Improving accessibility on ThoughtWorks.com
Accessibility audit and developer
For two and a half months I worked with ThoughtWorks.com reviewing their accessibility, and how it was working for users. Through working with a school for the blind in Pune, and UXers on my team, I delivered numerous workshops, organised user research and automated an accessibility monitoring tool.
I worked with stakeholders from Brazil, US, India and UK, I helped research, design, build and monitor accessibility, not only into the website, but the mindset of the Manchester office.
Marginally improve accessibility on ThoughtWorks.com
Knowledge share and inspire fellow colleagues to take accessibility into consideration
UX ThoughtWorkers from all over the world were pinging me with accessibility questions and articles, just showing a glimpse of the outreach and impact I made
I presented my project at the TalkUX conference and other meetups about accessibility
I was being hired as a graduate consultant by ThoughtWorks!
During the project I conducted user testing, mostly remote with a school for the blind in Pune called TechVision. Setting up interviews and meetings over Skype and Hangouts we discussed accessibility requirements for a website.
ThoughtWorks prides itself on its diversity, with 30 offices in over 13 countries. I was able to use the diversity of colleagues by asking for opinions around the office, setting up remote testing in countries like India and finally showcasing to our clients in Brazil.
Throughout my project the majority of the beginning involved a lot of desk research. I discovered how to use a screen-reader, which screen-readers were popular among the community like JAWS and their shortcuts. Blog posts came in handy for me, specically this blog called Things I learned by pretending to be blind for a week, specifically aimed for those able to see and delving into accessibility.
TechVision taught me about accessibility for the visually impaired, including assistive technologies and inaccessible experiences I can look out for.
I was invited to work further with TechVision during my training in India. Here I continued my user research and was shown how a braille printer works, how the school affects blind people's lives and was given a demonstration of how a blind person uses their computer.
A strong belief at ThoughtWorks is by making yourself invaluable, you make yourself valuable. Sharing knowledge is vital for any team, especially in an agile environment. Through lunch and learns in the office, not only did I raise awareness of what I was doing, but I was able to take advantage of the office diversity. I gathered opinions from colleagues all over the world. Leading on from this I was invited to a client site where accessibility was a legal requirement, to present my research. My slides were then requested by the client to use in a future accessibility event.
The first challenge I quickly faced with regards to my team's approach to accessibility was that it was going to be a one time consideration. As a developer I was able to pair with my team members to make sure that we had the tools and they were on our build monitors to ensure we were monitoring progress. I was able to setup Pa11y, an automated accessibility testing tool, which provisioned itself and continously monitored our pages. Pa11y is also a great tool for visualising the number of errors and warnings of accessibility issues and can be checked against all levels of WCAG 2.0 regulations and Section 508.
Unfortunately at the end of my two month project I feel I had taken too long on research and still failed to ensure in every story that accessibility was a core focus. Unfortunately in the last feedback session with TechVision the website only received a score 2/5 for its accessibility.
If I was to do this project again, I would have taken a complete step back from development and made sure I focused on the user experience. Unfortunately ThoughtWorks do not hire graduates for user experience and I had to balance both my passion for UX and demonstrating my skill and worth as a developer.