Why Navs Drove Me to Become a Web Developer

I am blind. But, I can still see the world around me.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a person with a disability was getting people to understand the struggles that comes with being, well, me.

“If you’re blind, how can you use the computer? How do you code?” I can already hear these words buzzing in your head as you try to imagine someone who can’t see, work a device that primarily needs vision to operate it.

Cue in Assistive Technologies!

I use ZoomText, which has the ability to magnify my page and read text back to me (I don’t use the text-reading feature though).

After using ZoomText, my experience with the computer and the online world has changed. From shying away from having to squint at the small icons to being actively online; screen readers changed my life.

The Thing with Navs

So how does this all tie into navigations and my career choice to become a web developer, you may ask?

After using ZoomText and being on the internet for awhile, there was always one thing that I struggled with: navigations. But worse of all, navigations that appear on hover.

It might not seem like a big deal to a lot of you, but at the time, it was a big deal to me; and it still is.

How I view the online world:

My whole screen is magnified so that I can comfortably read the text on the screen, without having to lean my shoulders forward and have my nose be 2 inches away from the screen. As I move my mouse, the screen follows it.

Now Here Is the Problem

This navigation on this site uses hover to present the user with more information and options.

Here is what the average user sees. A typical nav that most likely has a drop down:

The view from the average user’s monitor.

If I try to access the different options on the navigation using my screen reader, this is what I see:

A small portion of the drop down menu can be seen. I can’t cross over to the next column without worrying that the menu will disappear comlpetely.

I can’t see all of the options and if I move my mouse over to the next column, 90% of the time, the menu disappears and it’s another 10 minutes of me trying to click onto the next button. But if I was being honest, I don’t have time for that.

”Okay, but can’t you tab through the menu?”

Nope. I tried.

After being so frustrated with my poor user experience of the site, as well as questioning why the nav was so poorly designed (in my opinion), I started to realize that a lot of the world and the things that people create always have people with disabilities in mind, last.

Although there are tools out there that are meant to break down barriers for people like me, and to even the playing field, it’s not always enough.

“Having someone without a disability create and design tools to help those with a disability is like asking a chef to cook Thai food without them ever trying Thai food themselves.”

This is why I became a web developer — to make the online world a more accessible and inclusive space for people of all abilities to create, express, share, and connect.

I have learned a lot as a person with unique barriers, as a junior web developer, and as an online user. I am determined to help influence the way developers consider their audience while creating their sites so that information can be shared without barriers.

The online world is an arbitrary place but the future of accessibility is in our hands.