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Accessibility isn't special work, it's specialized work

2 minutes read

Years ago when I was in college, I used to spend my summers in the U.S. working as a line cook and breakfast chef (hello Provincetown peeps!). In all the restaurants I worked in, hygiene was always a priority. It wasn't something we'd only think about when health inspectors were coming.

Does this mean hygiene was our main job? No. We had to put up with that ticket machine going brrrrr every minute, distribute the cook amongst everyone on the line, tackle multiple tickets at the same time trying to batch orders, and cook delicious food. We did all this while maintaining a clean working environment.

There was no special "hygiene team" whose only responsibility was to clean up after the rest of us.

Just like kitchen hygiene, accessibility isn't special.

Many teams treat web accessibility for people with disabilities as something special. They view it as a task to be set aside for a specific time and handled by a dedicated team. Or even worse, only worry about it when complaints come in.

But accessibility isn't special work. It is specialised work though.

It's not "special" in the sense of being some separate, extra or occasional task someone performs.

It is "specialized" in that it requires specific skills and knowledge.

Why is it specialised work? Because you need to tick a few boxes:

  • Technical chops. You'll need to understand assistive technologies, ARIA attributes and semantic HTML.
  • Guidelines expertise. You need to become familiar with standards like the WCAG.
  • User experience insights. You need to get good at putting yourself in other people's shoes.
  • Testing skills. You want to get some experience with testing methods and tools to verify accessibility.
  • Legal awareness. You'll need a basic knowledge of accessibility laws and regulations.
  • Interdisciplinary approach. Your job is to bridge gaps between design, development and user needs.
  • Advocacy skills. Bonus points if you can educate teams and stakeholders about the importance of accessibility.

You don't need to be proficient in all these to get started though.

Did you enjoy this bite-sized message?

I send out short emails like this every day to help you gain a fresh perspective on accessibility and understand it without the jargon, so you can build more robust products that everyone can use, including people with disabilities.

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