The Human Resources team has spent some time speaking to people in positions that require knowledge of Accessibility and related skills. We’ve compiled some tips and information we think may be useful for those seeking a job in the field. In this post we hear from three highly qualified individuals with a great deal of experience in this area:
Sheri Byrne-Haber is a Senior Accessibility Evangelist, speaker, and blogger who serves as the Head of Accessibility/CX Ambassador at VMware. Sheri holds 3 degrees: a B.Sc. in Computer Science, a JD, and an MBA from the Business Idea Development Program at the University of California.
Malcom Glenn is the Head of Global Policy for Accessibility and Underserved Communities at Uber. Malcom is also on the board of directors for BUILD Metro DC, an organization that assists high school students from low-income backgrounds, and the World Institute on Disability. He holds a BA in History from Harvard College.
Shannon Urban is the Director of Accessibility at EVERFI, an e-learning company. A former music teacher, Shannon has held the role of Senior Project Manager at several companies before moving into her current position.
Check out our hiring profile posts for other positions as well to gain more tips for succeeding in the work world!
What Skills and Experiences are Must-Haves for Accessibility
- Project Management
- Community Engagement
- Good Listening Skills
- Communication Skills
- Product Management
- United States Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Laws
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Standards
- Build out the accessibility roadmap and statements for the company, and work with third party vendors for formal testing and Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) development
- Be able to respond to Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and meet with customers regarding their specific concerns.
Common Interview Questions
- How do you overcome objections?
- What direction do you see accessibility going towards in the future?
- Describe how you’ve worked with many cross-functional partners to complete a project.
- How would you convince a leadership team to prioritize accessibility-related projects?
- What kinds of things would you do to improve our platform’s accessibility?
- How would you leverage relationships with external parties to make internal change?
- Describe some of the key challenges in making both digital and physical platforms accessible.
- The most common interview questions would be around your knowledge level regarding the following: WCAG and accessibility laws, your experience using various assistive technologies and scenario based questions about how you would work with different facets of the business.
Abilities and Experiences That Make Candidates Stand Out
- Be able to take something that already exists and make it accessible
- Introduce something original to the accessibility space
- Level of technical/engineering/coding skills
- Managing experience
- Attending CSUN Assistive Technology conferences and taking classes/certifying with International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) would definitely help you stand out. Beyond that, it’s about direct experience.
What They Love Most About Accessibility
- User Research
- The breadth of different people and the diversity of those experiences
- I really enjoy working with so many different departments within our business as well as working directly with our customers. I like building out a roadmap, training teams and then seeing all of that hard work pay off with increasingly more accessible products.
What Challenges They Face Day to Day
- Support functions, corporate websites, marketing material, documentation, training, surveys and all third-party components have to be accessible as well for the end-to-end experience to be completely and independently navigable by a person with a disability.
- Accessibility is a behavior that is not frequently rewarded on the product-side of the house.
- It’s challenging to translate the feedback I get from external parties into internal action.
- There’s an inherent inescapable bureaucracy that comes with a large company, and sometimes it can be slow to find the right people to get something done. Big projects require reviews and engagement from many people across the company, and there is always demand for those peoples’ time.
- Working with people who have very little understanding of accessibility and why it’s important, and who may not want to change the way “they’ve always done” things
What Steps They Took to Secure a Job
- Advocate for deaf individuals. (Sheri’s daughter, who is deaf, inspired this movement).
- Hired onto the compliance department at Kaiser Permanente, stumbled into the accessibility department, and had the right background to enter this space
- Started working in technology almost seven years ago, and transitioned to Silicon Valley. That led Malcom to Uber. Malcom then started to focus on underserved communities and making technology accessible to all.
- My first major project as a product manager was to make our solution more accessible, and I fell in love with accessibility then and there. For the next several years as a product manager, I had a lot of other responsibilities and priorities, but I made a case everywhere I worked to bring accessibility to the forefront. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m persistent and convincing. After several years, I stepped back and realized I wanted to focus on accessibility 100%.
What They Would Share with Students Hoping to Work in Accessibility
- Have logical empathy
- Be good at making distinctions
- Having a disability isn’t required
- Accessibility is a space that will always have endless opportunities
- Join the Trusted Tester Program
- Strong communications skills – both written and verbal
- The ability to navigate ambiguity – you’re not always given clear direction but often have to show results and lead on projects
- Great teamwork skills – inevitably you’ll need to rely on many other people in order to get things done, and they’ll need to trust and respect you
- Compassion and empathy – you’ll hear complaints about how your company should be doing better, and you have to keep in mind the challenges that people face and be able to relate to why they feel the way they do
- Comfort with change – institutions like these are notorious for changes in strategy, resource-allocation, and leadership, so being ready at any time will help you thrive
- Be passionate.
- Don’t be afraid to keep persisting.
- It takes time – small changes over time, slow and steady is the best way. Don’t expect miracles overnight.
- Recognize that a lot of people may need a lot of hand-holding and convincing.
Possible Job Titles for Accessibility:
|Accessibility Specialist||Digital Accessibility Developer||Director of Accessibility||Chief Accessibility Officer|
|Accessibility Evangelist||Coordinator Educational Access||Accommodation Coordinator||Accommodations Technician|
|Digital Accessibility Consultant||Director of Disability Resources and Accessibility||Access Specialist||Accommodation Support Specialist|
|Senior Accessibility Analyst||Alternative Media Production Assistant||Transitional Specialist||Assistive Technology Specialist|
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