Use the arrow keys to navigate between menu items.

The weekly 1%: Acceptance and commitment

3 minutes read

As part of the weekly series on 1% better, I'd like to share a little story about acceptance and commitment.

I've worked on plenty of web projects where the team pushed against accessibility, for various reasons. Some were justified, some weren't, at least according to me. I've heard all sorts of "excuses" like:

  • we'll be in breach of contract if we don't release this by next week
  • we don't think the impact is that high
  • we don't have disabled users so accessibility is not a priority (this came from a CEO)
  • our clients are big companies, not private individuals (also a C-level)
  • we have a work-around for this, so it's not important
  • we'll schedule this for next sprint

Most of the times, I had no idea what to reply. I mean, the reasons for why these are not valid excuses to push back on making things accessible are good and plenty.

This week, it dawned on me that you can't argue against other people's reasons, unless you're willing to lose. So I tried another approach.

When I pointed out the serious accessibility errors on a form to one of the developers, they acknowledged the problem and pushed back saying they'd like to first finish the functionality and then ask for my help to fix the accessibility issues.

Previously I'd have said, it will be easier to fix these now rather than later when we'll probably run out of time. Now, I just said:

That's great! When do you think you'll finish the functionality? Let's set a meeting right now and we can go through accessibility together.

The product owner agreed and we set that up. This accomplishes a few things:

  1. The team doesn't see accessibility as a blocker, getting in their way
  2. The dev acknowledged it was a problem they didn't know how to handle (they asked for help! that's big)
  3. They saw I was flexible and not a being a total dick about doing everything my way
  4. Everyone else on the team now knows they can ask for help from me for accessibility

My point is...a team that wants to succeed needs to make decisions together. You can't force a decision on someone else, especially when you aren't the one doing the work that results from that decision. If you order people around, they will comply. But without their all-in commitment, they'll just be going through the motions.

Real change requires that and my job is to bring people closer to making an honest commitment. If I can do this without changing their work preference and still show them there's a clear link between what I ask them to do and their own interests, then the probability they'll readily commit is that much higher.

I need to accept that my priorities are not other people's priorities and that we can still commit to doing the work together.

That's my 1%.

How do you approach these situations? Or are you one of the lucky ones that's never been in one? Hit reply and let me know!

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.

You can unsubscribe in one click and I will never share your email address.