Accessibility Advocacy

I believe that the biggest barriers to large organizations designing consistently for accessibility are:

1) Infusing it into their process — this includes their philosophical approach to design as well as engaging with a diversity of users that includes those with physical limitations. I believe that close partnerships with disabled users and advocacy orgs is key to successful universal design.

2) Designer education — when designers have the background to empathically understand the experience of a diversity of users with physical limitations, I’ve seen teams be much more successful in designing for accessibility than when they are given audit checklists only. The most powerful way we designers can help each other do better for accessibility is education.

At Atlassian (20162018)

  • Since education is the best way I’ve found to integrate accessibility into a large company’s process long-term, I give regular accessibility training workshops—see example presentation example pdf.

  • I created an audit checklist Google Sheet to help team members in different roles (UX design, visual design, content creation, and development) self-audit.

  • Poor contrast color combinations seem to be the most common and easily fixable accessibility problem in our marketing teams' designs, so I published a quick-reference color chart Google sheet with our brand typography and palette colors.

  • Leveraging our design culture's dry humor and meme love, I made a case for the importance of universal design in innovation in a presentation selected for our annual internal Design Week conference in Sydney in March 2018.

At SapientNitro (20132016)

  • Taking a similar advocacy approach to training fellow designers on accessibility, I ran training and created a self-audit checklist for each role on our teams (an earlier iteration of the version I use at Atlassian (pdf), referenced above).

  • As the UX design lead on two multi-million-dolllar projects, for PG&E and Vail, I trained our design teams on designing for accessibility and helped audit and adjust our work through each design iteration. Our work on PG&E was thoroughly audited by a third-party company and passed their evaluation.

  • While working on projects for our client Target, I was asked, since I used to work at the University of Minnesota, if I could connect two of our stakeholders to anyone at the University to guide them on accessibility since they had heard the University had a great accessibility training program. This was exciting because I built that training program (see below)! I spent a few days sharing my training materials and connected them to my former colleagues. While I can’t claim too much personal credit for Target’s success, I’m excited to have participated in even a small way. In 2016 Target was recognized by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) for the accessibility of their Web experiences. Note that a big part of their success is due to their close partnership with advocacy organizations like the NFB.

At the University of Minnesota (20002008)

  • Building on a model of empathy for users, rather than listing WCAG guidelines which didn’t seem to resonate with our designers, I performed field research and formed a partnership with the Disability Services department, and then incorporated WCAG and Section 508 guidelines and best practices to develop our accessible Web design training and auditing methodology. This helped our teams ensure we were meeting our promise to be an equal opportunity employer and educator for the roughly 63,000 enrolled students, 15,000 staff, and 3,000 University faculty. See an example audit report pdf and detailed explanation and recommendations pdf. Designers were given demonstrations on how disabled users access the Web using different assistive devices, taught how to use a free trial version of JAWS to test their own designs, shown examples of good accessible experiences, and provided a self-audit checklist. I also trained our student usability research interns to run final audits on our Web experiences before release.

  • I co-presented our methodology with my partner in this effort from Disability Services in an all-day workshop at the 2005 International Usability Professionals Association conference in Montreal. We presented the training protocol, and shared the training materials, a CD with video demos of users interacting with assistive devices, our quick-start guide to operating JAWS, our audit checklists, and example audit reports.

  • From 2005—2007 I sat on the University Faculty Senate Committee on Disability Issues to advise on technology topics.

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