Heracles standing in front of the Hydra of Lerna with sword drawn, Second Labor of Heracles

The Twelve Labors of Accessibility

The one type of question I’m most asked is what my role as an accessibility professional requires. I usually stick to a technical answer knowing it’s what most people want to hear. My daily tasks and responsibilities. My current position consists of consulting with designers, developers, and testers on issues, researching approaches and solutions, creating and facilitating training, and whatever else is needed for accessibility.

It sounds like a lot (and it is), but I consider these daily tasks and responsibilities only a fraction of my overall duties for accessibility. The labor to ensure that digital and web accessibility goes far beyond technology, design, and code.

Like many others over the last year and a half, I found myself thinking about mortality and legacy. As follower of absurdist philosophy these two subjects can be the cause of much tension. I don’t want to digress too far but for context, an oversimplified definition of Absurdism is “the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that the search for order brings the individual into conflict with the universe.” There are several ways the individual can resolve the conflict, one being acceptance of the absurdity of the universe. Through acceptance and genuine rebellion, one can gain the freedom to find purposefulness in the face of absurdity, embracing life for life’s sake and live with passion.

Yes, I believe existence is meaningless, but so what if it is? While I exist, I’m gonna put in work for the causes I seek to advance. For me, that work is digital accessibility.

Making an area as vast as digital accessibility a life’s work can create a sense of hopelessness without some touchstones to help direct. That is why through years of experience and lessons positive, negative, and in-between, I have assembled 12 guiding principles that inform and influence me throughout. Without further ado, here are the twelve labors of Accessibility:

  1. Understanding disability and the experiences of disabled people
  2. Awareness of the digital divide and its effects on access
  3. Acknowledging intersectionality in the disability experience
  4. Championing accessibility education and training at the earliest stages
  5. Punching up in advocacy.
  6. Avoiding performance in advocacy
  7. Speaking truth to power
  8. Accepting not everyone believes that it’s a civil or even human right
  9. Admitting that money is a motivating factor for many companies and people.
  10. The realistic perspective of time
  11. Accepting that you will not agree with all other professionals and advocates
  12. Don’t set yourself on fire.

(I am pretty fond of Greek and Roman mythology and love a catchy title, so that might have influenced my naming of these 12 guiding principles.)

Each of these principles needs and deserves more than a short description; that is why I will be exploring each principle in detail over the next few weeks. Join me next time for part one, where I will discuss the importance of understanding disability, addressing the disability experience, and not losing yourself in the technology of accessibility work.

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