Teachable moments suck. Here’s how I make them suck less.

Two women (one clearly a person of color) conversing in a coffee shop
Two women (one clearly a person of color) conversing in a coffee shop

Oxford defines a teachable moment as:

an event or experience which presents a good opportunity for learning something about a particular aspect of life.

Sounds innocuous, right? All win-win and upside, sweetness and light, everyone is happy?

Not so much when the “teachable moment” pertains to diversity or identity, be it gender, age, disability, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ status, or any other aspect. Let me tell you that under those circumstances, “teachable moments” are unequivocally awful experiences, even under the best of circumstances.

  1. The “teacher” has just been discriminated against or, at a minimum, has been on the receiving end of a microaggression attacking or devaluing a core component of their identity. …

“Help A Reporter Out” helps you find experts and build online name recognition.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Ever wondered where reporters get their sources from and how to be one? I can’t count how many times I’ve heard on radio or multimedia someone talking about *MY* area of expertise who really doesn’t have a clue. I used to uselessly shout at my computer or car radio. But, for the last two years, I have belonged to HARO — “Help A Reporter Out.”

HARO started out as a Facebook group in 2008 created by Peter Shankman, someone who has been very public about how having ADHD has impacted his life. …


Permanent improvements in disability equity are impossible without understanding and dealing with these categorical truths.

Worn black piece of paper with white letters spelling TRUTH in a pothole on worn asphalt
Worn black piece of paper with white letters spelling TRUTH in a pothole on worn asphalt
Photo by Michael Carruth on Unsplash

People with disabilities do not have access to equal business opportunities. If you don’t believe that, I ask you to look at Exhibits 1 and 2 — the unemployment rates for people with disabilities both pre and post-pandemic which took a bad situation and made it vastly worse.

To dismantle these barriers, every one of these truths below must be analyzed and addressed across the entire organization, not just the ones your organization is most likely to get sued over.

Fact #1: Your organization is under employing people with disabilities

  • The total number of people with disabilities in the US as a percentage of the population is around 18 %. …

For starters, re-imagine your all-day workshop in an “all you can eat buffet” format, not a single 12-course dinner.

Word cloud with Workshop in the center surrounded by training, goal, idea, skills, team, practice, results, trends
Word cloud with Workshop in the center surrounded by training, goal, idea, skills, team, practice, results, trends

1. Short 5–10 minute segments in repetitive “learn-do” cycles generally work better than live workshops

It is challenging for people to take a full day or half-day off to focus on a single event. During the pandemic, our days have filled up with zoom meetings, and people have a higher tendency to multi-task. Even if participants can reorganize their schedule, they might go into the workshop resentful of the disruption workshop participation has caused. Tying people to having multiple uninterruptible hours for a workshop means limiting the number of people who can effectively participate.

For people with disabilities, short “learn-do” cycles work WAY better than workshops.

  • People with pain or fatigue-related disabilities need more breaks.
  • People with cognitive disabilities can only retain so much new information at a single time. …

Here is what you can expect. Part 2 of a two-part article

Old-style courtroom with lots of wood and maroon velvet drapes
Old-style courtroom with lots of wood and maroon velvet drapes
Photo by David Veksler on Unsplash

Read Part 1 of this article here about recouping costs for accessibility lawsuits when others are at fault.

This article is not legal advice. This is a general opinion article and should not be relied upon for any legal situation. Always consult an attorney who specializes in accessibility for your legal issues.

There have been many, many articles about accessibility and lawsuits. There have been over 7500 of them filed in the last three years, according to a Usablenet.com report. “Avoid getting sued,” vendors scream in sponsored ads when you search on Google for anything related to W3C or accessibility.

