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Spotlight: Nic Steenhout
What is your day job?
I am an independent accessibility consultant. I work with large and small organizations. I help them improve the accessibility of their websites. I guide them through the creation or improvement of their culture of accessibility. This includes changing how the organization and its people think about disabled people. And about accessibility. Training is a large part of what I do. I also audit digital assets. I do this through manual code review, functional testing, and some automated testing.
How has learning about accessibility impacted what you do?
As a wheelchair user, I learned about accessibility barriers firsthand a long time ago. Dealing with my own disability-related barriers in the built environment has opened up my mind to barriers in the digital world. I was lucky enough to work with many disabled people, who each had their own access needs.
I gained a broad understanding of accessibility through these experiences. I’ve been able to use concrete examples and real life anecdotes to illustrate why a particular item can become a barrier for disabled folks.
What’s one thing you’d want someone to know about doing accessibility work?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata” - Māori proverb (http://www.hetangata.com/what-he-tangata-about.html)
Accessibility work is about people. That’s the short of it. It’s about making sure everyone, regardless of their disability or impairment can participate. It’s about including people rather than excluding them.
Accessibility is not about a standard (Aside: WCAG is the starting point, not the target). Accessibility is not a checklist. Accessibility is a civil right.
Accessibility benefits disabled people. It also benefits anyone else who may have access needs - I’m not saying that to erase the disabled experience. Far from it. But let’s face it: Good contrast is good for folks with low vision. It’s also good for anyone trying to look at a website on their phone outside in full sun. Keyboard access is good for folks who can’t use a mouse or a trackpad. But it’s also good for the developer who is a CLI (Command Line Interface) power user.