At GitHub, our favorite people are developers. We love to make them happy and productive, and today, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we want to celebrate their achievements by sharing some great stories about a few developers with disabilities alongside news of recent accessibility improvements at GitHub that help them do the best work of their lives.
Amplifying the voices of disabled developers
People with disabilities frequently encounter biases that prevent their full and equal participation in all areas of life, including education and employment. That’s why GitHub and The ReadME Project are thrilled to provide a platform for disabled developers to showcase their contributions and counteract bias.
Paul Chiou, a developer who’s paralyzed from the neck down, is breaking new ground in the field of accessibility automation, while pursuing his Ph.D. Paul uses a computer with custom hardware and software he designed and built, and this lived experience gives him a unique insight into the needs of other people with disabilities. The barriers he encounters push him to innovate, both in his daily life and in his academic endeavors. Learn more about Paul and his creative solutions in this featured article and video profile.
Becky Tyler found her way to coding via gaming, but she games completely with her eyes, just like everything else she does on a computer, from painting to livestreaming to writing code. Her desire to play Minecraft led her down the path of open source software and collaboration, and now she’s studying computer science at the University of Dundee. Learn more about Becky in this featured article and video profile.
Dr. Annalu Waller leads the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Research Group at the University of Dundee. She’s also Becky’s professor. Becky calls her a “taskmaster,” but the profile of Annalu’s life shows how her lived experience informed her high expectations for her students—especially those with disabilities—and gave her a unique ability to absorb innovations and use them to benefit people with disabilities.
Anton Mirhorodchenko has difficulty speaking and typing with his hands, and speaks English as a second language. Anton has explored ways to use ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot to not only help him communicate and express his ideas, but also develop software from initial architecture all the way to code creation. Through creative collaboration with his AI teammates, Anton has become a force to be reckoned with, and he recently shared his insights in this guide on how to harness the power of generative AI for software development.
Removing barriers that block disabled developers
Success requires skills. That’s why equal access to education is a fundamental human right. The GitHub Global Campus team agrees. They are working to systematically find and remove barriers that might block future developers with disabilities.
The GitHub.com team has also been hard at work on accessibility and they recently shipped several improvements:
Great accessibility starts with design, requiring an in-depth understanding of the needs of users with disabilities and their assistive technologies. The GitHub Design organization has been leaning into accessibility for years, and this blog post explores how it has built a culture of accessibility and shifted accessibility left in the GitHub development process.
When I think about the future of technology, I think about GitHub Copilot—an AI pair programmer that boosts developers’ productivity and breaks down barriers to software development. The GitHub Copilot team recently shipped accessibility improvements for keyboard-only and screen reader users.
GitHub Next, the team behind GitHub Copilot, also recently introduced GitHub Copilot Voice, an experiment currently in technical preview. GitHub Copilot Voice empowers developers to code completely hands-free using only their voice. That’s a huge win for developers who have difficulty typing with their hands. Sign up for the technical preview if you can benefit from this innovation.
As we work to empower all developers to build on GitHub, we regularly contribute back to the broader accessibility community that has been so generous to us. For example, all accessibility improvements in Primer are available for direct use by the community.
Our accessibility team includes multiple Hubbers with disabilities—including myself. GitHub continually improves the accessibility and inclusivity of the processes we use to communicate and collaborate. One recent example is the process we use for retrospectives. At the end of our most recent retrospective, I observed that, as a person with blindness, it was the most accessible and inclusive retrospective I have ever attended. That observation prompted the team to share the process we use for inclusive retrospectives so other teams can benefit from our learnings.
More broadly, Hubbers regularly give back to the causes we care about. During a recent social giving event, I invited Hubbers to support the Seeing Eye because that organization has made such a profound impact in my life as a person with blindness. Our goal was to raise $5,000 so we could name and support a Seeing Eye puppy that will eventually provide independence and self-confidence to a person with blindness. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my coworkers when they donated more than $15,000! So, we now get to name three puppies and I’m delighted to introduce you to the first one. Meet Octo!
GitHub CEO, Thomas Dohmke, frequently says, “GitHub thrives on developer happiness.” I would add that the GitHub accessibility program thrives on the happiness of developers with disabilities. Our success is measured by their contributions. Our job is to remove barriers from their path and celebrate their accomplishments. We’re delighted with our progress thus far, but we are just getting warmed up. Stay tuned for more great things to come! In the meantime, learn more about the GitHub accessibility program at accessibility.github.com.