Before I became a Software Engineer, I worked as a decorator. I did a course in Construction Skills and part of that was studying for the test to get my Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card; a Health and Safety certification required for working on construction sites in the UK.
It’s been quite a while since I was a decorator now and I’ve probably forgotten most of the answers to the CSCS questions but one thing I do remember is my tutor’s daily repetition of one question and answer:
Q: Who is responsible for health and safety?
Given how dangerous a construction site can be, it's important everyone knows how to work safely. It's the employer's responsibility to provide the correct PPE (Personal Protective Equipment, I'm sure we're all familiar with that acronym since the pandemic...), training, procedures and equipment but it's up to everyone on site to use and follow them correctly too.
No matter what your role is on site, you are responsible for the health and safety of yourself and those around you.
As I’ve become more involved in all things a11y (accessibility), I've seen how the same concept can be applied here.
Who is responsible for accessibility?
When I first became a developer and started learning about accessibility, I thought of it in purely dev terms - I was a developer so it’s my responsibility to make my code accessible. As I learned more, I thought about it as both a developer and a QA’s responsibility. After all, someone has to test the code to make sure it’s accessible.
When I encountered a11y violations with colours, contrast and text, I began thinking about it from a UX point of view and at that stage, I knew enough to realise it was much wider ranging than that.
I’m thinking about the roles that I’ve encountered in the companies I’ve worked for and multiple examples across different areas come to mind.
Marketing and Content teams can ensure their content is clear and easy to understand for people with different levels of comprehension and reading abilities.
BAs can help make sure accessibility requirements are included and advocated for in planned work.
People teams can make hiring and onboarding processes inclusive for disabled people by providing job descriptions and other important information in multiple formats.
These are just a few examples that occurred to me but I hope it illustrates how everyone can play a part in making, not just websites, but companies more accessible.
We can achieve much more when we think about accessibility beyond the limits of development work and we learn much more when we open up spaces for non-technical people to join in. The most successful accessibility programmes are those that don't limit involvement to developers but instead are a truer reflection of the multiple roles that make up many teams.
Thanks for reading, let me know what your thoughts are below!