Accessibility Team events

Bringing Accessibility to Your Team Event

In September of 2017 I traveled to Silicon Valley to meet experts in the field of accessibility at Adobe, Google, and Yahoo to find out how they managed Accessibility. Building awareness was a common issue and one way they suggested to bring accessibility to light for developers and designers was to have them participate in team building events centered around accessibility. 

Center for the Visually Impaired Logo

After coming home from the trip, I contacted the Center for the Visually Impaired in midtown Atlanta to see what they offered for visitors. Every third or fourth Thursday they hosted an open house tour of their facility. I signed up immediately.

The tour was given by a person who was completely blind and it was the first time I had interacted with a person who was blind in my life. Listening and watching her destroyed a lot of incorrect assumptions I had, but most importantly built an incredible amount of empathy. I knew I had to get my team to go down there.

After a few attempts being shot down by my own manager to have us go, I received feedback from my direct report saying that she felt we didn't have enough team bonding events. I brought this up to my manager and he agreed. The next week I tossed him the idea that we make a trip down to the Center for the visually Impaired as a team building event. His mind had magically changed and he was completely on board.

Before heading down I asked the my contact at the center if he could run a screen reader demonstration on one of our recently released websites. In all honesty, I asked him to do this because I knew our SEO manager was overloading our alternative text with repetitive content to build SEO status and I wanted the team, and specifically their manager, to see how this was negatively impacting people who were blind.

On the day of the event we all met up for lunch and then walked over the to center. Most of the team saw this as a waste of time, ADA was a waste, we didn't have any blind customers. were some of the grumbles I had heard. But that was all about to change.

The director of the center and our tour guide, Bill, slowly lost his vision during college but still managed to graduate in Physics from Georgia Tech (I only add that piece of information because I was so impressed when I found out). Bill talked about how he went Auntie Anne's, one of our six brands, and then proceeded to use the website with JAWS.

The team after the demonstration

The team after the demonstration

Within 5 seconds of landing on Auntie Anne's home page, Bill was lost. The developers on my team were in shock. They were holding their head in their hands. They realized how wrong they were and how it was impacting real customers.

This 10 minute demonstration changed my team.

After the event, I sent out a survey to see how the event went. The first question was, "What did you learn from the team building event?" Here were their responses:

  • "We have 10 seconds to grab the attention of the visually impaired. I thought that was very interesting."
  • "Better perspective on why ADA is so important when it comes to our sites"
  • "Screenreaders  that our workplace sound different than JAWS"

Most importantly, the team members found it very beneficial to their professional work and to the work of others at our company.

100% of Team recommends a tour of the center for cowrokers

The most amazing part of this team building event is that it was nearly free, we only had to pay for parking. However, our VP did cover lunch and the ice cream afterward :)

Team eating at the local Carvel before heading back to work

Team eating at the local Carvel before heading back to work

If you need your team to understand the importance of accessibility then I highly recommend you locate a nearby organization that helps people with disabilities and ask for a tour. It works even better when you can have your team watch people with disabilities who are their customers to use the product in front of their eyes. It will change your team's perspective forever.


B Parsons