The Importance of Semantics (For designers and developers)

Presented at 9:15am in Windsor on Thursday, November 15, 2018.



  • Gerard Cohen, Lead Accessibility Strategist, Atlassian

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Semantics on the web have to do with the implied meaning and interaction, and they are the backbone of web accessibility. It's important that both designers and developers are familiar with the semantic meaning of elements. Choosing the right element, and using in the correct way, is just as important to designers as it is developers.


For designers, this session will help introduce the importance of knowing the proper semantics of the elements they use to design with, hopefully being careful to start designing with the right ones.

For developers new to accessibility, this will reinforce the importance of using the proper elements and not being tempted to create their own implementations.

For both audiences I hope I can expose attendees to the benefits of starting with semantic elements; saving time by not having to reinvent/ reengineer the wheel, reducing surface area for defects, and being accessible from the start.


  1. Semantics are just as important for designers as they are for developers
  2. Semantics are more than just using proper elements
  3. Using proper semantics help improve user experience

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Uncategorized, Web/Media/App Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Gerard Cohen

Over the past decade, Gerard has built and advised top-notch digital accessibility teams that have impacted millions of individuals worldwide. His experience ranges from supporting commercial financial applications responsible for transferring trillions of dollars globally, to enhancing accessibility on pre-Elon Twitter. Currently, Gerard drives the Atlassian Design System Accessibility Team where he collaborates with a group of exceptional designers and engineers to help enhance the accessibility of components used to build team productivity tools like Jira, Confluence, and Trello.

Gerard is recognized as a catalyst for change, igniting cultural transformation at both grassroots and executive levels. He possesses an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of digital accessibility and effectively bridges gaps between HR, Legal, Marketing, Product, Design, Engineering and Quality Assurance teams.

He has a remarkable history of advocating for individuals with disabilities and promoting diversity and fairness in the workplace. Moreover, he is highly regarded for his expertise, as evidenced by his frequent speaking engagements at conferences nationwide and the widespread recognition of his courses on the Pluralsight learning platform as essential training for organizations worldwide.

Slides for The Importance of Semantics (For designers and developers)