Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Educating my colleagues

A couple of months ago I happened to mention to my manager that I am really interested in accessibility issues and how we can improve things within the digital world. I think I was trying to convince him to send me to an accessibility conference at the time.

While I got the ok and funding to go to the conference I also got a little more than I bargained for as accessibility in our products suddenly became my responsibility. Wow!

So where to start? Our app is international and the team is only small. Although it is my belief that making digital products accessible to all is just the right thing to do, managers with deadlines and budgets need to understand fully why we should be doing this. I needed to be able to make a business case for the work if needed.

So I started by looking into the law to see where we stood and I assessed our main product to see how the app performed with accessibility settings, then I started working with the development team to fix some of the issues it had.

"I got a little more than I bargained for as accessibility in our products suddenly became my responsibility"

This is ongoing work and is something which will never really be finished as we continue to add new features and functionality.

But as I learnt more about accessibility I realised that it would be a lot easier to address many of the problems if the team were educated about some of the problems people might have using our app.

We have a weekly session called Tech Hour where people can talk about something they are interested in, which is relevant for others at the company. Often it is talk about a new programming languages or new technologies and how we can incorporate them into our work. I have to admit that I do not go to all of these events as some of them are very technical, but today it was my turn to stand up in front of the group and try and help them understand why accessibility is so important.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many people turned up. And again by how much discussion it generated once I had finished, in and out of the session. I could tell that it really got people thinking which was my aim.

It probably helped that I used examples showing what our app sounds like using the iOS screen reader VoiceOver, what it would look like if you are colour blind, and using the VisionSim app showed them what some of the most common visual impairments look like.

I hope this will help my colleagues to understand why it is important to think about these things and to see that accessibility in an app is not just about helping our blind users but everyone.

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