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Feature image Get Involved and Make a Difference in Digital Accessibility

Are you looking for ways to get more involved in the world of accessibility and inclusion? Below are some exciting ideas!

Accessibility Conferences

Sometimes there is an entire conference that is devoted to the topic of digital accessibility, and sometimes there is just a talk about accessibility that happens in the context of a bigger conference on a broader subject. Either way, the topic of accessibility is being discussed and examined, which is in my opinion a big step in the right direction. I’ve attended conferences throughout my career as a writer, but none really ever touched this topic so I find it interesting. While I’ve never been to any of these and am not endorsing them, here are two conferences that I thought seemed pretty comprehensive and possibly helpful:

  • Web For All 2017 – The Future of Accessible Work: This Australian conference promotes inclusive design and accessibility stating, “We can work towards implementing more functional Intranet and public-facing websites, and developing applications that are more inclusive and enable people with disabilities to participate more easily.”[1] They even have the option to apply for scholarships and travel awards for students who wish to attend the conference.
  • Abilities Expo – These expos happen in various US cities (and according to the site there’s one in Canada) and aren’t just about digital accessibilities. There is, however, and entire category devoted to assistive tech. It seems like a pretty uplifting event, “Abilities Expo is about bringing necessary products and services together under one roof for the community of people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, seniors, and healthcare professionals. It’s about introducing opportunities that can enrich your life …especially ones that you never knew were out there.”[2]
  • Accessing Higher Ground – This conference seems to have a big focus on digital policies and compliance with the website stating, “Accessing Higher Ground focuses on the implementation and benefits of: Accessible media, Universal Design and Assistive Technology in the university, business and public setting; Legal and policy issues, including ADA and 508 compliance; The creation of accessible media and information resources, including Web pages and library resources.”[3]

There are tons out there in many different cities and with a lot of perspectives. If you’re more interested in specific disabilities, there are conferences that revolve around those as well. Some quick web searches will lead you to conferences you probably never knew existed. They’re usually open to anyone and have speakers, demonstrations, and networking components to help you learn more about the advancements that are being made in the field.

Advisory Panels

Experts being called in to help consult or advise on issues is nothing new, but when accessibility is concerned I think it’s extremely critical. People can try to imagine what living with a disability is like, and try to create accessible technology based on those assumptions. This will get them part of the way to an accessible product or resource, but I can almost guarantee they won’t hit the mark without expert advice. Knowledgeable advisory panels can mean the difference between thinking your complying with WCAG 2.0, and actually being compliant.

A lot of these panels seem to be city-specific. They make recommendations on ways the city can be more accessible and ensure they address any issues that make come up within the city. Cities are always changing and evolving, so it makes a lot of sense for them to have committees devoted to maintaining accessibility. Every time a new building is constructed or a change of any kind is made, there is the opportunity for accessibility issues to arise. These committees try and keep watch and make positive recommendations to help everyone enjoy their city to the fullest.

Jobs with an Accessibility Focus

Digital accessibility has become an entire job category in itself. Admittedly, there are likely legal reasons behind this because of regulations stemming from the Americans with Disabilities Act and WCAG 2.0. Whatever the reason may be, it’s great to know that companies are devoting their resources to this important issue. A quick search resulted in a fair number of jobs that are either fully devoted to accessibility or have an accessibility component to the role

It’s important to know that many accessibility jobs are added to other positions, so you’re likely going to be doing double-duty in these roles. If you’re interested in helping to advance the field in a more professional capacity, some ways to find jobs are:

  • Check out Digital A11y Jobs Twitter account, they tweet out accessibility jobs pretty regularly.
  • Search using the keyword “Digital Accessibility” plus your normal job title. For example: Digital Accessibility + Front End Web Developer or Web Accessibility + Engineer.
  • Research your local disability resource groups. They’re tapped into the market and will be able to help connect you with companies that need assistance.
  • Volunteer in your community. I helped at a school for blind kids every Thursday morning one year. Sadly, I moved away but it was the best experience and a great way for me to learn more about vision loss. I got to experience how inspiring and wonderful the school was, and even got to work on my Harry Potter character voices during story time.

Twitter Accounts Promote Accessibility

This was a fun thing for me to find, considering I am interested in learning who else is on a quest to promote accessibility. There are some accounts that are devoted to accessibility in specific cities and communities as well, which means there might be a helpful network of people located in your backyard that can provide encouragement and assistance.

Hashtags can help you find these accounts pretty easily. Looking for things like #accessibility plus the name of your city or your disability is a good place to start. My mistake when I started looking was just searching for blindness, and that’s not going to get you the information you need. Apparently, I’m not the only one running into hashtag roadblocks. There’s a great blog post calling out accessibility posts for getting buried by obscure hashtags. The post takes issue with #a11y, which many Twitter users use in place of the word accessibility because it’s so long that it eats up their character count. The author explains, “By using such a hashtag, it also prevents the grouping of tweets in a way that assists developers who want to learn about accessibility, and perhaps find some expertise in the field, but who would never dream of looking for a hashtag like #a11y.”[4] Accessibility is a more positive direction to look in, but users do have a point it’s pretty long. Some alternatives being proposed are things like #axs and #access but there are issues with both of those being a bit obscure too.[5] The debate rages on about the best way to tag these tweets, but keep looking because there’s a lot of helpful information out there.

Do you work in the field or keep up on digital accessibility? How do you stay informed? Let us know what resources help you the most in the comments below!