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98 / Digital Accessibility & Inclusive Design: Understanding the Why

Hosted by Paul Gebel & Collene Burns

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Sheri Byrne-Haber

VMware

Sheri Byrne-Haber is a prominent global subject matter expert in the fields of disability and accessibility in business and educational settings.  She is best known for launching digital accessibility programs at multiple Fortune 200 companies including McDonald’s, Albertsons, and VMware, as well as consulting on government accessibility.  Sheri was named a 2022 LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact and co-authored the Digital Accessibility Maturity Model while at Level Access, the foremost global consultancy dedicated entirely to accessibility.

Her passion for accessibility initially stemmed from the desire to help her deaf daughter navigate the world, alongside the accessibility issues she personally faced as a lifelong wheelchair user. With degrees in computer science, law, and business, in addition to two accessibility-related professional certifications, Sheri brings a 360-degree view of issues that impact implementing a high-quality accessibility program.

Sheri is a frequent panelist and speaker at accessibility-related conferences and an active member of several accessibility committees and non-profits, helping drive and communicate the evolution of accessibility standards.

Accessibility is not one of those things that’s done well when it’s tacked on to the end of a project, Sheri Byrne-Haber says. “It’s going to cost more, it’s going to put your schedule at risk, and it’s not going to offer the best experience.” Embedding accessibility into product design early on, she adds, becomes a whole lot easier when your organization’s mindset defaults toward diversity and inclusion.

In this episode, Sheri joins Paul Gebel and guest co-host Collene Burns, ITX’s VP of Global Talent, to explain what happens when the why of product design comes before the what. You’re free to escape a rigid checklist mentality and naturally consider how your product will be experienced in the world. When you hire the best and brightest – regardless of ability – accessible design outcomes follow because the teams are diverse. You start to see it in the DNA of the products they develop.

In our conversation, Sheri also discusses the implications that new technologies have on accessibility. “Technology is moving faster than our ethical use can keep up,” she says, adding that we can close the gap by building teams who think about all the humans who use their products, and designing experiences that actually solve the problem the product is trying to solve.

Sheri is a prominent global thought leader in the fields of engineering, accessibility, and inclusion.  A senior accessibility architect at VMware, she was recently named a LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022.

Paul [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to Product Momentum, where we hope to entertain, educate, and celebrate the amazing product people who are helping to shape our community’s way ahead. My name is Paul Gebel and I’m the Director of Product Innovation at ITX. Along with my co-host, Sean Flaherty, and our amazing production team and occasional guest host, we record and release a conversation with a product thought leader, writer, speaker, or maker who has something to share with the community every two weeks.

Paul [00:00:43] Hello, everyone. Today we have a really great episode for you and the added treat of a co-host, my dear friend and colleague Collene Burns, who’s the VP of Global Talent here at ITX. She runs our H.R. organization. Welcome to your first podcast, Collene.

Collene [00:00:58] Hi, Paul. Thanks. I was honored and excited to be able to join and I learned a lot.

Paul [00:01:04] Me too. I think the quote of the pod that was certainly a reality check for me was, “technology is moving faster than our ethical use can keep up.” One of many lessons learned today. Anything stand out for you?

Collene [00:01:16] I think, in that vein, I’m already thinking about ways, large and small, that organizations can build muscle around accessibility, and inclusivity, really, as the theme was not just about accessibility, but building inclusive designs and organizations.

Paul [00:01:34] Yeah. So wherever you live in your organization, product, design, development, there’s definitely going to be something in here for you. So I hope you enjoy.

Paul [00:01:44] Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to the show. Today we are pleased to be joined by Sheri Byrne-Haber. She’s a prominent global subject matter expert in the fields of disability and accessibility in business and educational settings, and was recently named the 2022 LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact. She’s best known for launching digital accessibility programs at multiple Fortune 200 companies, including McDonald’s, Albertsons, and VMware, as well as consulting on government accessibility. Her programs have positively impacted millions of the more than 1 billion global people with disabilities. Sheri, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today. Pleased to have you.

