As someone driven by gaining consciousness, my work in accessibility contributes to my personal mission single day. I delight in understanding how others besides myself see the world, even if that comes with discomfort as I venture beyond what's familiar to me.
Working in accessibility when you don't have a disability
As a product marketer, I partner closely with engineers to understand what features exist to empower those with disabilities in order to build product narratives. As someone who doesn’t have a disability and works on accessibility though, I had no idea what I was doing in my first three months on the role (and 8 months in, I admit I still have plenty of those clueless moments).
My message for anyone wanting to better understand accessibility is simple: you’ve got to start by having conversations with people who navigate inaccessible experiences daily.
For example – perusing the internet and checking social media is an experience that many take for granted but others are excluded entirely from. Scrolling through my feed feels like going on autopilot: just constantly swiping my thumb upwards to dive into the abyss of the internet. However, for someone who has fine motor issues in their hands and can’t scroll as easily, is this experience accessible to them? Or how about someone who’s blind? Are they able to get the right information on the layout and how to get around the site, and will their screen readers work with the platform? More importantly, are they able to connect with friends and family and feel included in social media?
Another example is dining out. Someone with a disability may not be able to secure independent transportation getting to a restaurant and then once they’re there reading the menu or finding the bathroom can also be a hassle. If that individual has a friend with them, that friend may be able to help. But shouldn’t people with disabilities also be able to pursue these shopping and dining experiences independently and on their own terms?
15% of the population has a disability; 100% of us have a role to play
You don’t know what you don’t know until you have candid conversations with someone who navigates accessibility barriers every day. And now that I’m aware of said barriers, accessibility is something I catch myself thinking about even after I've gone home for the day.
Indeed, you can’t solve a problem you’re not aware of. So I put together this Accessibility Awareness Bingo board, meant to be conversation starters for why we need accessibility in physical and digital spaces. If you get a bingo (five in a row either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), contact me with your responses and I’ll send you either a physical/digital postcard.
Despite our current political climate, I truly believe in our society’s ability to progress, become more enlightened, and embrace people who look different than them. People may not initially do well with different, but the more you expose yourself to people who don’t look like you, the more those differences soften and become perceivably smaller. I hope you engage in meaningful conversations today, and continue to think about accessibility and inclusion beyond Global Accessibility Awareness Day.