Episode 42

Mike Gifford of CivicActions on Digital Accessibility


May 23rd, 2023

34 mins 4 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Mike Gifford


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain Open Source Design! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source with design. Learn how we, as designers, interface with open source in a sustainable way, how we integrate into different communities, and how we as coders, work with other designers. Today, Richard is super excited to have as his guest, Mike Gifford, who’s a Senior Strategist at CivicActions and a thought leader on digital accessibility and the public sector. He was the Founder and President of OpenConcept Consulting, which worked extensively with Drupal, and he became a Drupal 8 Core Accessibility Maintainer in 2012. As a long-term environmentalist, Mike has found ways to integrate his passions for the web and planet. Today, Mike talks about his views on sustainability, his work with open source software, and the importance of accessibility and multilingualism in technology. Download this episode now to hear more!

[00:02:18] Mike shares his views on sustainability, and he tells us he’s been working fully with CivicActions for the last two years after closing OpenConcept Consulting.

[00:04:18] We learn about CivicActions, a web development firm that does a lot of work with both open source and Drupal, as well as HCD. They primarily work in the government space, largely focused on the US government.

[00:05:15] Mike tells us about the Canadian Open Source Advisory Board that he runs.

[00:06:21] We find out the differences between the Canadian and US government’s approach to open source software.

[00:08:13] How does Mike see himself as a designer in all these conversations? He talks about the work he does with the Drupal community to make Drupal more accessible.

[00:09:35] Mike explains where oral design interfaces mix with open source and he mentions Preston So from the Drupal community, who wrote the book, Voice Content and Usability.

[00:11:11] We hear about the groups of people who are looking at accessibility.

[00:13:38] There’s some great tools that are useful when talking about the disability spectrum, such as Accessibility Insights, which is a Microsoft tool, and an accessibility engine called, axe, which was built by Deque.

[00:15:41] Mike talks about the multilingual accessibility being a challenge in technology, and the challenges of identifying language content and tools, especially in open source software, and the predominance of English in accessibility resources.

[00:18:02] We hear about the open source work Mike’s doing with CivicActions, a project he was involved in creating called, OpenACR, and the need for procurement to include accessibility requirements.

[00:20:52] He highlights the responsibility of open source maintainers to set an example of accessibility best practices.

[00:22:39] How does Mike think ChatGPT is going influence accessibility practices? He emphasizes the responsibility of humans to evaluate and implement accessible code.

[00:26:00] Richard and Mike discuss the importance of building accessibility into the workflow of teams and developers. Accessibility is not just for those with disabilities but for everyone since abilities can impact all of us at one point.

[00:30:58] Mike tells us where you can find him on the web.


[00:02:33] “Sustainability is a word that is too loose and can be applied to many things much like accessibility.”

[00:13:51] “It’s about trying to remember that this is about progress, not perfection.”

[00:21:07] “I think there’s a huge responsibility for open source maintainers to set an example.”

[00:21:35] “If you provide examples in your code that aren’t following accessibility best practices, then you’re propagating that.”

[00:29:16] “Accessibility doesn’t just affect a small number of people; it affects all of us at one point or another because we’re human.”


  • [00:31:43] Richard’s spotlight is his neighbor, Susan Reid, and The Kitchen Table Poems that she writes.
  • [00:32:23] Mike’s spotlight is CO2.js, a project from The Green Web Foundation.