Sheri [00:02:19] Well, thanks for the invitation.

Paul [00:02:20] Absolutely. So to jump right in at a high level, our audience is mostly product managers, product leaders, designers, developers. To kick us off, how can designers and product developers communicate to their teams ways that features should behave in accessible ways?

Sheri [00:02:36] So to start with, there’s a standard that everybody should be using to measure whether or not their product is at least compliant. And I’m making air quotes around compliant because typically inclusive organizations want to go above and beyond the minimum compliance standards. So the standard in the U.S. is WCAG, which stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It’s version 2.0 or 2.1, depending on what state you’re in. I always recommend doing the newer standard, which is 2.1, because it handles mobile. 2.0 does not. And then Level AA is the medium level. So getting that built in to the definition of done for the product is pretty important. Accessibility is not one of those things that’s done well when it’s tacked on to the end of a project. It’s going to cost more, it’s going to put your schedule at risk, and it’s not going to be the best experience. You want to design it to be accessible from the outset.

Sheri [00:03:34] So if you’re following WCAG 2.1.AA, there are 50 guidelines that you need to follow. Now, of those 50 guidelines, designers can handle about, I think, 40% of them in their mockups. So things like whether or not you have a skip link and what your error messages look like, stuff like that will actually show up in the comps. Where it gets complicated is that designers may want a particular feature to behave in a particular way, but it doesn’t show up in the comps. And unless they communicate that to the engineers in the form of some type of design brief, chances are they’re not going to get it.

Sheri [00:04:13] So an example would be, let’s say I’m a store and you can buy groceries online and you put two bags of Oreos into your shopping cart and then you go, “You know what? I’m on a diet. I really should only get one bag of Oreos.” And so you take one bag of Oreos out. Well, what happens when you take that one bag of Oreos out? Well, first of all, your subtotal changes. The amount that you may need to meet a delivery minimum may change visually on the screen. You may have a coupon that required buying two bags and you might lose that coupon. So all of these things are visually changing on the screen because of one action. And the really important thing is all of those changes have to be communicated by the engineers to, in this particular case, screen reader users. Screen reader users are what people who are blind use, that’s their assistive technology to take that screen that’s visual and turn it into sound that they can hear.

Sheri [00:05:10] So short version, follow WCAG 2.1 AA. Make sure that you have a design brief that communicates how you want things to behave when it doesn’t show up in the comps. And part of the definition of done, accessibility has to be there from the beginning.

Paul [00:05:26] So I’m hearing a lot of things that are familiar to the way that we work with our teams and some of the things that are coming out and the areas of concern that you’re discussing are really just good design as a human, right? Experiencing these things that are helpful and necessary to those with disabilities, for screen readers for the blind, for example. But they’re also just helpful to keep top of mind for everybody. And I think some of the things that get lost in the checklists mindset that we often talk about, is that this isn’t just going down the WCAG guidelines and making sure we’re compliant. It’s thinking about the humans at whatever level of ability they are at the other end, and designing experiences that solve the problem that the product is trying to solve. Is that a fair recap of the thought behind the translation between requirements, designer to developer?

Sheri [00:06:14] Yeah, I would agree with that. And part of the issue is that inclusive design isn’t a default topic in college conversations about design. Part of the issue is that we don’t have enough underrepresented minorities in design. I know people who are legally blind who are designers. I know people who are color blind who are designers. But that’s the exception rather than the rule. They don’t show up in the design population nearly as frequently as they show up in the general population. Part of it is my preference is actually not just focusing on accessibility, but looking at inclusive design in general, looking at age, looking at, you know, personas. Do your personas have a good gender distribution? Do they have a good socioeconomic distribution? Because those things also tend to intersect with disability. Women are more likely to be disabled. People with disabilities are more likely to be in lower socioeconomic categories. It’s hard to look at disability as a single thing also because people can have more than one disability. So by focusing on diagnosis rather than impact, you’re losing out on the opportunity to be inclusive and not just compliant.

