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The company is a leader in accessibility, and Manish Agrawal, a senior program manager at Microsoft takes the mission of building more accessible tools, software, and products to heart. Much more than a compliance exercise or checkbox, Agrawal says that accessibility must be a core part of building a better minimum viable product for all users.
Here are some strategies to keep in mind when you’re advocating for accessibility at your organization.
Advocate for accessibility early and often: When working with Microsoft’s internal engineering and design teams, Manish advocates for prioritizing accessibility during the very beginning of the engineering and design process. This is because making core engineering and design changes to make a product or service accessible becomes more difficult as it gets further down the line. When accessibility is a core part of product design, it ends up being usable for all users with or without disabilities or in a range of situations that might be overlooked otherwise.
Solve for one, extend to many: No matter where you are in this journey, it’s important to understand all of your end users and how they will benefit from accessible and inclusive design, whether they have disabilities or not. For example, it’s common for a viewer who is deaf to use closed captions to follow along with a video. What isn’t as obvious is that people who are not deaf or hard of hearing also benefit from closed captioning—think of individuals who use subtitles to avoid waking someone while they watch TV or watching a game while sitting in a noisy restaurant or bar.
Understand how users with disabilities may interact with your product or service: Learn more about users with disabilities and the assistive technology they use. That will help if you’re a software developer working on a certain feature, UX designer building out an experience in a product, or anyone in between. To demonstrate the importance of accessible and inclusive designs to designers and engineers, Agrawal will walk through a user interface they designed and developed using assistive technology like a screen reader. This helps teams identify potential usability problems.
Accessible and inclusive design is a core part of building better products, and it’s a core priority for Microsoft.
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