Axe-con logo and four badges for each of the axe awards

Axe Awards at axe-con 2023

Axe-con is about building accessible experiences, the mission of the conference is not only focused on bringing together the accessibility community and providing free content but to highlight the organizations that are leaders in the field of accessibility.

This year marks the third annual axe awards, named after a well-known Deque open-source project called axe-core. We are proud to announce this year’s winners of the axe awards below so they are recognized for their outstanding work in accessibility and so members of the accessibility community can turn to them for advice when building their accessibility efforts. Please join us in celebrating their efforts.

Apple – Accessibility Culture Award

At Apple, accessibility is more than just a checkbox or a compliance mindset; Apple has been innovating accessibility features for people with disabilities since before the establishment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and today Apple maintains its incredible track record of innovation by designing products, services, and experiences for everyone.

Over the past year alone, Apple’s culture of accessibility was reflected in the form of innovative Fitness+ audio hints, the use of American Sign Language and modifications that make workouts and meditations more accessible; Authentic casting on-screen, both in advertisements such as “The Greatest” and original content; Free customer support for sign language speakers, and more. This is what it means to have a deep cultural commitment to accessibility and inclusion. To go above and beyond hardware and software accessibility, to ensure accessibility every step of the way, requires a cultural foundation that is exemplified by Apple.

Many thanks to the teams at Apple that championed these programs and many others, your work continues to push the accessibility industry forward.

Microsoft – Accessibility at Scale Award

Deque is proud to award Microsoft with the Accessibility at Scale award for its mature and groundbreaking accessibility efforts. From Sticky Keys, a simple way to create shortcuts in Windows created in the early 1990s, to Seeing AI, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and Adaptive Accessories, accessibility is a part of Microsoft’s DNA.

Microsoft has accelerated accessibility across the enterprise, taking a holistic approach to accessibility built upon four pillars: technology, people, partnership, and policy. Microsoft believes Accessibility is a fundamental right and works holistically to embed it across the company. This starts with people, with hiring programs like the Neurodiversity Career Connector, and mandatory training for employees on accessibility to industry collaborations to solve problems like the disability data desert with the Speech Accessibility Project. Microsoft’s approach is a blueprint for Accessibility at Scale within a global business.

Microsoft tools empower users to collaborate and produce accessible content with features like Live Captioning and Sign Language View in Microsoft Teams, and Accessibility Assistant in M365. Microsoft authentically spotlights accessibility and shares best practices to help accelerate work to bridge the disability divide.

“We’re honored to receive the Accessibility at Scale Award from Deque. Microsoft remains committed to tackling the disability divide with a technology-led strategy, working through partnership, advocating on policy, and empowering disabled people to increase the bar of accessibility and disability inclusion. By working together, we aim to deliver technologies and programs that positively impact the lives of people with disabilities globally.”

U.S. Bank – axe Power User Award

We are excited to award U.S. Bank this year’s axe Power User Award. Their focus, drive, and commitment to providing accessible products and services led to the successful implementation of automated accessibility testing at scale.

As an organization, U.S. Bank offers the entire axe suite of accessibility tools, training, and ongoing support to all team members in the product development cycle, supported by the accessibility teams within UX Design, Technology, and Compliance. This wide cast net of incorporating axe tools, and support of those tools, has helped U.S. Bank to meet accessibility goals and standards and become a leader in the space.

The hard work of Heather Lee, John Scrivner, Becca Shieh, Harsh Pandey, and Daniel Ross in particular contributed to this achievement. A special thank you to Shivaji Kumar, Marissa Woodbeck, and Kelly Risser and their respective teams and leadership for their commitment to “move the needle” within the organization.

Citi – Longstanding Commitment to Accessibility Award

Deque is very proud to award Citi with the Longstanding Commitment to Accessibility Award for its unwavering commitment to practicing accessibility for the past ten years. Recently, their efforts have grown as they established a digital accessibility center of excellence (DACE) that monitors and manages accessibility efforts across Citi’s diverse lines of business that create digital content.

This new infrastructure was driven by leadership and a policy that increased lines of communication and operating authority. Now, teams within Citi monitor the pre- and post-production of products to ensure they are released with accessibility in mind.  Additionally, their culture of accessibility continues to grow and strengthen as their teams leverage Deque University for training and axe DevTools.

These impressive efforts are thanks to the hard work of the entire DACE team led by Michele Boutwell and Adam Jablow, with executive support from Dena Roten.  Their team is committed to continuing their journey of growth and plan to embed more automation into design and development processes to ensure that fewer accessibility issues reach production and that accessible content is seen as a true strategic advantage.

Jim Thatcher Lifetime Achievement Award

In addition to the axe awards, we were proud to announce the Jim Thatcher Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes an individual with an outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of accessibility. For those of you who don’t know Jim Thatcher, he was one of the early pioneers of web accessibility, before it was even a thing. Jim was on the team at IBM that created the first screen reader.

Jim was also a truly remarkable and empathetic human being who took great pride in his work. In the words of the great philanthropist, Bill Gates, “The final step after seeing the problem and finding an approach  is to measure the impact of your work and share your successes and failures so that others learn from your efforts.” Jim truly did that. And look at the impact his work continues to have.

This year’s award recipient was chosen by Diana Seidel, Jim Thatcher’s wife. Jenny Lay-Flurrie the Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft, is the winner of this year’s award!

“Her personal story and her work achievements in accessibility combine to make her an excellent recipient.” – Diana Seidel

Congratulations, Jenny for winning this award. On behalf of the accessibility community, we thank you for advocating for disability rights and being instrumental in programs that push the industry forward, like the Autism Hiring Program, Ability Summit, and Disability Answer Desk.

Headshot of JennyFrom Jenny: “Honoured and humbled to receive the Jim Thatcher Lifetime Achievement Award.

 In awe of Jim and his accomplishments, and to be part of the journey, along with so many other great accessibility professionals to drive an inclusive, equitable, and accessible future.” 

In Summary

Not only was this year’s axe-con momentous in size – but it highlights the astounding work that is happening by leaders and organizations in the field of accessibility.


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About Deque Systems

Deque (pronounced dee-cue) stands for digital equality. For over 20 years, our software, services and training have helped eliminate billions of accessibility barriers from websites, mobile apps and other digital content - improving the web for everyone, including people with disabilities.

We work with enterprise-level businesses and organizations to ensure that their sites and mobile apps are accessible. Our axe tools have been downloaded over one billion times by accessibility champions around the world. Our experts have implemented thousands of successful accessibility programs. Our training has impacted over a hundred thousand learners.

Deque is the digital accessibility industry standard.
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Comments 2 responses

  1. Jason – the axe awards for 2024 have already been determined. If you have a nomination for 2025, please submit it through the Contact Us form for consideration.

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