Accessibility Advocate

Accessibility is something I stumbled on by chance. Early in my career, my design role morphed into a QA testing role. I worked for a government contractor in DC and all our products had to be Section 508 compliant. So I would manually test our products for accessibility. Even though I left that role years ago, once you start, accessibility is something you can never look the other way on.

Designing and implementing accessibility isn’t always easy, but it’s like solving a puzzle. With designers and engineers, I frame accessibility around how it’s not a burden, but a challenge. How might we provide accessible equivalents without impacting the broader user experience?

In the past, I facilitated accessible design workshops, hosted Global Accessibility Awareness Days, and created a Skillshare class on it. I hope by making things a little less daunting more people make it part of their design process.

Here’s a review from my Skillshare class:

Amazing! I work as a front end developer and I’m positively sure I’ll use knowledge gained in practise at work. It’s just a very good course, engaging, helping to understand and sympathise with people who rely on assistive technologies. In addition, Michelle has a very pleasant voice which makes the class all the more enjoyable.

People trying an accessibility empathy activity
At a Global Accessibility Awareness Day workshop, I had participants try an empathy activity on vision impairments.


Interpreting accessibility standards

On teams I’m part of, I’m usually the subject matter expert on accessibility. I champion accessibility among the designers and engineering teams I work with. I enjoy collaborating with engineers to come up with implementable, accessible solutions.

To find accessible solutions, I’ll identify the user’s goal, then consider that needs to be included for accessibility at a high-level. I’ll create guidelines for the expected accessible behavior, which helps designers understand the interaction model. From there, I’ll pore over WCAG documentation to see what engineers need to know. I love digging into this because it’s like solving a mystery.

Once I find what’s needed, I’ll share it with engineering. For tricky components, we’ll sit together coding and testing back and forth to get things accessible.

Screenshot of ARIA guidelines
I’ll comb through accessibility documentation to understand how things should be implemented.
Screenshot of the accessibility guidelines translated for design and dev
This is an example of how I translated the ARIA guidelines to something that designers and developers can easily understand.

Here’s the slide deck from my Designing for Accessibility Workshop for Global Accessibility Awareness Day in 2018. I’m happy to talk shop about accessibility or create more awareness around providing inclusive experiences!