Accessibility Retrospectives

Reflect on your wins and identify things you wish had gone differently

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Photo by Jakub Gorajek on Unsplash
  1. A standalone retrospective for a sprint that was 100 % about accessibility. This might include things like deploying a new VPAT creation strategy, or deploying new automated testing resources.

Step 1: Setting the Stage

Retrospectives can be contentious if they turn into finger-pointing sessions. It is important to avoid the gathering degenerating into that by creating a safe space where everyone feels comfortable telling their piece of the sprint story.

Step 2: Gathering data

This is often done by looking back and identifying what went well and what did not. This is a good in-meeting post-it note exercise, but some attempt should be made to gather information before the meeting as well, especially if you have people who can’t make it.

  • Give the retrospective participants 5 minutes (set a timer) to write down everything that went well during the sprint
  • Put up the post-it notes and group them
  • Then repeat the above 3 steps for everything that could have gone better.

Step 3: Generate insights

This is quite possibly the most important of the steps. Select a few of the the stacks of post-it notes with the most mentions/votes and perform root-cause analysis to identify why things happened and what should have been added, removed, or tweaked to that process to prevent it from happening in the future. An excellent, structured way of doing root cause identification is performing a “five whys” analysis.

  • Lack of training
  • People with disabilities not consulted

Step 4: Decide what to do

Look at the items called out in the root cause analysis process and figure out what to do about them. This includes deciding on specific, meaningful, agreed and realistic actions that will be done in the next sprint. There needs to be an accountability component to this, otherwise, the same known problems will be repeated in the next sprint. Sometimes the actions required will take more than one sprint. In that case, break those longer actions down into sprint sized chunks so you can monitor progress from sprint to sprint.

Step 5: Close the retrospective

Sum up the results of the retrospective and generally leave a good feeling behind for the participants. It is important that everyone attending should leave the room with the feeling that something positive was achieved, both in the sprint being reviewed and in the retrospective itself.


Retrospectives are powerful tools that allow iteration on sprint activities to create a a better, more seamless accessibility process that is more tightly integrated with the projects that need to be accessible.

  • If an entire sprint or release is about accessibility, make sure someone fluent in accessibility is responsible for holding a sprint retrospective focused heavily on accessibility related issues

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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