At the very beginning of my career, heck as I was studying to start it, in web design and development I took a course on the laws surrounding web design. It was a short course and really only covered how Section 508 applies to building software for the government and their contractors. But during that course something happened. I took what it had to say to heart and tried to incorporate it in all my work as best as possible.
This was definitely a smart move as I landed my next three jobs because I knew about Section 508. Then something more happened. As I began working on sites to make them accessible to all, I began meeting and interviewing people with different needs and asking them how they use the web and what they’d like to see improved. This led to epiphany number 1: These people were just like me.
I know that doesn’t sound good, but I grew up in a primarily white, upper middle class, east coast community. I went to an expensive art school in college, that despite being in NYC had very few minorities I was exposed to because it was so expensive and offered few scholarships at the time. I thought “disabled” meant “couldn’t do something”. But it didn’t. In fact it’s a horrid word to use.
One person I know can’t see. But he can navigate most of his world through hearing. Can you do that? I can’t. His ear for music justifies headphones and speakers worth hundreds of dollars. Mine can’t justify $50 headphones. He types at least twice as fast as I can because I rely too much on seeing the keyboard. Which one of us is “disabled”? I think we are differently abled.
So with this in mind, I began to reach out to people of this marginalized community to get to know them more. And then I had epiphany number 2: These people are brilliant and amazing. Actually that doesn’t encompass it well enough, the are BRILLIANT and AMAZING. Yes, all caps is needed here.
The people I met are super intelligent, creative, patient, passionate and compassionate. They have discovered methods and tools to accomplish many of their goals, which are usually the same as yours and mine. Yet, despite being able to prove the desire and skill to do what drives them for a living, they are denied employment.
That’s the dream: To build a design and development agency comprised primarily of people that have the skills but are denied the opportunity because something allows the government to call them “disabled”, because they are not. Now I know this is easier said than done. First, it would be a virtual agency as these folks are spread across the country. It would take significant investment to make sure the team would have all the tools needed to do the job and some of those adaptive tools will get expensive. It will take understanding clients because the speed of delivery will be vastly different than that of traditional agency. It will take account managers and project managers that can keep it all on track. But there isn’t a reason why these people can’t work, they just need the tools and the opportunity. If you are interested in helping me build this, contact me, I know developers, designers, and security people I’d like to give jobs to.