Derek FeatherstoneEverything is a work in progress

What's your accessibility mantra and how has it changed?

Derek Featherstone / Published:

I was one of several panelists for a UXPA Cleveland meetup tonight on Inclusive Design (virtually, of course). I’m grateful to have been invited, and to have had the opportunity to share alongside the other panelists.

The moderator Marc Majers asked us all what our accessibility mantra was.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to go first. I had a few minutes to think.

I was sneaky and answered two times

I got cheeky and answered as 2005 Derek, and then answered as 2020 Derek.

2005 Derek says that his mantra is:

The checklist is the starting point, not the end point.

That was my way of saying that following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 ( the published recommendation at the time) wasn’t enough. They were a starting point, and ultimately, some of accessibility wasn’t captured in the success criteria of WCAG. Doing well required working with humans with disabilities to make sure that we were creating great user experiences for everyone.

2020 Derek says that his mantra is:

Find ways to engage more people with disabilities, earlier in the process, in a more meaningful way.

That’s very different than what 2005 Derek would have answered.

How my thinking has evolved

In 2005 I knew nothing of inclusive design. We didn’t talk about inclusion the same way we talk about inclusion now. I had some experience working with people with disabilities, and I saw first hand that solutions that met all the technical requirements of WCAG didn’t always meet their needs. And therefore, we needed more than just the technical side of things.

That was my understanding at the time, and that is reflected in the words that I’d have used as my mantra back then. As a side note, I don’t think I really called it my mantra back then, but I used the statement “The checklist is the starting point, not the end point” in many presentations, so I think it’s fair to call it that.

My mantra in 2020 is an extension of that, and I think it still holds true to its core. My mantra is still about people. It’s about there being more to accessibility than WCAG. But I understand it quite differently now in 2020, having worked with many more people with disabilities, and having refined my thinking on what it means to me.

Now, it’s all about inclusion in the process of design. Now it’s about how we as an industry can do better.

Yes, accessibility is important — that’s the outcome we’re after. But how we do the work really matters. So how can we get better at inclusion?

Find ways to engage more people with disabilities, earlier in the process, in a more meaningful way.

Your accessibility mantra?

What’s your accessibility mantra? Has it changed over time? How does that reflect your evolution as a professional?