Accessibility 2020 wrap-up
Stuff I am proud of:
- 111 Blog Posts
- 26 talks, 8 panels, 1 keynote (not all are publicly available, sorry)
- 1 award — and it was a big one — Medium Author of the Year for the largest publication, the UX Collective
My year-end message is as follows:
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 choir,
Preach it to the heathens.
That requires getting outside of your comfort zone. Speak at meet-ups. Mentor co-workers. Work with HR and D&I to ensure that your organization is a desired destination for people with disabilities. Encourage people to self-identify as having a disability. Participate in ERGs. Don’t have a disability ERG? Start one! Hone your accessibility elevator pitch and build your accessibility brand, both inside and outside your current organization. Volunteer with disability-related organizations. Never stop learning.
To people just entering the accessibility field
Welcome! You’ve come at exactly the right time to this foundational career. As the lawsuit pressure increases, more organizations will finally get the message that accessibility is important. However, the message these organizations receive will be for the wrong reasons. Your job is to convince them that accessibility is important because people with disabilities are important, not just because the law requires it.
Get out there and break things. You don’t have to change the entire world, just your corner of it; if enough people do that, the entire world WILL change. Keep reminding your organization that accessibility is a program, not a project. Every time a new piece of technology is released, ask two questions:
- Can everyone use it equally? If the answer is no, reach out to the technology owners and make sure they know that their product is discriminatory and the result of unconscious bias and ableism.
- Can accessibility be improved by taking advantage of this new technology?
To people with disabilities
Work from home is a viable option and not an undue burden. Who knew? Hint: We did. Yes, it sucks that people with disabilities are forced to file lawsuits to enforce rights should be automatic. That is, unfortunately, the way the world currently works. It’s an ugly and stressful path that can take decades, but it is a path that frequently leads to success. Remember, you aren’t advocating for yourself — you are advocating, so people with disabilities in the future don’t have to go through what you have been through. Get out there and tell your stories to anyone who will listen. No one can tell your story better than you can.
It all starts with you. Without accessible (or inclusive or universal, depending on your preferred term) design, the chances of an end product, and its documentation, training, marketing, and support being accessible are not high. Fight for accessibility being in the MVP.
To Product Owners
It doesn’t matter how cool your next new feature is if your product isn’t accessible. Eventually, you will run into a sale that you really really want that you will lose because your product doesn’t follow the WCAG standards. Furthermore, you will discover that this is not something that can be turned around in a day or even a month and probably not even six months, so you will continue to lose sales while you are retrofitting your product. Proactive accessibility is always better, faster, and cheaper than reactive accessibility. Draw a line in the sand and state “no inaccessible products/features are launched after this date.” And then stick with it.
To the world in general
People with disabilities matter, and we shouldn’t have to prove it with a business case. Stop wrapping yourself in an ableist bubble of denial. For the workplace to be truly equal, 1 out of every 30 co-workers should have a visible disability, and 1 out of every 15 should be willing to talk about their invisible disability. Until your organization is there, your work remains unfinished. Don’t wait to get sued before you find out that universal truth.
2021 can be an amazing year for accessibility. Or it can be more of the same. We will get to an accessible society eventually, the only questions are
- How long will it take?
- How many people with disabilities’ lives will be permanently damaged by waiting for that accessible society to arrive.
People with disabilities and their allies control which way the pendulum swings. Get out there and make your feelings known!