Taking the Long View: A Few Words With Marcy Sutton

Hey, Marcy! Tell us a little bit about you.

I have a background in photojournalism and web design, and after struggling to get a job I pivoted into web development back in 2007. After working as a mainstream web developer at an agency, I became hooked on digital accessibility and steadily grew closer to the action until I worked on accessibility testing tools full time. In January of this year, I pivoted again and joined a new team as the Head of Learning at Gatsby, a web development startup with a great community. I’m really enjoying bringing an accessibility focus to such a high-impact project!

In my free time I love to cook, snowboard, hike, and ride bicycles, and I very recently started kayaking. My dog and cat frequently make me laugh and it’s amazing I get ever anything done with them around.

Congratulations on the new position! What will you be doing at Gatsby?

My job is to lead the learning experience and own the docs, making sure that users of all skill levels feel welcome and empowered to create Gatsby sites. Before joining, I'd recently redesigned and developed my website with Gatsby, as I was drawn to its method of building static HTML pages that rehydrate with React.js, with great defaults for performance and accessibility. Getting to work on such a big open source project full-time got me really excited, so I jumped at the chance! Themes are a big new feature that I anticipate will have an impact on the web soon, and I look forward to keeping an accessibility focus in the ecosystem.

What are some tools you find indispensable in your work?

I use color contrast tools a lot: the contrast ratio color picker in the Chrome devtools for web things, and the Color Contrast Analyzer from Paciello Group for sampling colors from PDFs, images and other things I can’t analyze in the browser.

Along with the Accessibility Inspectors in Chrome, Firefox and Safari, I regularly use the axe Chrome extension for testing webpage accessibility. I use Voiceover on the Mac, as well as a Windows virtual machine for testing with the JAWS and NVDA screen readers. This also enables me to test my CSS in Windows High Contrast Mode–which has a nifty media query that is in the process of being standardized for other browsers!

And you’re talking about CSS and accessibility at AEA. Does that come out of the work you’ve been doing?

Some of my work on Gatsby will apply to my talk; specifically, improving workflows for users who don’t exactly love CSS-in-JS or workflows outside of the thoroughly-documented “happy path.” There is some tension in the web development community over inclusive tooling, and as someone who cares deeply about accessibility, HTML and CSS as well as JavaScript, I feel right in the middle of that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to act as a bridge between communities, and hope to inspire people to do their best work in ways that they enjoy the most.

See Marcy’s talk “Emerging CSS Techniques and What They Mean for Accessibility” at An Event Apart Boston (May 5-7, 2019) and Chicago (August 26-28). Don’t miss your chance to see Marcy and sixteen other expert speakers!