About the author

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Short version

Hello! I’m Miguel Estrada, based in Montreal, Canada. I’m a UI Developer with over 20 years of experience, a Certified Professional in Web Accessibility (CPWA), a Senior Accessibility Specialist, and a UX enthusiast. All views in this blog are my own.

author posing as a helmsman
A Picture of myself posing as a helmsman at a museum ship in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hence, also known as the “Accessibility Sailor”.

Long version

Entrepreneurial past

Graphic Arts were a family tradition back in my younger days. In 1990 I used to work at a print shop during my first university semester. I loved the job, but I couldn’t fit it into the university’s schedule. So, in 1991 I started out as a freelance Printed Media Designer. Producing anything from brochures to magazines and annual reports. By 1994 as the commercial internet boom started I embraced the change and added Web Design to my graphic services. That same year I graduated with a B.B.A. Therefore, a Graphic Development Studio became my first business.

A few years later I learned how to code HTML and CSS. This was useful, as I was able to implement my own web designs. Here was the beginning of my Frontend Developer career. Around 1998 I registered my first domain as DESTRAL.COM and focused mostly on website creation and eCommerce.

I dropped Printed Media around 2002 and focused exclusively on Internet gigs.

In 2007, I got pulled into Business Intelligence (BI). The combination of my experience in Web Development with my education in Business Administration. Both made it easy to understand the BI concepts. So, I took the challenge of designing and developing Xcelsius Dashboards. I loved communicating complex data in an organized, logical, practical, and visually appealing way.

I enjoyed very much all aspects of Web Development and Business Intelligence. By 2008 I had done hundreds of projects worldwide. From simple websites to eCommerce systems, to complex Business Intelligence Dashboards. Mainly in Mexico, the USA, Canada and Germany.

Montreal

My passion for technology, maple syrup and the french language, brought me to Montreal around 2009.

I started freelancing as DEVELOPPEURWEB.CA targeting the local market. Soon this had to be placed on pause, more than twice. Mainly because right away I received very interesting full-time job offers. So I took them, and it was worth it. It has been over 10 years since that, and I have been working on major projects for Montreal IT companies. Including some high-profile Canadian brands.

I have done Frontend Development for eCommerce B2B and B2C projects for my employers’ well-known customers, like Clarks-Bostonian Shoes, Aldo Shoes, La Maison Simons, The Hudson’s Bay Company, Timberland, Suzy Shier, Bluenotes, Spring, Little Burgundy, Cycle Gear and Wolverine Worldwide.

Later on, I also worked in Frontend Development for CMS platforms for Desktop, Mobile and Responsive websites projects for other employers’ top customers, like Just for Laughs Festival, Port of Montreal, Intact Insurance, Brokerlink, CAA Quebec and Groupe Maurice. As well as responsive templates development for email campaigns.

Discovering Accessibility

Although I was aware of the existence of Web Accessibility since 1999, my knowledge was quite superficial. It didn’t fully catch up with me until 2014. Yes, accessibility caught up with me, as it does for most developers. Chances are that’s why you’re here. So, once upon a time, a company I used to work for landed a Web Accessibility project. Volunteers for owning the topic were scarce. As the lead frontend developer back then, I pretty much had to volunteer for the task. Also, it’s worth mentioning that around that time I had my first dark dining experience (don’t ask how it went).

After the dark dining, I wondered: How do blind users browse the web? Like, really… hands-on. So I downloaded a Screen Reader and turned it on. Then, right there, I started to empathize with blind users. Then with users with motor disabilities. Better late than never. I became fascinated with the topic. Not only it helped me to be a better developer, but also made me realize a wider range of possibilities as a User Experience enthusiast and a web designer. Also as an everyday user of websites and apps, and as a human being. I raised my empathy levels.

Since that eureka moment, I consider myself an Accessibility Advocate. Now, most of the time, if not always. I’m bugging developers about how a UI is inaccessible when using the keyboard. Or how it doesn’t “vocalize”, or the phrasing doesn’t make sense for Screen Reader users. Well, besides being a pain in the neck for most of my developer colleagues. I also try to be the source of solutions and recommendations for those issues I single out.

Accessibility Professional

Web Accessibility evolves quickly. Yes, it is slow to adopt, but a steady trend nonetheless. In some countries and regions, it is mandatory for government websites, as well as for the private sector. Especially for transactional websites like eCommerce, airplane tickets, banks, insurances, etc.

Being a well-defined and growing niche, I decided to keep educating myself on these matters. This is how I became a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).

In 2019 I passed the exam to become a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC). Then in 2021, I passed the exam to get the Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) certification. Consequently, I received the Association’s highest level credential in Web Accessibility and became a Certified Professional in Web Accessibility (CPWA).

Authors I like to read

I like reading authors like Stephen Covey, Paul Bloom, Helen Riess, Brené Brown, Simon Sinek, and Malcolm Gladwell, among others. I believe empathy, values, principles, and creative alternatives play an important role in defining empathy levels. All the previous authors have helped me in the way I approach Web Accessibility issues.

Even if as a developer I tend towards the technical side. I understand not everything is technical, it also has to make sense for the user. So, you will find many references to these authors in my work. Even though their books are not specifically about Web Accessibility.

Today

I currently work for SAP Canada. As an SAP employee, I’m required to tell you that all views in this blog are my own. So, the opinions presented in this blog are mine. Also, my opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the organizations I work with or institutions I’m affiliated with.