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Reflections on Year One of Blogging

Hey friends! Guess what?? It’s my 30th birthday! And because I really love to be poetic, one year ago today, I decided to launch A11y with Lindsey. So my blog’s birthday is on my birthday!

A lot has happened in the past year. A lot of opportunities that I’ve come across since I started blogging. A lot of mistakes I made. A lot of veering off course. A lot of personal growth. A new job that made me a better React Developer. Learning hard lessons. Having growing pains.

There’s a bit of the elephant in the room. And that’s that there has been a month and a half since I last wrote a blog post. There’s a lot that happened and to be frank, a lot of my reflections in here have come from the last few months.

Writing a tech blog is eye-opening

The best part of writing this blog is learning about parts of accessibility that I never knew about.

Below is just a fraction of the accessibility knowledge I’ve gained this past year:

  • There are new CSS queries like prefers-reduced-motion
  • Learning about the importance of having user preferences
  • Cognitive disorders are significant and an often unexplored part of accessibility
  • JavaScript is necessary for accessibility
  • Accessibility is more than coding. It’s about advocacy before all else. Following non-technical disabled activists have helped me gain more perspective.

I also learned that I have very little desire to convince people who do not care about their users. If you care more about money than you do about your users, I find my energy is better spent elsewhere. My energy is better spent on those who care but might not know how to implement the solutions. I dislike convincing people to care because it will make them more money.

I’m not in the business of convincing people to give a crap about others.

That has informed me that I would prefer to be a web developer who shares my knowledge to other developers. I likely could make a ton of money as a consultant. But I don’t get a lot of joy telling businesses to audit their sites, so they don’t get sued.

My last biggest takeaway is about social media. Blogging has drastically increased my Twitter following, for better or for worse. It’s been wild seeing my audience grow from ~800 to almost 9k. There’s been a toll on my mental health having my following grow, and I have way less urge to grow past what I have now. I’d rather have a smaller, engaged audience. I’d rather have an audience who cares about more than just code. The more I tweet about advocacy, the more followers I lose.

I do want to briefly talk about how I’ve grown as a coder. Then we can go onto more important things.

Growing as a JavaScript Developer

When I first started this blog, I was working as a front end developer at Acquia. I worked as a Drupal developer which is what I had done my entire career as a developer. I played a little bit with VueJS, and I maintained a React Application. Then I made a drastic change in my career and switched to working 100% in React and d3.

It’s incredible to see how much better I am at writing JavaScript compared to what I wrote a year ago. I still have far to go, but I love strengthening my JavaScript. It helps me make more performant and accessible applications.

Since I’ve started, I’ve improved my usage of:

  • React Hooks
  • map, filter, reduce array methods
  • Data Structures and reformatting the ones I’m given.
  • JavaScript to improve Focus Management
  • d3 to create accessible charts

Ladybug

Being part of the Ladybug podcast was a revealing experience. It helped inform where I want my focus to be, what my values are, and how I want to spend my time. At the end of August/beginning of September, I stepped down. If you haven’t seen my tweet thread about why, you can check it out below or on this Threader Roll.

The TL;DR is there was attention called to the fact that we made a harmful mistake in our teaser. We are four white women who said in our teaser that “We wanted to give women in the tech industry a voice, by sharing our diverse experience and advice in the industry.” From what I understand, the remaining cohosts are doing a lot of work to fix the damage done and do better, but the big lesson is that white women are not diversity.

I did what any privileged white woman would do, and I felt defensive. After letting myself feel that, I reflected on my values and who I wanted to be. I observed that I had gained power that I didn’t have before. It’s no secret that my following was significantly less than my cohosts. I had gained popularity, but not for the topic that I really cared about (accessibility). I observed who was supporting us, a lot of the gaslighting I was seeing from supporters and decided based on this event and how I was feeling in general, to step down.

Something I haven’t shared publicly is that I felt depressed before this. Not only was I unhappy, but I didn’t have the time or the energy to spend time on the side project that made me happy, this blog. My friends, partner, and mother worried about me. It’s the most miserable I’ve been in years. And knowing that my participation was hurting women of color was my breaking point. I couldn’t continue on with a project that made me miserable AND hurt others.

I want to take a moment and say that I am a grown woman. I made this decision for a combination of reasons. After I quit, I got a lot of DMs saying “to not listen to the haters,” “you are silencing yourself,” and “why did you let yourself get bullied out.” Any message of this nature is insulting, dismissive, and missing the point of intersectionality.

Calling women of color “haters” or “bullies” is the type of gaslighting I will never tolerate. I actively disapprove of words that say those who hold others accountable publicly is “bullying,” “mean,” “angry,” or “disrespectful.”

Learning more about Intersectionality

Accessibility is an activist topic in nature, which is what attracted me to it in the first place. It’s not just tech, it’s about people’s human rights to access information. So when Ladybug got called out, and I stepped down, I decided to take it upon myself to learn more. I picked up a few books to help me learn about how my past behavior has been problematic.

I want to give my audience a call to action to also challenge themselves to learn more about it. However, I am unwilling to “teach you” if you don’t try to do the work with me. The reality is I am as ignorant as most white folks, and I am unqualified to teach this stuff. I need people to put a bit of work into it before I discuss it with them. I’ve lost a lot of supporters by being more vocal about that. I’ve had white men who used to be friends with me straight up stop talking to me. And this was after trying to “help them understand.”

Here are the books that I am currently and/or planning on reading if you’d like to join me (recommended by Kim Crayton and Tatiana Mac):

I recommend you follow to work of Kim Crayton on the #causeascene podcast. She’s been doing an episode per chapter on How to be an Antiracist. She is releasing episodes every week (you can still catch up). She’s also giving us thoughtful homework to challenge ourselves. It’s been an incredible learning experience so far. Please join me!

What’s next

I took a break for September to get a head start on reading the above books. But now I am back, fiery as I can be.

Here’s what to expect from me:

  • Focusing more on the blog and attempting to get back to a weekly schedule. Next week is the exception, as I will be on a much-needed vacation to celebrate my 30th birthday.
  • Reading up on systemic racism and what intersectionality truly means.
  • Adding more non-technical disability content.
  • Creating Egghead videos.
  • Focusing less on Twitter and more on my email list.

That’s it. Here’s to year 2 with A11y With Lindsey and starting my 30s with a better mindset for improvement.