Accessibility Playlist

Eight songs that will get you in the right mood to be accessible. Especially when your employer has put your whole office on WFH.

Out of focus person lying on their back with a sneaker on a boombox
Out of focus person lying on their back with a sneaker on a boombox
Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

So like any good tech company, the first thing my co-workers did when we were urged to work from home (I’m based in Northern California) due to COVID-19 was to set up a special Slack channel. Someone called it the WFH Water Cooler, and we are using it to commiserate and stay in touch. This sense of camaraderie is super important to heavily collaborative organizations such as the one I work for.

  • We used to eat lunch with each other in person, now we show each other pictures of what we were eating
  • Our team has a “thing” about jigsaw puzzles, so there were plenty of pictures of those too, just the ones on every individual’s living room table instead of the one everyone works on together in the common area in the office.
  • Cat photos for good measure, because life without animal pictures is too sad to even contemplate

But then people started asking each other on the slack channel to share their various play lists. I don’t listen to music when I’m in the office, I personally find it quite distracting, and I despise wearing headphones. I typically rely on others to play whatever they want. Then I largely ignore their choices, which I’m usually fairly successful at as long as the chosen music is not country or rap, both of which I hate.

But, I have also spent a lot of time in my car commuting over the past few decades, which means lots of time listening to radio, and not having to think deep work thoughts. This is mostly 80s-90s with a couple of more recent songs. So here it is folks, without further ado: Sheri’s Accessibility Play list. These songs are intended to be played in this order FWIW, so no shuffling — it’s the arc of an accessibility program from conception to success. My husband says that makes it a mix tape, but he’s the audiophile in the family.

“I Guess that’s Why They Call it the Blues “ by Elton John

Meaningful Lyric:

Don’t wish it away
Don’t look at it like it’s forever
Between you and me I could honestly say
That things can only get better

Hidden accessibility message:

When you are getting started, accessibility can seem like a daunting task, bordering on the impossible. That’s true for both people on accessibility teams and also designers and developers implementing accessibility. It’s like trying to count the stars. You can easily drown in how overwhelming it can seem at times. But things can get better, all you have to do is get the message out and get stakeholder buy-in.

“Closer I am to Fine” by Indigo Girls

Meaningful Lyric:

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine, yeah

Hidden accessibility message:

The WCAG standard is notorious for not giving prescriptive “right answers” and “wrong answers.” For example, in the automatic motion guideline, the language clearly requires a *mechanism* to pause stop or hide motion. It could be a button, a toggle switch or anything else as long as the end result is the motion stops.

That makes WCAG simultaneously both easier and harder to satisfy.

  • Easier because multiple approaches can be the “right answer”
  • Harder because you need to analyze the approach the product owners want to take and decide if it satisfies both the letter and the spirit of the guideline

“Unwritten” by Natasha Beddingfield

Meaningful Lyric:

Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Hidden accessibility message:

All VPATs, even for perfect products, start off as a blank template. As the testing is conducted, the data slowly reveals itself. Decisions get made about what will get fixed before release, and what will get documented and fixed after release.

The story unfolds, but when that story is done, it’s only the story for that release that is completed. At the end of that release’s story, the story for the next release is just getting started, with a new blank template.

“Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel

Meaningful Lyric:

don’t give up
’cause somewhere there’s a place
where we belong

Hidden accessibility message:

People with disabilities frequently don’t feel like they belong in the workplace, as customers, or in society. Inaccessible software just reinforces that feeling. Especially when a company deliberately chooses to be inaccessible, claiming that it is a “burden” for them to be required to include people with disabilities as customers.

Domino’s could have spent $38,000 and made their website accessible. But they didn’t, and they dragged it out in litigation costing millions. Why did they take this approach? Because somewhere Domino’s made the decision that business from people with disabilities wasn’t worth $38,000 to them. That’s a sign that Domino’s thinks that people with disabilities don’t really belong anywhere in the Domino’s sphere of influence.

“Roar” by Katy Perry

Meaningful Lyric:

Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake the ground

Hidden accessibility message:

  • You only have to brush off dust if you get knocked down.
  • You only get knocked down as a response to people listening, but not responding well to what they are hearing.

When you start making progress with your accessibility program, you are definitely going to get knocked down a few times, so it’s better that you expect that it is coming and prep for it.

  • You may get knocked down on budget
  • You may get knocked down on process
  • You may get knocked down on change management
  • You may get knocked down integrating accessibility into areas outside of IT influence, like HR or procurement

You need some pretty thick skin when you are an accessibility manager.

Stakeholders may deliver the not so subtle message that “people with disabilities aren’t worth the trouble”

The message “oh yes we are” needs to be consistent and it needs to be loud. Katy Perry loud.

The most important thing isn’t how many times you get knocked down. The most important thing you get up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.

“The Times They Are a-Changin” by Bob Dylan

Meaningful Lyric:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall

Hidden accessibility message:

The Americans with Disabilities Act is at its heart, a civil rights law. It took disabled people protesting in the halls of congress to get it passed, and we should never, ever forget that.

Like most political topics, the law has cut both ways for accessibility. It isn’t enough to have a law passed, the passed law actually needs to be enforced. For the first 14 years of Section 508, frankly, the law was not enforced nearly as much as it needed to be. So people with disabilities again took the law into their own hands and started suing, making it incredibly uncomfortable and expensive for people to continue to ignore the law.

We are the Champions — Queen

Meaningful Lyric:

We are the champions, my friends,
And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end.

Hidden accessibility message:

Duh. Nothing feels better than a VPAT with “Supports” marked in every column. That makes champions out of everyone who worked on that VPAT.

Imagine by John Lennon

Meaningful Lyric:

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Hidden accessibility message:

Some people think that all great stories end with victory and “We are the Champions.” But not accessibility. Good accessibility managers get companies to achieve WCAG compliance. Great ones look at WCAG as a floor and dream about new ways of making the experience better, faster, and more intuitive for people with disabilities without diminishing the experience for the majority of people who don’t use assistive technology.

Dreaming leads to accessibility innovation, and that’s where the fun really begins. Many of my greatest accessibility ideas have started with “I know this sounds crazy, but …”

What songs are your accessibility anthems? Add them in the comments ! Honorable mentions that I considered but didn’t make the final cut include Don’t Stop Believin’ (great title, crappy lyrics, but as a SF Giants fan and child of the 70s, I love me some Journey) and Stronger by Kelly Clarkson.

Written by

Accessibility Architect @ VMware. W3C Silver, ITI & IAAP GLC committees. Degrees in CS, law, business. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter.

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