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Have you set up or been involved in an accessibility community of practice?

bendmyers profile image Ben Myers ・1 min read

I'm embarking on a journey to set up a community of practice for accessible web and mobile development for my organization at work. Specifically, I'm trying to get representatives from seven teams together on a regular basis to discuss accessibility practices, with the ultimate goal of making each team more informed about accessibility. I've never organized anything like this, so it's very new to me.

Have you set up or been involved in an accessibility community of practice, accessibility users group, or anything similiar? If so, what was your experience?

Discussion

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Yes!

At my work we now have an Accessibility Committee that was started by a couple of developers a year or two ago.

We meet to discuss ideas and to review websites we've made or evaluate existing sites of clients we're pitching for (we're predominantly a web agency).
We've held workshops where we've had our client services teams use our own products with only voice control, or without a mouse, and so forth, to help everyone have an understanding or what kind of difficulties our end-users might face.

We've sent some of us (like me!) to accessibility and UX conferences, and teamed up with Accessibility Scotland to see what we could do to help improve things across the board.

Agencies traditionally have quite a rivalry going on because we're all competing for the same projects at the end of the day, but something like a11y brings us together. Last year, we arranged a mini-conference which had good attendance from other agencies in Scotland, with a great sense of community.

Our company has provided us job codes and a budget for basically anything we need to do that's accessibility-related. Of course, companies are interested in the bottom line, but a11y doesn't have to be at odds with that. We talk about the purple pound to drive the point home if people start glazing over...

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Ben Myers Author

Thank you so much, this is really good stuff! I do have a few questions, if you don't mind.

How often does the committee meet? For how long? Does the committee have a pretty regular agenda?

Do the developers who participate in the committee come from different teams? If so, do you feel like the committees do a great job of enabling teams to be more informed, or do you feel like the committees focus on making individuals subject matter experts?

What would you say are the committee's biggest accomplishment and biggest struggle?

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Ben Sinclair

We usually meet once every couple of weeks. We book out a meeting room and someone takes minutes so we can write up anything we've done on a Confluence page. Someone will talk about something they've done and we'll discuss things we could be working on. That said, I haven't been for a few weeks because I haven't been around the office as much!

We started out with one or two people representing each department from client services, front- and back-end development, degign, ux, social media and copyrighting teams.

We've discussed things like replacing infographics with more accessible solutions, incorporating a11y tools into our CI (e.g. pa11y)

The best thing we've achieved is probably networking and finding out how many other groups and agencies are interested. This peaked at our mini-conference back in spring.

The toughest challenges are around how to convince clients to devote time on maintenance budgets and so on to improving their sites. There are always new features and so on that suck up the money. The same with new pitches, incorporating the cost for making sure something's accessible up front is a wise move (and a legal requirement most of the time) but it sounds like the first thing prospective clients could try to shave money off. We're trying to make sure we're all not afraid to say this is essential work and not an optional add-on.