“We need people to understand that accessibility is not a burden….It’s a benefit. It’s going to be a benefit in the way that you make design more usable for everyone,” – Alex
Years of Experience in tech: 9 years or more
Level of Accessibility Expertise: Advanced
I don’t have a background in accessibility; I was a product manager working on growth at a company called Script, a E-book and audiobook company. I was content in my world of AB tests and revenue generation and one day I left for a fishing trip with my dad and my brother. When I got back, I saw an email from our co founder, saying that we had been sued by the National Federation for the Blind and it looked like we were going to lose a lawsuit. We needed someone on the product side to implement accessibility and he said, “I trust Alex to do it.” I found that I cared more about accessibility than I did about growth and since then, there has been no looking back!
I believe that accessibility is fundamental different; it is a shift in how you think about developing products and making usable designs. By reading good code and creating more robust test plans, you make your product stronger and more usable by more people. Scaling accessibility accross a large organization is daunting, and every time I have a meeting with someone, I view that as a chance to win them over as an accessbility advocate. I want people to raise their hand and say, “Great this product is cool but have you considered accessibility?”.
What do you wish every leader knew about accessibility?
It’s a journey, not a destination.
You are not going to have some magic checkmark that says that you’re done. It will require a restructuring of how you think about making products from the ground up and it will take a lot longer than you think. So this journey, not a destination. Think of it like the concept of having a bug free software – there are always going to be bugs! Similarly, there are always going to be accessibility problems. The reward is your change in process, empathy, and how you are expanding your user base and the number of potential customers you attract. That’s what I wish all leaders knew.
What advice would you give others who are thinking about getting involved in digital accessibility?
You can enact change on any level!
At Nike, the reason this accessibility program exists is because of an intern who did her end of year project on something completely different but included a slide about accessibility. She had four bullet points and a couple of examples in the appendix on how the product was inaccessible. She was presenting to a senior leader about what she’d worked on that summer and she got up there and told this person who has 20 years’ experience, how the product was falling short in accessibility. His response was “Yes you are right, , this is something that we need to go further on.” She is the reason we have a program for accessibility.
What is one thing someone can go do today, to learn about accessibility in their lives?
Try to use assistive technology. Try to use products in a way that you are not used to.
Don’t use your mouse per day, turn on a screen reader, NVDA is free. It will help with developing empathy. You are never going to have a full understanding of what it feels like, but it will deepen your empathy into how people who are not like you, use a product.
Alex shares some wonderful stories that inspired him to switch his career into accessibility. Want to learn more on how Alex is starting an accessibility program and creating impact at Nike? Watch the entire interview or read video transcriptions below!
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