eBay wants to make building accessible products easy “right from the start.”
In a blog post published this week, the San Jose-based commerce giant announced a new creative tool called Include. The plugin, designed to work with the popular Figma web-based framework, is meant to help developers prioritize accessibility in all stages of the development process, from conception to fruition.
“There is sometimes a fundamental gap between the engineering and design teams when creating a new product [to be accessible],” said Dan Nosowitz, who’s credited with the byline for eBay’s post published Tuesday. “Designers want their work to be accessible, but many of the available tools are cumbersome, confusing, and come with processes that aren’t well-defined. This can lead to designers delivering their work to engineers without fully baked accessibility, which in turn leads to developers having to shoehorn accessibility in at a later stage than would be ideal—or, unfortunately, being unaware of the need to include it at all.”
The company explained work on the Include project was a cross-functional effort, spanning various teams such as the Core Accessibility, Design, and Design Tech teams. The end result, Nosowitz wrote, is a robust piece of software which offers “thoughtful, elegant solutions” for not allowing accessibility to languish on the cutting room floor, so to speak. The plugin works by suggesting best practices and next steps, which can be done in any order, and even provides reasoning for its guidance. According to eBay, Include will compile a list of images in a project and prompt the user (the developer) to add alt-text for Blind and low vision people. In addition, designers can enlarge a design up to 200% in order to, as Nosowitz wrote, “easily see where text may overflow, or where the design may break.” The benefit, he added, is being able to consider the design on a similar scale to how a visually impaired person may experience and interact with the final design.
Include is free to everyone and open source, which eBay said is reflective of their commitment to “[taking] open source very seriously [and] consistently contributing our work back to the community.” The source code for Include is posted on GitHub, while eBay dutifully notes Figma itself is a free service.
“After all, how could we create an accessibility tool and not make it accessible to everyone?” Nosowitz said.