Radical Candor about Accessibility Day-to-day Job Responsibilities

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
9 min readMay 30, 2019

Some days you get to tilt windmills, some days the windmills tilt you

Cartoon windmill in black with a Don Quixote like character on a horse with a spear charging towards it

So far in the category of “accessibility as a career”, I’ve written articles about:

  1. Self-study tips for qualifying to work in accessibility
  2. Questions managers should be asking if they are interviewing accessibility testers (and don’t know a lot about accessibility themselves), and
  3. Questions you should be asking if you are interviewing for an accessibility job.

So I’m turning the trio into a quartet by discussing what exactly an accessibility manager does day-to-day — in fairly blunt terms.

You spend a lot of time attending meetings trying to convince people to do things that aren’t even close to the top of their priority list

Accessibility is rarely at the top of most product manager’s MVP list. BF Skinner proved that behavior that is rewarded gets repeated. The opposite is also true — what is not rewarded usually drops to the bottom of most individuals’ “what I think is important” list. Accessibility is a behavior that is not frequently rewarded on the product side of the house. This part of the accessibility management job is literally like a continuous tug of war where you start by:

  1. Telling people it’s the right thing to do.
  2. If that doesn’t work, moving on to the fact that making software accessible is a good business decision.
  3. And finally, if necessary, bringing in the nuclear argument which is “if you don’t do this, you are going to get sued.” In some situations the nuclear argument also includes “we can’t sell to the government unless we make the products we sell accessible”. Either of these arguments may involve dragging in corporate attorneys which is never fun.

Lather, rinse, and repeat this process with all impacted groups in your company.

It isn’t enough for the product to be accessible. Support functions, corporate websites, marketing material, documentation, training, surveys, and all third-party components have to be accessible as well for the end-to-end

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.