Inspired by Hacktoberfest I wanted to create a central place for accessibility supports for both web developers and myself as someone who works firsthand with people who can benefit from accessibility practices. Check out https://a11yfirst.netlify.com/ to see the project!
This year, I thought I would try my hand again. I had built up additional skills to hone my craft over the past year, including some React projects and really getting into using Gatsby on some website projects I had picked up over the past year. Unfortunately, I ran into a similar feeling. Tons and tons and TONS of issues with the label "good first issue" and "hacktoberfest" but same sort of behavior - comments going ignored and other people beating me to the punch on PR's that I had already chimed in on. Same sense of disappointment. Same imposter syndrome.
While I was disappointed and feeling like I couldn't hack it for Hacktoberfest to submit even four measly PR's, I happened to listen to a couple episodes on the Ladybug Podcast. They had a couple of episodes on Hacktoberfest and one of the interviewees mentioned creating her own project to get her PR's. I also learned (apparently I need to ACTUALLY review the rules on these things) that PR's are what's important, not necessarily that your PR gets merged. Well then - that changes things!
I am not your typical developer. My full-time gig is as a social worker working with individuals who have developmental disabilities (think diagnoses like Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, Visual Impairments, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy...). I have become increasingly interested in accessibility practices, both as related to web development and also how it directly impacts some of the people with whom I get to work. Because of my background, I wanted to create something that could benefit both myself and others.
My new plan had not started to formulate until halfway through October. My window to create an Open Source Project, and also hopefully help other developers who may need those coveted PR's in a sea of open issues, was growing very small. I decided I would use a Gatsby starter, as I'm pretty comfortable with Gatsby and the starters give a good head start for rapid development. I chose a decent looking docs type starter, threw in a
gatsby new ... command in the terminal and A11y First was born!
I wanted this project to be something others could contribute easily to as well and in my experience thus far accessibility is not a first thought on most developers' minds. So I figured I would start with some already gathered resource somewhere else to build on. I decided to use a collection of resources from Marcy Sutton who works for Gatsby. Marcy is an advocate for inclusion on the web and I've found a lot of the information she posts super helpful.
After putting some filler content to start getting a basic layout on the site, I went ahead and threw it up on Github. After that, I began opening issues and added the "hacktoberfest" label and "good first issue" label on some simple things like changing the site title, updating the Github repository link, and some README file changes from the initial Gatsby starter. Within minutes I had people chiming in that they wanted to work on issues - SUCCESS! Because of my past experience submitting my own first PR's and hearing nothing but crickets, I try to make sure I respond relatively quickly (within 24 hours) to commenters on issues and also address PR's timely as well.
I'm happy to report that while there are still some open issues, and I or others will hopefully think of more to add, I've had 10 PR's from different developers. Hopefully that's 10 developers who were aided in getting their Hacktoberfest PR's and also exposed to more information about a11y!
So that's all there really is to it. I am not a full-time web developer, but I have been coding for several years. The PR's you can make are simple if you find the right repo - and if you haven't found one yet go check out https://github.com/tpage99/a11yfirst and submit a PR. Even if you spend five minutes Googling about a11y, know of a friend or family member that uses some piece of tech that we can reference on the site - WHATEVER - feel free to submit a PR and spend a little time learning about how you can make the web more accessible to others who may struggle in an area we take for granted.
I should say that I've learned a lot from starting my own little open source project and that I quickly ran into issues I was not sure how to resolve initially and had to do some research (like how to resolve Merge Conflicts - Yikes!). But the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work on this project, learn in the open, and hopefully contribute to the betterment of others.
It is my hope A11y First continues to grow and I look forward to learning a lot from other's experiences and those that are definitely more educated/experienced than I am in this area. Even if A11y First just ends up being a project I continue to contribute to and use every now and again, I'm still glad I did it.