Collene [00:07:27] Sure. And so when I hear you talk about the representative population within designers and that not enough underrepresented minorities are in design, Sheri, of course, as someone who leads an H.R. team, I think about that link between the underemployment of people with disabilities and accessibility altogether. Can you talk a little bit about your perspective, about how we can start to move that forward in an even more powerful way?

Sheri [00:08:01] Sure. So a couple of ideas would be, first of all, most large companies, and when I say large, I mean more than 10,000 employees, have recruiting campaigns for historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. But how many of them have dedicated campaigns focusing on Landmark and RIT and Gallaudet, which are three universities that are 100% focused on, I’ll say disability, even though some people at Gallaudet will argue that being deaf isn’t a disability. But you know, if you want to get people with hearing loss into your company, you know, go to Gallaudet because that’s where a lot of them go to college. That’s not to say that exclusively that’s where they go, but a lot of them are there. So I would say that.

Sheri [00:08:47] There are autism in the workplace organizations that you can sync up with for recruiting people who are neurodiverse with dyslexia or epilepsy or autism. Those are three very common forms of neurodiversity. And then there’s looking at organizations and nonprofits that specialize in job placement for people with disabilities. There’s Lighthouse for the Blind, for example, or there’s the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation that focuses on spinal cord injuries. So those would be three things that I would recommend if you’re really serious about targeting those people.

Sheri [00:09:22] But before you do that, you’ve got to look at all of your processes with a critical eye and say, “is this accessible enough for these people to apply for jobs?” You don’t want to give them jobs and then bring them in the back door, right? They’ve got to go through the application process. They’ve got to go through the interview process. They’ve got to be onboarded. They need training, they need equipment. All of that also has to meet those WCAG standards that I was referring to earlier, or otherwise, you’re subconsciously sending a message that really these people, you’ve brought them on board as tokens, you’ve not brought them on board because you expect them to be productive. You’re doing performative disability inclusion and you’re not actually caring about whether or not they can do the work that they’re hired to do.

Collene [00:10:11] And Sheri, what you just said is so powerful to me specifically. I was sharing with Paul before the recording of this show that way back when, almost 20 years ago now, I worked for a very large company and we made the first hire for that company from RIT/NTID as a software tester. And I was reading your article about the connections between Ted Lasso and accessibility and one of the things that you said was, “be respectfully curious, not judgmental.” And I was reflecting with Paul about all the pressure that we put on this one deaf student who was the first and asked them to represent an entire population in software testing for this very large company without putting that thoughtfulness in place. I mean, we did sign language classes with their team in advance and we thought that that was cutting edge in terms of making sure that that person had the welcome that they deserved to really do this great work. And so I know that there is so much nervousness for people out there about this concept of how to be respectfully curious and not feel like you’re grounded in judgment. Do you have any advice for people who are just getting started on this path to really think about accessibility and how to do that well, as designers, as developers, as a human being?

Sheri [00:11:46] Sure. So I’m shaking my head up and down because I know how hard going first is. I was in the first group of children back in the early seventies with significant disabilities who were mainstreamed in elementary school. And it is really hard being first, especially when the people you are working with don’t have the training to know how to handle these things appropriately. You know, walking up to somebody and saying, “What’s wrong with you?” Not a good way to get started. Walking up to somebody and saying, “Hey, I’m curious, how do you do X?” Right. You know, like asking somebody who’s blind, “how do you skip through a web page? You know, what’s your optimal web page when you’re using a screen reader?” That kind of stuff, people are usually more than happy to answer.

