“There is a saying from the community which goes along the lines of…. Nothing about us without us, and nothing without us at all. ” – Sara
Accessibility Evangelist at Google
Years of Experience in tech: 9 years or more
Level of Accessibility Expertise: Advanced
To me, accessibility is about equity, and innovation for disabilities. I believe it is a human rights issue. I have a research background and I started out studying Speech Pathology with the goal of working in speech therapy, where I was working with people one-on-one in a clinical setting. But I wanted to leverage my skills and use them more broadly to create greater impact within the accessibility and disability community. At Google, accessibility and disability inclusion work has broad impact on the overall company, and can influence the broader external community as well. One of the things that brings me great joy is my involvement with the community through our Employee Resource Group, Disability Alliance, where I have the privilege to serve as President. This gives me a close, frequent, direct pipeline into the community, and community input has a huge influence on the decisions we make.
It is crucial to not only create a culture that is inclusive of people with disabilities, but to also hire people with disabilities into companies and organizations, so we can all work together to build an inclusive world!
What is one of the greatest challenges that we face in making accessibility part of a more common everyday practice in industry?
The issue is always prioritization.
Prioritization is often determined in terms of how many people are impacted by a particular product or feature. We need to shift the mindset so that prioritization looks at more than just the raw numbers. Another challenge is: Accessibility is hard. I know we like to say things like, “If you bake accessibility in at the beginning of your project, it will be less complicated than trying to retrofit at the end.” This is true. But I have also seen teams that are eager to build accessibility into their products, and there are still many hurdles in terms of know-how and inaccessibility of platforms or frameworks. It takes work and needs to be maintained and re-tested as teams add new features and functions.
What advice would you give a leader in an organization who is thinking about getting involved in digital accessibility?
Create an Employee Resource Group (ERG) around disability if you don’t have one. Join an ERG!
Disability-themed Employee Resource Groups will automatically give you more exposure to the community. Also, make sure “disability and accessibility” are always part of your conversation. If you are giving a talk somewhere else, on some other topic, you can still weave disability into your talk. You need to demonstrate that this is important to you, important to the company, and that it fits into everything that the company does.
Sara shares some wonderful stories about creating impact at Google through her work within accessibility. Want to learn more about how Sara is influencing the culture at Google, and how you can learn from her experiences to create change at your organization? Watch the entire interview or read the video transcription below!
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