A year ago today, I finished my work term at TELUS and was heading back to school. However, I had a new focus in mind. In my last blog post, I mentioned developing an interest in accessibility during my experience at TELUS. Prior to my first term with the Digital team, I was a very business and marketing-oriented person. As I headed back to school, my focus changed. I began to dive deeper into learning anything and everything I could about accessibility. During class case studies, I shifted from the usual designated “business” role to “accessibility specialist” so that I could apply what I had learned from all my research into practice. I knew it wasn’t enough. I needed to learn from real practitioners to see how I could make an impact.
You don’t need to be in the same room to share a space
Coming back to TELUS, it was very different. I took on a brand new role, and the team had gone fully remote due to the pandemic. Although the office camaraderie was something I had missed, the change to remote working also enabled us to develop working relationships in different ways. It put a spotlight on the importance of accessibility, especially in the digital space, for both team members and our customers. Our ways of working had changed as did our needs.
Working remotely can be mentally taxing and the support from team members is so important. Still, this enabled me to view things differently. I learned to celebrate the tiny achievements, like a good meeting, a task checked off my list, or something new I discovered that week. I became more appreciative of team meetings. These engagements were awesome and grounded me to reality. Our weekly stand-ups turned into weekly catch-ups where we could chat about random topics and celebrate our wins. These ways of working helped me prioritize my needs against work tasks and allowed me to recognize that it’s ok to prioritize my mental health first.
In my new role as a Design Coordinator, I was lucky to be in a position where I was able to expose myself to so many different experiences. This meant that I got to wear many hats whether it was running my own usability tests to coordinating accessibility onboarding sessions and guilds and everything in between. Working across Research, Accessibility and Design in the same squad, I was able to apply everything I had learned in school and learn so much more. Although our roles differ in many different ways, there’s also some intersectionality. It’s like working with a “dysfunctional” and yet highly functional family.
Being a part of such a reactive team, where my calendar was often filling up as fast as I was going through it, one of the biggest takeaways I’ve learned is the importance of advocacy. Whether this meant advocating for a better user experience or for stronger accessibility practices, advocacy became an integral part of my role. What drives every decision is not how, but why? This is a thought that is something I always need to keep in the back of my mind in the work that I do.
While business thinking is still very much a part of my process, the shift to accessibility allowed me to evolve my thought processes. Behind every decision, I began to consider why each decision is made and who it affects on a grander scale from a more inclusive perspective. While I still considered the business case, my lens had broadened and accessibility and inclusivity became an important factor in every decision I made. Ultimately, this led to better, more structured and stronger decisions. This is when something finally clicked for me - accessibility is not something that lives on its own but rather, it’s a part of your toolkit, to make you a stronger practitioner in the field you’re in. With every decision that we make, we need to remember what drives that decision and in doing so, that also brings meaning and value to everything we do. Although I can’t yet envision what the outcome of the work I’m doing now will lead to, I can say with certainty that it is meaningful and holds great value to something I care about at least.