First things first…

I helped Veterans United put accessibility first in their development process

Lunch & Learn Series

Being an evangelist (rather than the police) takes more than just showing up and talking about compliance for an hour.

Connection (not just compliance)

Turning teams into accessibility champions requires carefully planning a message that connects with stakeholders and collaboration with executives and managment.

Collaboration (not just coordination)

The right executives have to be on board, product managers need to feel comfortable with the schedule, and the presentation must be seen as authoritative, but not heavy-handed.

Here's how I did it:

Storytelling

Accessibility can't become a checklist, it has to be taken to heart.

Accessibility = Innovation

I started by letting the audience see how extreme use case is a model for innovation Ex: Race car drivers are vulnerable, and their necessities eventually become our standard consumer automobile features because it increases. This happens in the accessibility space as well — speech recognition, touch screens, etc.

Build Empathy

Next, I showed the teams that everyone will experience temporary disabilities in their life that will change how they use products and environments. Ex: Difficulty seeing a screen in bright conditions, being in an office situation where it's inappropriate to listen to audio, holding a child reduces mobility, medicines can affect cognition.

Why checklists don't work

Here's an example of a curb cut ramp that meets all the checklist requirements for accessibility, but there's a problem you wouldn't notice unless you were here to see it. While it meets requirements, it's still useless.

Geeking out over the technology

There is opportunity to get excited about the actual accessibility technology available. The idea of controlling a computer through other relatable devices is something some people get really excited about.

Appeal to values

Create a sense of urgency without scare tactics

Values, Not Checklists

Accessibility fits with our core company values of "enhancing lives every day" but also "delivering results with integrity". Making this a discussion about our values meant that putting accessibility first was now the right thing to do.

Technical Urgency

Rather than scare tactics, examples of lawsuits were cast as organizations who were not keeping up with technology. Ex: If an organization were in court for not having a mobile friendly website, we'd think they were behind the times.

Momentum and Mentoring

Spending time mentoring in paired programming for an entire sprint was crucial to keep up momentum.

After each presentation, I was embedded with teams as new accessibility stories were written. This was crucial to steer people toward best practices, and help them when they got stuck.

Development teams were always responsible for making design or programming decisions, but I was there to advise on code or help prioritize.

View an Adobe Connect recording of the first presentation.
Note: The projector lost connection twice, despite being tested about an hour earlier, hence the Ant Races joke.

Team

  • UX Researcher
  • Front End Developer
  • SEO Specialist
  • Content Strategists
  • Video Production

Technology

  • Paired Programming
  • Angular

Tools

  • Google Slides
  • Adobe Connect