Had a blast at CAST, Yay for KWSQA!

Posted by Albert Gareev on Oct 09, 2015 | Categories: AccessibilityCommunityHeuristics

Today I’m going to present a talk on Web Accessibility and Accessibility Testing Heuristics at the conference of Kitchener Waterloo Software Quality Association.

Maybe I’m driving at this moment while you’re reading this..

While my talk is less than 2 hours long I foresee some great challenges as a trainer. You see, I want to give an experience. I want people to workout their testing heuristics, because merely talking won’t let me to hand out those.

I want to share my thoughts on learning, presentation, and skills development.
It so happened that most corporate training workshops and courses I went to were mostly focused on listening to the speaker. Sure, engagement of the audience was there, and it was fun, we received tons of materials, and we felt good afterwards. We also barely remembered it 2 weeks after, and no one applied it at work.
Were we bad students? I’d disagree. We were bad practitioners – because we didn’t practice. We did not take sample problems to work through and develop our own understanding and solution.

With years of my practice lead experience I now have many examples of successes and failures in attempts to implement something new. Whenever I saw it working it was always a kind of a Learn – Practice – Apply – Learn cycle.


  • Get an idea of the learning objectives
  • Read or listen to the information
  • Try and understand the examples
  • Receive personal experience
  • Discuss your experiences with the group
  • Receive a feedback from the instructor
  • Connect to your existing experiences and known contexts
  • Take notes!
  • Understand – rather, begin understanding epistemology


  • Start with some simplified examples – walk through, back and forth, till understanding of what, how, and why
  • Discuss your experiences with the group
  • Take on a similar problem or exercise and try to solve it yourself
  • Discuss your experiences with the group
  • Receive a feedback from the instructor
  • Take notes!
  • Take on the slightly different problem or a bigger version of it
  • After a few micro iterations have a review: what you did, how you did, how it went, do you understand why’s for each step and decision, alternative ways, similarity and difference between the problems you solved.

// The trainer must always be supporting all these activities and helping people with learning process.

// At the same time, the trainer must not assign tasks – people must retain ownership of their learning process, or they’ll just follow the script nodding “yeah, I fully understand”.

Working through these cycles people will rediscover the knowledge and reinvent the practice for themselves. Working further they’ll be able either to develop their own work heuristics or take ownership of those offered by the instructor.

It’s also useful to discuss how they’re going to apply these at work.


Workshop is a kind of a “greenhouse” for learning and skills development. But to get the value we must step out to the field and apply our skills in some real context.

The following points are not a script, not even a heuristic but some common patterns.

  • Analyze the context with it’s superposition of problems, tasks, and goals
  • Identify problems similar to those you solved
  • Identify conditions similar to those where were the problems you solved
  • Identify outcomes similar to those where were the problems you solved
  • Apply your skills and problem-solving heuristics on a task but do it in a research way: observe what’s happening and where it leads. Compare with your study notes and takes notes of the current process.

//As I’m writing this, I realize it became too abstract. So let me use an example.


  • In the full training on Accessibility Testing I typically teach use of NVDA Screen Reader.
  • One of functions very useful in testing brings up all headings and links that a web page contains.
  • After we learn how to operate the function we practice on a sample page
  • Then we try with some more complex pages

Now, let’s say at the job the company uses JAWS and one of the problems sounds like: identify all missing or problematic alternative text of the links. The application of learned skills may go this way:

  • Find out if JAWS has a similar function displaying headings and links (of course, it does)
  • Learn to operate the function
  • Bring up list of links and review their alternative texts (title, caption, ARIA-attributes or whatever was used in particular)
  • Identify and report the problems

Thanks for your attention :). Please share your experiences in successful learning, practicing, and application at work.

And – maybe – see you at the conference!




Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work by Albert Gareev is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.