Real World Accessibility Stories - Accessibility Manchester’s first event

Daniel Mclaughlan, an Accessibility and Usability Consultant here at AbilityNet, shared their accessibility story at Accessibility Manchester alongside speakers from other organisations including the BBC, Co-op, Everyone Can, HeX Productions and W3C.

Profile photo of Daniel Mclauglan

Profile photo of Daniel Mclaughlan via Accessibility Manchester on Twitter

This was Accessibility Manchester’s first event which took place on Thursday 2 July with professionals from a variety of accessibility backgrounds invited to contribute a short video about their experience of accessibility in their careers and personal lives.

The Accessibility Manchester meet-up group is for content designers, developers and anyone else working in digital and interested in raising awareness about the importance of accessibility.

Accessibility has an impact in all areas of our lives

Daniel’s interest in accessibility is the result of numerous influences over many years: from meeting their wife, a profoundly deaf author, to studying inclusive design, to volunteering with Kith & Kids, a charity that runs social development projects for young people with autism and learning disabilities. “Finding my role at AbilityNet was very much the perfect marriage of my interest in all things technical and my passion for doing work that benefits people.”

In their role as an Accessibility and Usability Consultant here at AbilityNet, a typical day for Daniel involves auditing client’s websites, apps and other digital services for digital accessibility. Identifying potential barriers and offering recommendations for remediation.

Daniel highlighted how the move into lockdown has seen AbilityNet adapt quickly with a fully remote offering of training courses and other services. Working from home has also raised questions about how we best prioritise our mental wellbeing and use technology effectively to stay connected with each other. “It’s a credit to my colleagues that we’ve been willing to have conversations about how best to support each other.”

Commenting on the biggest shift in accessibility they’ve seen in recent years, Daniel acknowledges organisations are much more actively willing to adopt accessible practices early on, whether that’s requesting design reviews or design teams requesting training. “There’s certainly a lot more to be done in terms of digital technologies, access and communication support, but I think we’re on the right track and things are moving forwards.”

Watch Daniel Mclaughlan’s accessibility story, available via YouTube:

More accessibility stories

Daniel was joined by other digital professionals who also shared their accessibility stories:

Sophie Beaumont, Senior Software Engineer for Core Services at the BBC, spoke about their approach to communicating with cross-disciplinary teams and the challenges of scaling components, processes and cultural values while embedding accessibility. A notable success has been their ‘accessibility swarms’ where teams gather to review the accessibility of a feature so that the lessons learned can benefit the organisation as a whole.

Joanne Schofield, Content Designer from Co-op, spoke about the divide between how we want people to feel about our products and services and what customers actually bring to their interactions with a brand, sharing “People experience all products and services unique to their circumstances... So as designers and researchers we need to emotionally detach ourselves from our products and services to maintain that perspective.”

Andrew Bromilow, Assistive Technician from Everyone Can highlighted their collaboration with stroke organisations and the benefits of gaming as a way to reduce social isolation. Lockdown has seen many of us consider how technology can keep us connected

Other speakers included Rachel Morgan-Trimmer, Neurodiversity Coach and Consultant from Sparkle Class, Holly Thiele, Accessibility Analyst from Barclays, James Hall, Creative Director of HeX Productions, Hannah Beech, Principal Test Engineer at Foot Asylum, Fred Warburton, Accessibility Lead for Babylon Health, and Charles Hall, W3C Invited Expert.

The full event recording with every speaker’s accessibility story is available on the Accessibility Manchester YouTube channel.

Conversations about accessibility

Following the presenters sharing their accessibility stories there was a question and answer session which Daniel Mclaughlan contribute to.

Responding to a question about accessibility progression tracks Daniel highlighted that job descriptions can often be a wishlist of skills, explaining that at AbilityNet we have several teams responsible for supporting our Digital Accessibility Services - Marketing, Sales, and Planning.

In our Accessibility Team we are currently recruiting for consultants. We have typical Junior, Mid, Senior and Principal roles and though technical skills are required, passion speaks volumes. Senior staff members are actively involved in mentoring and client-facing work such as developing an accessibility strategy. While our collaborative approach means that any team member, regardless of seniority is encouraged to contribute to our training and documentation. We also encourage our Consultants to pursue IAAP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) Certification. We also have a Professional Pathway scheme with City University.

On a question about keeping interest in Accessibility Champion Networks Daniel was reminded of the fantastic keynote at TechShare Pro 2019 by Samantha Soloway from Verizon Media. They build accessibility into their onboarding process with new hires made aware of the companies’ accessibility approach and given the opportunity to tour their accessibility labs.

The full event recording including question and answer session is available on the Accessibility Manchester YouTube channel.

Accessibility Manchester and other accessibility events

This month’s Accessibility Manchester event was sponsored by Co-op and organised by Dave Cunningham, Chris Gibbons and Stuart Hull. The full event recording is available on the Accessibility Manchester YouTube channel.

Follow Accessibility Manchester on Twitter or follow Accessibility Manchester on Eventbrite to be kept up to date about their events – the next is planned to be about accessibility champions and takes place on Thursday 6 August (details to be confirmed).

Accessibility Manchester isn’t the only meetup group of its kind – the Accessibility London meetup group has been running regular events since 2015.

TechShare Pro is the UK’s leading accessibility and inclusive design annual conference, bringing digital professionals together to discuss the future of accessibility and inclusive design. Join our mailing list to be kept up-to-date with information about this year’s event.

Useful links

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If you are as passionate as we are about digital accessibility check out our current vacancies to find out how you can use your skills and experience to help us with our vision of a digital world accessible to all.

We offer tailored accessibility and usability support to clients from all sectors. Talk to us about your project and our experts will advise on a bespoke accessibility strategy to meet your requirements.