Ally the ally
In honor of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (12/2), throughout the month of December we will be sharing stories from some of our Q&Able members. Q&Able is a community of problem solvers who work together to enable everyone — regardless of ability — to do more. We support and advocate for employees with disabilities and raise awareness amongst others. Q&Able makes it a priority to commemorate and celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities each year in order to spread awareness and empathy for this community, both within Qualtrics, and across the globe. Today we are sharing Ally’s story about her experience as an ally and champion for people with disabilities.
Throughout my time before and during my career at Qualtrics, I have been passionate about ensuring that people with all levels of ability are given a fair chance in whichever community they are a part of. By chance, when I started at Qualtrics I had an opportunity to assist in the work being done to make the XM Discover product accessible for screen reader and keyboard users. This project obviously has a very important business case in expanding our potential sales, but in working on this project, I have also been exposed to the real-life difficulties that many users experience when software is not designed with accessibility in mind. Our Product, UX, and Engineering teams have worked tirelessly to learn about all the technical ins-and-outs of achieving proper compliance, but a large part of our team knowledge-building has also centered around increasing empathy and awareness.
As part of my work involving product accessibility, I became aware of the Q&Able employee resource group, which works to make Qualtrics an inclusive place for people with disabilities and their allies to work. I realized that we didn’t have a Reston chapter of this group yet. I was lucky enough to be appointed as the chapter lead with my charter being building the chapter up from the ground. In May of this year, we held an event for Accessibility Awareness Day, which included encouraging people from across the Reston office to complete our Accessibility Champion training. Almost every employee has heard something about accessibility. It’s usually presented in the light of compliance or regulations which is usually not the most exciting topic. This training, however, really began to open people’s eyes about how inaccessible websites, software, and facilities can impact the lives and experiences of people with disabilities. There’s a difference between being told that you need to build a component so that it’s “accessible for screen readers” and seeing a video of a non-sighted user trying to navigate an inaccessible webpage with a screen reader. It’s difficult to not be empathetic when seeing the challenges of another human first-hand. It’s also important to consider that these accessibility improvements benefit all users, regardless of their level of ability. The example I like to give is Closed Captions. These are primarily an accessibility feature for d/Deaf people, but they can also benefit a fully able-bodied person who happens to be in a loud coffee shop, or watching a video at home with a crying baby or a barking dog. I hope that this month, keeping International Persons with Disabilities Day in mind, each Qualtrics employee takes a moment to consider what life might be like in someone else’s shoes.
September 21, 2022