One person extending a hand to another, helping them out of a ditch

Building a Stronger Accessibility Community in Europe (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK)

The best way to help someone in need is to extend a hand. You don’t get into the ditch with them. Sometimes, as an accessibility practitioner, the best way to help your organization is to brainstorm with other practitioners to strengthen the entire community. Learn from their mistakes. Capitalize on their successes.

AbilityNet and Deque recently partnered up to provide a confidential and open environment where UK and EU practitioners could gather together to learn each others’ successes—and avoid their missteps. To leverage “lessons learned” to fast track programs while not reinventing the wheel.

Recently, two small cohorts of digital accessibility thought leaders were brought together as an opportunity to meet their colleagues to discuss the present landscape and future of accessibility. These passionate professionals met to share information about their efforts in the accessibility community and collective experiences. They represented different industries such as finance, retail and key sectors such as government agencies. All have a vested interest in an accessible digital future.

Day 1 Attendees

Day 1 attendees meeting in front of Google’s London Office entrance: left-to-right: Mark Walker – AbilityNet, Heather Hepburn – SkyScanner, Matthew Johnston – Thoughtworks, Steve Harris – Deque, Lee Crooks – KPMG, Preety Kumar – Deque, Arnaud Ramgoolam – KPMG, Bryn Anderson – Sainsbury’s, Ron Beenen – Deque, David Musson – LSEG, Adi Latif – AbilityNet, Ronise Nepomuceno – BT, and Matthew Luken – Deque.

 “Everyone in attendance is part of the ‘choir.’  We don’t need to preach about the importance of digital accessibility to you as you are already living the challenges and successes of your own program”, said Mark Walker, AbilityNet’s Head of Marketing and Portfolio, at the inaugural session held in London this past June. “What you need to be able to do is to ask openly if anyone else has encountered a similar challenge as your own and what they did about it. This is a session for you – the choir.”

The two cohorts spent the morning in round table discussions led by Mr. Walker and Ms. Kumar.  Teams went on a tour of Google’s Accessibility Discover Centre led by Christopher Patnoe in the afternoon.

“Through the act of sharing our experiences, we gain a deeper understanding of the problems and challenges each of us is facing…but most importantly, we can offer help through ideas and collaboration. By sharing what worked and what didn’t work, we build on each others’ success or save ourselves time by not attempting something that has already failed somewhere else.” offered Preety Kumar, CEO Deque, in her opening remarks.

Day 2 Attendees

Day 2 attendees meeting in front of Google’s London Office entrance: left-to-right: Zoe Portlock – Hargreaves Lansdown, Ron Beenen – Deque, John Carter – KPMG, Neil Eustice – KMPG, Becky Brindley – Natwest, Eyal Yovel – Sauce Labs, Dónal Rice – National Disability Authority Ireland, Brian Grellermann – Aviva, Mark Rossiter – AXA, Steve Harris – Deque, Chris Bush – Nexer Digital, Martin Rafferty -Deloitte, and Karl Goldstraw – Hargreaves Lansdown.

From the attendees:
“Celebrate the small successes”, said Becks Brindley, Digital Accessibility lead from NatWest after day 1. “It’s progress over perfection.” Listen to day 1 highlights:

After Day 2, Heather Hepburn, Accessibility Lead from Skyscanner said: “Once you’ve trained once, it’s not over. You have to keep sharing knowledge and keep on talking about it all the time.” Listen to day 2 highlights:

This community building initiative will grow with the next session to be held in London on October 17th and 18th with a larger and more diverse group of attendees.  In addition to more round table discussions, the attendees will discuss metrics and measurements.

The insights gathered from these events will be used to help plan meaningful breakout sessions for Techshare Pro to be held online and in-person in London November 14–15, 2023 and Deque’s axe-con 2024, a free virtual conference, to be held February 20–22, 2024.

For more information, reach out to Ron Beenen , Deque Director of Business Development Europe.

*Video and photography by Eric van Nieuwland.

Photo of Matthew Luken

About Matthew Luken

Matthew Luken is a Vice President & Principal Strategy Consultant at Deque. Prior to Deque, Matthew built and ran U.S. Bank’s enterprise-level digital accessibility program. He grew the program from two contractor positions to a team of 75 consultants and leaders providing accessibility design reviews, compliance testing services, defect remediation consulting, and creating/documenting accessibility best practices across the company. The program leveraged 1,500+ implementations of Axe Auditor and almost 4,000 implementations of axe DevTools and Deque University. Matthew was also Head of UXDesign’s Accessibility Center of Practice where he was responsible for creating seamless procedures and processes that supported the digital accessibility team’s mission & objectives while dovetailing with the company’s other Center of Practices like DEI, employee-facing services, and Risk & Compliance. He and his team’s work has been recognized by American Banker, Forrester Research, Business Journal, and The Banker. In his user experience and service design backgrounds, Matthew worked with over 275 brands around the world, covering every vertical and category. He continues to teach User Experience, Service Design and Digital Accessibility at the college-level, as well as mentor new digital designers through several different mentorship programs around the USA.
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Comments 1 response

  1. Nice article Matthew! I really enjoyed meeting everyone, and I thought it was great to have an open forum, where people from a range of organisations (including competitors!) to share ideas in a collaborative way. Looking forward to future sessions!

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