Published: 6 Feb 2022

All Change

I'm a month into my new job. Like anyone, I had initial worries about how it would go, especially as I had been so happy in my old job. It wasn't like I left my old job because I was bored, had difficult colleagues or that the company was terrible to work for. My old team were awesome - you couldn't have asked for better colleagues! My clients were great too. It actually broke my heart a little to leave them. So I was a bit nervous that it might not turn out to be a good move. But I'll be honest, two things motivated me to move:

  1. A role that was entirely focussed on accessibility. I mean, I'm passionate about it! I live accessibility, day-in, day-out. There's a lot I still need to learn but it seemed like the dream job.
  2. Civil Service pension scheme - I know, that's almost as shallow as being drawn by a huge pay rise, but my pension is pretty shocking with all the moving around I've done and ten years in the Civil Service could rescue me.

Fortunately, a month in, my initial impression is that I've made the right move. My new team have been welcoming and supportive. They are all passionate about accessibility and... very important... they know a lot of stuff about it too!

What's the job?

Well, at the moment, I'm still discovering the answer to that. My role sits underneath Craig, the Head of Accessibility. I'll come back to him in a minute. Then I have a team of six accessibility testers. They use various assistive technologies to check that all our products (internal and external) work properly with JAWS, ZoomText and Dragon and that they comply with WCAG 2.1 at AA level.

Our team has a wider remit than purely testing though. We're about strategy too... and that is the bit I am thinking about at the moment. Let's go back to Craig. Almost a year ago, he wrote a blog post called Defining a Strategy for Accessibility. What I like about this is the triangle/Venn diagram part.

The Education part of this leapt off the page at me. I sometimes feel like all those years spent in education, teaching, leading, etc. are gone. The truth is, no experience is ever without value. I'm still a teacher. I can still educate. So that's where I'm starting out. No doubt I will post more in the coming months.

What have I learned so far?

This is a question I often ask myself, at pretty regular intervals, but especially when I'm new to something. I'm a month in. What have I learned in that month? Well, if I wrote about all that I've learned in the last month, there is a huge risk that I might break the Internet. You know like when we all started ordering lateral flow tests in the run-up to Christmas and the system couldn't cope? So I'll pick out my top three.

1. MacBooks - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I fell out with Apple (big time) many years ago and resolved to never buy another Apple product as long as I lived. Trouble is, you can't always be too choosy with work IT kit, and I discovered that I was getting a MacBook. A piece of my heart died!

I've had my MacBook a few weeks now and I have to admit, I'm growing to quite like it. It's good in some ways. I like the look and feel of it. I'm enjoying using it for coding. I've got into VS Code, GitHub and Terminal - all totally new to me but pretty cool stuff! It's also made for some enjoyable banter with my sons (both software devs) as we WhatsApped about my toe-dipping into their world.

I was rather disappointed though with the speed of it. Apple fans have tried to sell me this product, based on it being so much faster than a Windows PC. Well, it took the tech guys most of a morning to set up. It starts up and shuts down at much the same speed as a normal laptop. I still have to wait for it to open apps. The only difference is that they bob up and down on the taskbar which only highlights the fact that I'm waiting. So I think that's bad.

Finally, for the ugly. Nothing is compatible with it! Charging leads, mouse, keyboard... The whole world uses standard, interchangeable equipment and then Apple just does its own thing. I suppose many people like this but I think it strenthens a division that didn't need to even exist.

2. Document Accessibility

Don't misunderstand me, web accessibility is very important... critical... essential. However, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that document accessibility is where the most work is still to be done. Even people who don't know much about accessibility, might know it's about websites. And that means it's all someone else's responsibility.

I don't intend to use screenshots much, as they border on that Images of text issue, but this snippet from a conversation I had this week with a friend, illustrates what I'm seeing everywhere.

Screenshot of a WhatsApp chat suggesting that accessibility is only about websites, so not known by normal people.

So document accessibility is something I desperately want to raise awareness of. Why? Because it's something everybody does. And once everybody gets something, then you get culture change.

3. Pixels vs Rem

I'll be honest, I probably should've known this. I had no idea that pixels were problematic for accessibility. Again, Craig wrote a blog post about font sizes. It made me decide to change this website and that was when I decided to totally revamp it.