Everyone knows getting sued is terrible. But do all the accessibility stakeholders in your organization understand at a detailed level the impact on their lives an accessibility lawsuit will have? If it were just money, it would be one thing (and the financial side of this litigation is addressed in Part 1 of this article). Unless you’ve been in the bowels of a corporate legal suit, you may not be aware of the process and how litigation can turn in to a soul, morale, and time-sucking hole that it sometimes feels like you will never escape. …


A list of things that might sound OK on the surface but don’t stand up to any level of introspection of others’ lived experiences

Weights, a tape measure, fruit, and a scale — all things commonly associated with New Year’s resolutions
Weights, a tape measure, fruit, and a scale — all things commonly associated with New Year’s resolutions
Exercise

Almost 1/3 of Americans make New Year's resolutions. A staggering number of the resolutions made by people are related to weight loss (37 %), exercising (50 %), and eating healthier (43%).

And that’s fine when the New Year’s resolution can be made with the extent of its privacy completely controlled by the person making the resolution.

But bringing New Year’s resolutions into the workplace as a group event as a “morale builder” is a terrible idea, and may backfire. Making it a contest is even worse. Food is a surprisingly unsafe work subject because:

  1. There are numerous cultural traditions around food — what might be great for one group might be banned by another. …

I am significantly immune-compromised and was just forced to go through this process to ensure my safety.

Desk with judges gavel and paperwork, judge filling out paperwork with pen
Desk with judges gavel and paperwork, judge filling out paperwork with pen

I will call my assailant, “Mr. Covid.” His actions had already generated two separate police calls (from others) for assault in the previous three months. My situation was a little more subtle.

People frequently refer to “assault and battery” as if it were a single thing. But they are two different things, though close cousins. While assaults attempt to cause bodily harm, a battery is the act following through on the threatened assault. Assault is defined in California as:

“an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”

In most states, there are various categories of assault, all of which carry different penalties, including jail time and fines. …


A special message for each of my groups of readers

blurred people with one person holding a directors slate that is about to come down marking that the year is “a wrap”
blurred people with one person holding a directors slate that is about to come down marking that the year is “a wrap”
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Stuff I am proud of:

My year-end message is as follows:

Accessibility Veterans

Yes, it’s been a tough year, but to a certain extent in our field, they are all tough years in one way or another. The only way to get off this American litigation hamster-wheel, vicious feedback loop we are currently stuck in is to continue to do one thing — raise awareness.

Don’t just preach accessibility to the…


Yeah, machine learning and personalization made the list, but I also have a couple of other thoughts.

Roman numerals 2 0 2 1 written in gold sparkler light
Roman numerals 2 0 2 1 written in gold sparkler light
Photo by Moritz Knöringer on Unsplash

It’s time for the annual “Year-End” accessibility predictions.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is going to continue to be exceptionally important to the advancement of accessibility. The challenges of scaling accessibility in a world where only 30 % of the tests are automated are well documented in this note from the W3C titled Challenges with Accessibility Guidelines Conformance and Testing, and Approaches for Mitigating Them.

TL;DR — Software *used* to be monolithic. One major release every 12–18 months, and a few minor releases focused on specific areas. That is no longer the case.

SaaS can release hundreds of times per week.

Native apps releases happen weekly-ish (more often if…


Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) and increasing anxiety rates are significant issues for people now spending 8 hours a day or more on Zoom.

Woman of colour looking pensively at a car mirror
Woman of colour looking pensively at a car mirror
Photo by Jayson Hinrichsen on Unsplash

I am Sheri Byrne-Haber, a wheelchair-using, no-nonsense, CS degree-holding geek who also has degrees in law and business. I hand out large servings of “accessibility tough love” to organizations that did not consider including people with disabilities in their product development and web presence.

I have publicly discussed my birth defects, autoimmune disorders, hearing loss, and glaucoma. Now it’s time for me to out myself having a invisible disability that I have been hiding up until now: Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

I haven’t had BDD all my life, though I have always had a terrible relationship with my body. I was born with club feet and a pronounced spinal curvature that is getting worse with age. I was also born with micrognathia, a tiny and set back lower jaw. In the past, it might have been described as a “weak chin.” In my mind, I hear a pronounced mental “snort” anytime anyone posts anything about loving your body or being kind to yourself. My internal response always has, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Why? …

About

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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