PM-led Accessibility: Shepherding the Accessible Design and Development Process

PM-led Accessibility: Shepherding the Accessible Design and Development Process

Recoding Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Length: 1.5 hours
Speaker: Robert Jolly, Sr. Web Accessibility Strategy Consultant, Knowbility
Target Audience: Project and Product Managers, Executive Stakeholders, UX/Designers, Developers, QA
Skill Level: Beginner

Register for "PM-led Accessibility: Shepherding the Accessible Design and Development Process"


Project and Product Managers can and should play a vital role in ensuring accessibility is part of the ongoing work of designers, developers, and other stakeholders. I'll present a framework using real-world experiences to shepherd even the most stubborn team members into practicing their craft with accessibility in mind. You'll leave this session with strategies and toolkits to employ in your ongoing project work to ensure accessibility successes.

In this session, we'll explore how many digital projects are run, how accessibility is factored (or isn't) into the process, and where project and product managers (PMs) can play an effective role in ensuring success. The following outline gives a brief look at the key points that will be covered during this talk. 
  1. Overviews of how website/app projects are run
    • Waterfall
    • Agile
  2. Project and Project Managers - the typical role they play
  3. When does accessibility happen on most projects?
    • After the project launches
    • During QA
    • Throughout the project (when we're lucky)
  4. Who typically leads a11y in those cases?
    • (After) consultants
    • (QA) QA, consultants, or a11y SMEs 
    • a11y SMEs
  5.  IDEA: PMs can be the a11y SME and champion on the team
    • PMs (like all roles) need to understand a11y
      • How & where to develop that knowledge and skillset
      • Determine when to bring in additional a11y SME help on projects
    • PMs have unique visibility across entire project
    • PMs are facilitators already, so adding a11y makes sense
    • PMs lead via empathy exercises and role-based a11y requirements tracking
  6. Strategies and Toolkits for PMs
    • Strategies
      • Executive education and buy-in (top-down)
      • Team-level communications about a11y (grassroots efforts)
    • Tactics, tools, and toolkits
      • Risk (legal, financial) mitigation
      • Awareness and empathy-building exercises
      • Requirements frameworks with role-based matrices
      • Communication playbooks for a11y - building and using them for success
      • Retrospectives for a11y improvements


  • What is role-based approach to accessible design and development?
  • How can Project Managers be accessibility champions and guide team members who aren't fluent in a11y?
  • How can this approach be introduced into my organization's project structures or methodologies?

Speaker Bio:  

An accessibility-focused Project Manager with nearly 20 years in the industry, Robert Jolly has worked on award winning sites for teams including Studio Zeldman, Knowbility, Happy Cog, Seven Heads Design, SuperFriendly, Big Medium, and Simply Accessible. 

He is a member of the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), where he promotes web accessibility to a global audience of professionals by developing educational content in the form of tutorials, examples, and other documentation. Additionally, he evangelizes web accessibility through events and conferences for designers, developers, and project managers. 

When not online, Robert may be found with his family, riding his bike, or at a nearby Waffle House.   

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