Sheri [00:12:32] I will say that I did write another article that said, “Sometimes I’m just too tired for a teachable moment.” So, especially with strangers, maybe one out of 25 times, I’ll be like, “not having it today.” But, you know, when the questions are phrased from, you know, to quote Ted Lasso, from a place of curiosity, and his curiosity was, you know, “have you played much darts before? Are you left-handed or right-handed?” That really goes a long way to making it clear that you’re going to use the information to make a better place for that person, rather than using the information to be judgmental. And that Ted Lasso article, man, I’ve got a couple of articles that, you know, I just dashed them off because the thought randomly pops through my head at the time and then they just totally exploded in terms of the number of readers. So that one was a big one.

Collene [00:13:26] And I can see why. It’s so applicable in human-ing and also in human-ing in this particular use case, if you will, or perspective.

Paul [00:13:37] I think the big takeaway from that as a professor at RIT and NTID  is that a lot of things that have become second nature in course design, even making the syllabus accessible and friendly for screen readers, a lot of the things that do come through in the way that you start to think when the why is more important than the what, when you get out of that checklist mentality and you start to think about how this is going to be experienced in the world, it becomes a lot more, not just second nature, but also empathetic. You start to put yourself in other people’s shoes and you start to think a little bit differently.

Paul [00:14:09] One of the things that I want to dig into a little bit more along the same lines is, how do you start to bring this understanding of why to teams? It’s easy… I almost said it’s easy to understand the what, but we just spent 10 minutes talking about how that’s not easy. But understanding the why, I think is even more compelling of a line of thinking. Because when you get the best and brightest at companies regardless of ability, accessibility outcomes become part of this diverse team because the teams are diverse. And back to another item that you said about the tokenization of people. You start to see it in the DNA of the products they develop. To extend the example a little bit more, when companies have forward-facing retail or commercial sites or apps that are accessible, but then their internal employee portals or their time entry and tracking systems are not, you can start to see this hypocritical breakdown of what we say versus what we do.

Sheri [00:15:03] Well, what you’re really seeing is you’re seeing a company that’s focused on risk and not on what’s best in general. So the reason why a lot of companies start with what’s public-facing is because of litigation. Strangers are much more likely to sue you than your employees. And given that people with disabilities frequently struggle to gain employment or they’re underemployed, it takes a lot to make people decide that they’re going to walk away from that because there could be a significant gap between next jobs. And then also, there’s the whole problem with health insurance. You know, people with disabilities need health insurance. And because in the US health insurance is linked to employment, that can present a significant issue. So, you know, I subscribe to the Richard Branson school of thinking about this, which is, if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers and not the other way around. But at least at a minimum, you never want to treat your employees worse than you treat your customers.

Paul [00:16:09] Well said. And digging into that why component…

Sheri [00:16:12] Ah, the why. Yeah, well, the why is really ingrained into the way I do things. So we have a series of Confluence pages at VMware where immediately after the what is the why. You know, we tie the two together. We never discuss the what without discussing the why. Because, you know, memorizing 50 guidelines, it’s like memorizing the 50 capitals of the states in the United States, right. It’s doable. Question is, what do you do with the information? Right? When you understand the why, you internalize it and you care. So the Y is much more about generating emotions and realizing, “if I don’t do that thing, I’m going to hurt these people. You know, I’m going to prevent them from being able to get a job where they can use this tool or, you know, I’m going to discriminate against them in some way where they can’t use a wedding registry that’s online.” That was a core of one of the very earliest accessibility litigation cases, which was 16 years ago.

Sheri [00:17:14] And those things matter. People with disabilities, we continuously pay what we call the disability tax: the amount of time, money, and effort that we have to spend doing something only because of our disability and the fact that our disability was not thought about when certain steps or processes were set up. So if I could not order my prescriptions online because I couldn’t zoom my screen large enough to see what I was ordering, it would take me an hour and a half round trip to drive down to the valley to get my prescriptions, where somebody who didn’t need magnification, they would just order it and it would be fine. So there’s money, you know, gas isn’t cheap, there’s time, and then there’s just effort and frustration that builds into everything.

