Building Your Arsenal: Empowering Conversations for Web Accessibility

By Jeff Adams, Accessibility Operations Director, UsableNet on Jun 7, 2023
Topics: Web Accessibility

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In last month's post, I wrote that you could be the one that has the conversation that helps start an accessibility-first mindset where you work. 

I believe that to be true. But I got a comment back via LinkedIn where someone wondered how they could be that person. What gave them the right to speak up in that way? 

My best answer to that comes from a book I recently read called Good Talk: How to Design Conversations that Matter by Daniel Stillman. Daniel writes this early in the book:

"Waiting for someone else to act won't do. If we see the problem, we have to do something about it. If we want others to open up to new possibilities, we might try to open them as well. It's our responsibility to frame the challenge so that others can be open to exploring the issue." 

Only some conversations will have the effect you want. However, each time you talk about web accessibility, why it's essential, and why it matters, you can give someone the Aha moment. Those moments are what we should all work for—helping someone understand why digital accessibility is as important as making a site accessible. 

An Arsenal of Information for your digital accessibility initiative

The more knowledge you have, the more likely you will have one or more information to trigger that a-ha moment for someone else.

The story that turns one person into an advocate to join you in spreading the message of accessibility in your company may not work for someone else. That's why you need to have an array of stories and information at hand. (An important side note is ensuring you have accurate information. There are many misconceptions about digital accessibility, and that can cause wrong expectations. I'll talk more about this problem in a future post.) 

My tipping point from web accessibility just being a job to becoming a champion and advocate was the first time I witnessed a blind person using a screen reader. They struggled with keyboard traps, poorly labeled interactive elements, and an ineffective heading structure. When we can use real "stories," these often provide better training moments than statistics, guidelines, or regulations. Stories create empathy and human connection to digital accessibility issues. 

Watch Now >> Web Accessibility for eCommerce: A Blind Customer's Perspective—a free, on-demand webinar that features a demonstration of a blind screen reader user on two websites >>

Even though I've been focused on digital accessibility for years now and have been a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies for nearly three, my education never stops. It doesn't matter how much I think I know about a digital accessibility topic; I always want to hear from someone else. They may have a lived experience different from mine. How they approach the subject may unlock new, different, better understandings for me. 

It's easy to add to your arsenal, and often there's free information out there. The UsableNet blog is a great resource. In particular, I recommend the posts by Michael Taylor. He writes about his experiences on the web as a blind person who relies on a screen reader. You can see how your organization's digital properties compare to other sites Michael visits. 

Of course, if you're already a client of UsableNet, you've got access to our team of digital accessibility experts who can help guide you. Among my favorite conversations is with those who want tips on discussing web accessibility with others in their organization. 

LinkedIn also has a tremendous resource with its "Top Voices in Disability Advocacy." You can also check the list of people I and other UsableNetters follow. 

Find the voices and resources that resonate with you and spend a few minutes with them each week to enhance your knowledge and the stories you can share. Then you'll be even more ready to go forth in your organization to help transform it with an accessibility-first mindset.  

For more, check out the new free on-demand webinar featuring the author, Jeff Adams, How to Create a Culture of Digital Accessibility. Watch now

On Demand Webinar - How to Create a Culture of Digital Accessibility - featuring a headshot of Jeff Adams, Director of Accessibility Operations against a video player with a orange watch now button on a blue gradient background.

 

Jeff Adams, Accessibility Operations Director, UsableNet

Jeff Adams, Accessibility Operations Director, UsableNet

Jeff is UsableNet’s director of accessibility operations and advices companies around the world on best practices in website accessibility, and integrating accessibility into their processes. He’s been with UsableNet for more than a decade and is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. In addition, Jeff’s a creative entrepreneur and co-wrote the book, “Content for Everyone: A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to Produce Accessible and Usable Web Content.”

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