much recommended) Cortex podcast.

(Image by Jonathan Bean via Unsplash.)