Sheri [00:18:00] And just as a side note, before I forget, that’s one of the reasons why it’s so critical to get people with lived experience to provide you with feedback, right? Because we’re carrying levels of pain with our disability, we’re carrying levels of fatigue with our disability, we’re carrying levels of being fed up with people not thinking about our disability. So you can’t just take somebody who doesn’t have a disability, put a blindfold on them and say, “here, go test this.” Right? They’re not bringing the right mindset to them. It’s not an equivalency. So it’s really important when you’re doing user research, you got to make sure that you’re doing it with people with legitimate disabilities and not just doing these empathy-building exercises.

Paul [00:18:43] Hundred percent. And just to marry those two concepts that we’ve been dancing around these last two questions, understanding the why and building in the outcomes, I think the conclusion that we’re coming to is that the most important outcomes come from the most inclusive, diverse teams.

Sheri [00:18:58] Very much so.

Paul [00:18:59] Not to put too fine a point on the story that we’ve been weaving here, but the best way to start to build these accessibility outcomes is to build inclusive teams.

Sheri [00:19:08] Exactly. My number one indicator for how good an accessibility program is going to be is how strong is their disability employee resource group. Because if you have a strong disability employee resource group, that means you have a voice within the organization and you’re going to be more likely to be able to get and keep employees with disabilities. That’s literally the first thing I look for.

Collene [00:19:32] And Sheri, those employee resource groups are usually a feature or a hallmark of those large organizations that we were talking about. But there are some organizations of a couple hundred people, ours included, where a specific resource group might not be a tool that we have in our toolkit. So what are some of the other ways that you’ve seen organizations build accessibility muscle into their organizational design, into their expectations, into their skill building and competency building?

Sheri [00:20:06] So some of the things that you can do without an ERG would include, you know, celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day, bringing in, you know, outside speakers with lived experience. Look at some of the months. So July 25th is a big day because that’s the day the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. December 3rd is a big day because it’s International Day of People with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. So our Disability Employee Resource Group does drive a lot of activities on those days. We have a no mouse challenge where all of our executives agree not to use a mouse for, you know, a morning and then they actually report on their internal Slack channels, you know, what kind of experience was it? And usually, the answer is not good.

Collene [00:20:55] I can imagine. Are there questions that organizations should be asking themselves with consistency, everywhere all the time, to help build those muscles?

Sheri [00:21:07] Sure. So if your focus is getting more disabled employees, you need to look at your self-identification rate. And any company over 50 has to have that. And a company under 50 could have it if they wanted to. I don’t think they’re banned from it. It’s just not required. And the self-identification rate will tell you anonymously how many of your employees have identified anonymously as having a disability. Factor in that 60% of people don’t self-identify. And the main reason for that is 70% of disabilities are hidden. That’s a number that quite frequently astonishes people. You can see, you know, my daughter has hearing devices. You can see my wheelchair and my insulin pump, but you can’t see color blindness, you can’t see dyslexia, you can’t see multiple sclerosis, you know, many of the times in early cases. So those things frequently get missed.

Sheri [00:22:03] If those employees are identifying, then you’ve got a really strong culture because they could choose to hide that and they don’t. And there’s some great studies. So there’s a Harvard Business Review study on the cost to organizations of employees passing as non-disabled, and it’s enormous. Like, the anxiety rate reported by employees who are passing as non-disabled is four times the same rate for people without disabilities. And likewise, employee engagement is much lower for people who are passing. And it’s because they’re investing so much energy and living in fear that somebody is going to find out that they’re disabled. It’s viewing the disability as a negative. And in a really inclusive culture, you need to view the disability as a neutral or sometimes as a positive. And depending on where you’re attracting employees from, especially outside of the US, where they haven’t had the Americans with Disabilities Act, where there’s still buildings that people with disabilities can’t get into…

Sheri [00:23:03] There was just a huge protest in Mexico this past week over lack of wheelchair access. New York City even, you know, things aren’t all sweetness and light in the U.S. either. Only 25% of subways in New York City have elevators at all. And then, of course, at any given time, like a third of them are broken and they don’t tell anybody when they’re broken. So, you know, I might get off at a subway station and then have to get right back onto the subway and try the next subway station, because I can’t find an elevator or I can’t find a working elevator. Well, they just finally agreed to fix it in 2055. I’m not going to be alive when they finally make 95% of the subway stations in New York City accessible. So these are kind of the subtle, hidden, negative messaging that goes with disability that people who truly want to build a disability-inclusive environment at an employer really have to counter.

