What do you do at Deque and how long have you been here?
I'm the Director of Training at Deque, and I have been here for a grand total of three months now, but I've been involved with web accessibility since 1999, so I may be new at my current job, but I'm kind of an old-timer in the accessibility field. I got my start in accessibility when Cyndi Rowland and I co-founded WebAIM, which has since become a well-recognized name in the field. My current responsibilities at Deque include preparing and delivering training materials, workshops, and classes for our clients on the full range of web accessibility topics, from the basic concepts through advanced interactive content. My job keeps me on my toes. I have to keep up with the latest techniques across multiple technologies and be ready to explain them at a moment's notice. Fortunately, I have access to a wonderful team of extremely knowledgeable accessibility professionals here at Deque, so I'm never completely alone.
How did you find Deque (or how did Deque find you)?
I had recently finished my doctoral studies and was in the early stages of preparing resumes to send out to potential employers when I noticed that the CEO of Deque, Preety Kumar, had looked at my LinkedIn profile. "Uh-oh," I thought to myself, because I knew that my profile was badly out of date and needed to be edited to reflect my recent accomplishments and current career goals. So I quickly edited my profile and sent a cover letter to Preety asking for an interview. Within days, I had been interviewed by three people at Deque and was offered the job of Director of Training, which I enthusiastically accepted.
What is your favorite thing about working at Deque?
I love being surrounded by so many qualified accessibility experts at Deque. It is both humbling and motivating. I'm happy to contribute my own expertise to the group, but I'm also keenly aware of how much there is to learn. I listen a lot! I also enjoy the considerable freedom that my position affords me to size up the training needs in the industry as a whole and make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. I'm in a position to influence things both within Deque and more broadly across the accessibility field, and I feel the weight of that responsibility. It's something I take quite seriously, and it gives me a sense of purpose in my professional life.
What interests you about accessibility?
First and foremost, what drew me to accessibility was the chance to do something useful with my life. I don't have a disability, so I don't benefit directly from web accessibility. For me, it's a way of living less selfishly, with more of an outward focus. It's too easy to think inwardly. My job helps me avoid that all-too-human tendency. And yet, perhaps some of it is still selfish, because I really want to see what my friends with disabilities can accomplish when they have an open, accessible pathway to achieve their hearts' desires. Everyone has something to contribute in this life. Some people's potential achievements, though, are continually blocked by unnecessary external constraints. I want to do my part to remove those constraints. Let me witness the innate beauty of the fully-enabled lives of other people!
What current topic/debate in accessibility that has caught your eye?
On a technical level, mobile accessibility is a hot topic that's only going to grow in importance. But my main personal interest at this point is at the educational and professional level. We need to make accessibility an integral part of all information technology training and degree programs. Too many people enter technology fields without a clue that accessibility is even an issue, let alone how to deal with it at a technical level. I'm not expecting every technology person to become a top accessibility expert, but they each need to have enough basic knowledge to know how to do the easy things, and to know when to seek outside expertise. Accessible technology needs to become the norm, not the exception, and that can't happen until accessibility knowledge is the norm, rather than the exception.
Desert Island Picks:
One album (music), one movie, one book, and one luxury item (assume you have food, water, shelter, and a radio - no boats/planes/etc. )
Album: a selection of masterworks by 19th Century French composers like Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, and Maurice Ravel, especially the hauntingly beautiful piano piece.
Movie: There are far too many good movies to choose just one, but I saw The Color Purple for the first time a few months ago, and it has stuck with me in a powerful way. I would be happy with that one.
Book: Les Miserables. Victor Hugo tells of suffering, sacrifice, forgiveness, love, and redemption, even -- and especially -- for the most imperfect among us. The multiple layers of moral contemplation woven into this narrative are enough to fill a lifetime.
...or maybe I'll just take a set of pens and a stack of blank notebooks and write my own book. That would be the only real way to keep from going insane on a desert island!
Luxury item: A companion with whom to share the experience.