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Pragmatic Accessibility Decision Making Through Extreme Transparency

taught by: Michael Mistak

Session Summary:

Help your clients be informed and capable partners in forging better accessible outcomes for their users.


In the current industry environment corporations and other large organizations are responsible for providing accessibility barrier free access to most of the content and functionality on the internet not to mention the lion’s share of applications waiting to be downloaded in app stores for devices of all varieties. Unfortunately this is a responsibility these organizations have historically failed at. Little appears to have changed within many of these teams as they continue to fail more often than not at providing accessible experiences.

As digital practitioners have been and largely continue to remain ignorant of their responsibilities in this area, the amount of digital accessibility debt is not getting smaller any time soon. While new application development is truly where most (if not all) accessibility organizations want to spend their time and effort to do the most good, remediation efforts will continue to be a significant (if not dominant) portion of most accessibility organizations’ portfolios.

While new development projects often (but not always) offer teams an opportunity to develop systems using more of the most optimal implementations of accessible UX and development, remediation efforts are often faced with multiple paths towards a (sometimes arguable) more accessible future state. Unfortunately these decisions are often made in ways that end up being highly tactical, with stakeholder often focusing solely on timeline and budget without being aware of where their chosen solution places them and their organization on the risk/reward continuum. These choices often place accessibility professionals in the position of being the sole responsible party when these solutions either succeed or fail from the perspective of end users.

Diamond, a Los Angeles-based Digital Agency with a focus on building accessible, scalable systems, has demonstrated its ability to aid clients in building and remediating systems for the barrier-free experiences their users need (for web, native & streaming). This talk will share some of the challenges and lessons learned, while building a modern accessibility capability within a nimble digital agency. In this talk Diamond will demonstrate why beginning with a leadership and advisory team that has a legacy of providing direction within the accessibility practitioner community and assembling talent with experience from a wide variety of industries (each with a vast digital footprint) has lead their team to a direction where clients can and should be made informed and capable partners in forging better accessible outcomes for their users.

To be the move informed partner that they should be, clients must be made aware of competing opportunities to reach the level of accessibility conformance that they need to achieve. As an accessibility professional this can be intimidating as the natural proclivity is to choose the cheapest option (which may not be the most robust implementation). This is often the risk with presenting competing options, but this should not be so frightening if you are transparent not only about the different solutions, but also the fact that not all solutions are created equal. Most competing techniques or methods will place their system on differing points of the risk vs. reward continuum. In this talk, it is our hope that we prove to you that this kind of transparency between accessibility professionals, technical teams and product owners will lead to solutions that first and foremost aid users, but are also better tailored to your projects:

  • Current Team composition (active new development and maintenance vs purely break/fix)
  • Current Backlog, Bandwidth and team velocity
  • Current level of accessibility experience
  • Project Methodology (scrum, kanban, waterfall, etc.)

Practical Skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Process Integration
  • Communication / Education