Paul [00:23:57] Yeah. Not all of the disability tax is owned by individual organizations, but we can certainly do more of our part to, I think as leaders and organizations, address the things that we are able to address. You know, we’ve been talking a lot about current, and you’ve mentioned a few future state, 2055 being some way off in the future. What are some more things that you have on your radar for changes coming down the pipe? I know Europe is looking to ratchet up some guidelines and some other legislation is currently in the works. What are some things that we should be on the lookout for, you know, both positive and things that you would like to see move a little bit faster?

Sheri [00:24:31] So one of the things that’s really important to me is that currently, technology is evolving faster than our ability to ethically use that technology. And when I say ethically use that technology, I’m including accessibility as part of that ethics. So we have VR and XR, but not all of it works for people who are deaf or who are blind. We have this Web 3.0 coming that’s completely decentralized. Well, how are we going to make sure that blockchain is accessible? Once we’re using blockchain for things like voting and bank transfers, if that’s not accessible, we’re blocking people who use assistive technology from being able to access that.

Sheri [00:25:11] So it’s important to me that as new technology evolves, people need to be asking themselves the question, “how would somebody with a disability use that?” Now, at VMware, we use disabled personas to do that. So we take our regular personas and we’ve got a couple dozen of them and we have a stack of disabilities that we can give the personas. So we might say, “Okay, we’ve got a cloud administrator, we’re going to give them migraines, we’ve got this other person, we’re going to give them carpal tunnel.” Because it impacts the way they use the technology. So that’s one way that you can do something without necessarily having to understand the why. It will help teach you the why as you’re checking your personas against your designs and making sure that those people can optimally use the software. So that future stuff is a little bit of a concern to me.

Sheri [00:26:01] You have to understand that the people who are writing the standards and the people who are turning the standards into laws are two different groups and they don’t talk a lot to each other. W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, owns the WCAG Web Content Accessibility Guidelines standard. It’s undergoing a pretty significant identity change right now as it’s moving from being a memorandum of understanding between four different universities to actually being an official legal entity that will be a nonprofit. So that’s going to be a pretty significant shift in the way W3C operates, which may in turn impact the guidelines.

Sheri [00:26:45] WCAG 3.0 has been underway now for about four years, and that’s going to be a pretty significant change. It’s not going to be backwards compatible with WCAG 2.X, so we’re looking at probably another three years before that comes out. So we’ve got seven years now projected to be invested in WCAG 3.0. And how much does technology evolve in seven years? A lot. So that’s one of the reasons why technology has to help by keeping those things in mind. You know, if you’ve got sound, you have to have a way to have captions. If you’ve got, you know, stuff that people can interact with visually, you have to have a way of conveying that to people who can’t see. Even if the standard doesn’t exist yet for the new technology, the ability to project what’s going to be needed isn’t that difficult.

Paul [00:27:38] Yeah.

Sheri [00:27:39] So the thing you were mentioning about the European Accessibility Act that’s kicking in in 2025. So it’s a little bit like EN 301 549, which is the current European mandate for accessibility. And that got passed before Brexit, so it applies in the UK, even though the UK is no longer part of the EU.

Paul [00:28:00] Interesting.

Sheri [00:28:00] But the European Accessibility Act is going to come afterward, so it’ll be interesting to see what the folks in England or the UK do with it. And then of course the way laws work in the EU, it’s a little bit like the U.S. in that there is a mandate, right? So the mandate comes from the federal agency and then each country implements their own particular flavor of it. Well, Germany, for example, has implemented an even stronger form of the European Accessibility Act. So that will include the sales of hardware and software. And if they are not accessible under the European Accessibility Act, that’s going to be an issue. And it’s no longer just for the public sector, which is what the current standard is for. It’s for all sales of software and hardware in the EU.

Paul [00:28:46] That’s fascinating. I think in there you might just have coined the quote of the podcast, that “technology is moving faster than its ethical use can keep up.”

Sheri [00:28:54] I don’t think I’m the first one to say that, but I might be the first one to apply it to accessibility.

Paul [00:29:00] Well, it certainly does encapsulate everything that we’ve tried to fit into this conversation. I just have two quick questions as we wrap up our time together today. First is, what sources of information, literature, inspiring TED talks or articles, do you go to for both inspiration and education? Where would you point an aspiring product manager first for a reference to catch up on some things if they’re new to this topic?

Sheri [00:29:23] Yeah. So one of my very first articles I wrote was called Advice for the Aspiring Accessibility Tester / Manager. So if you just search for my last name, which is pretty unique, and aspiring, you should be able to find it. And I did just update it a couple of weeks ago, maybe a month ago. Whenever I need to remind myself why I do what I do, I always go back to Stella Young’s TED Talk, “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much.” RIP Stella. She was a force to be reckoned with. And I like to think that I am now the force arguing for accessibility on her behalf.

Sheri [00:30:01] There’s some great stuff on LinkedIn learning. If you look at the, what’s called book of knowledge and you know, again, air quotes. IAAP, which is the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, for each of their certifications, they have an entire list of resources of all the information that they expect somebody who passes the certification exam to know. And you don’t have to take the certification exam, but all the knowledge is out there publicly. So going to the IAAP website and looking up that will find you a lot of articles.

Sheri [00:30:35] Lainey Feingold is my favorite lawyer resource. If you ever need a case explained, if I haven’t written about it, chances are she has. She works a lot in the area of structured negotiation, which is how to settle disputes related to accessibility without actually filing lawsuits. Having passed the bar, hm, how many years ago? Twenty-five now. I am of the belief that some organizations just need to be sued. I am not as patient as Lainey is. And so I don’t advocate for litigation, but I do acknowledge that sometimes it can’t be avoided.

Paul [00:31:13] Well, the resources that you shared, including the HBR case study a little while ago, we’ll certainly link all in the show notes here. I really appreciate you sharing all that. Last question, we’re coming up to 100 episodes in our podcast, and the last question that we try to leave with is asking for a unique definition of innovation of each of our guests. It’s been an adventure just listening to different perspectives on what that word can mean to different people. And I’ve been curious to know what your personal take on the definition of innovation would be.

Sheri [00:31:44] So innovation is actually part of my title at VMware. I’m a Senior Accessibility Architect, and my portfolio is Innovation and Outreach. Now, you might think innovation always means looking for the next shiny object. And my take on it is sometimes innovation is going back and looking at something that you’ve been doing for ten years and trying to figure out, you know, “how can we make this a better user experience and how can we make this more inclusive?” So I’m definitely against running for shiny new objects, except when those shiny new objects are accessible from the outset.

Paul [00:32:20] Wonderful. Well, Sheri, thanks so much again for taking the time. I learned a ton just in the short time that we had today. And I encourage everybody to follow up on those resources that you’ve mentioned and follow you on all the places where you’re talking about these things. Again, really appreciate the time.

Sheri [00:32:36] Well again, thank you for the invitation. Always happy to come talk about my favorite subject, which is accessibility.

Paul [00:32:43] Cheers.

Collene [00:32:44] Thank you.

Paul [00:32:47] Well, that’s it for today. In line with our goals of transparency and listening, we really want to hear from you. Sean and I are committed to reading every piece of feedback that we get, so please leave a comment or a rating wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Not only does it help us continue to improve, but it also helps the show climb up the rankings so that we can help other listeners move, touch, and inspire the world, just like you’re doing. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next episode.

 

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