One of the biggest draws for me when applying to work as a junior developer at Immersive Labs was the company’s ‘Inclusivity’ value. This value represents a commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity industry and creating a diverse and accepting workplace. Combining the value of ‘Inclusivity’ with one of our other values – ‘Customer Obsessed’ – leads naturally to a focus on digital accessibility.
What is A11yCon and why is it happening?
In the spirit of our commitment to accessibility, I’m thrilled to be rapidly approaching the second installment of our annual accessibility conference, A11yCon – a one-day event focused on accessibility. The conference is for Immersive Labs employees from departments across the company. While the conference is especially critical for our engineering, content, and design departments, colleagues from customer support, marketing, and other teams will be joining in to see how they can contribute to improving the accessibility of our platform.
A11yCon has two primary aims this year: to educate attendees about the value of accessibility for both individuals and the business, and to provide practical skills that we can apply in our everyday work. By hosting this event, we want everyone to know that we are actively working towards creating a more accessible and inclusive environment.
A11yCon will take place on Thursday, May 18, 2023, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, an annual campaign that raises awareness about digital access and inclusion. The conference will be a hybrid event, welcoming virtual attendees and in-person participation at our Bristol office, making it accessible to everyone.
What’s so exciting about it?
There are plenty of reasons that I’m so excited about the upcoming event. As a junior backend developer at Immersive Labs, I can’t wait to participate in a hands-on practical session on how to improve accessibility in the backend (and bust the common myth that accessibility is only relevant to frontend developers).
I’m also a member of the Accessibility Guild at Immersive Labs – a group championing this crucial topic across the company. So I’m really proud of the exciting array of technical and non-technical sessions that we’re going to deliver for all of our colleagues.
Possibly the most exciting thing for me is that, as a neurodivergent person with hidden disabilities, and someone who spent several years of my working life relying on speech recognition software, I can contribute to a day that increases the whole company’s awareness of how vital digital accessibility is.
What’s happening during A11yCon?
A11yCon is a conference packed with sessions designed to educate, inform, and inspire. We have lots of talks happening throughout the day, including topics like:
- Creating better products with accessibility
- The costs of retro-fitting accessibility
- How to use speech recognition software to control your computer
- Neurodiverse design patterns
- Accessibility in video games
- How to research accessibility
- Making a color system
- Writing accessible copy and the importance of using plain English
A highlight of the conference will be our smaller-group, practical, hands-on workshops, where participants will have a chance to engage interactively with some of the accessibility issues we address at A11yCon and that are vital for improving accessibility at Immersive Labs. These include:
- Demystifying alt text
- Compliance versus accessibility
- Exploring WCAG conformance
- Using speech recognition software to interact with the web
- How to prioritize accessibility bugs
- How to use a screen reader
- Identifying accessibility issues from user feedback
- Accessibility in the backend
The grand finale for the day will be a unique group scenario, based on our Cyber Crisis Simulator product, where participants will navigate through an accessibility crisis in an interactive session.
Progress, not perfection
At Immersive Labs, we’re not just talking about accessibility. We’re passionately working towards it every day. But we’re also aware that achieving true accessibility is a process, not an end state. We’re excited about our progress, but there’s a lot more to do.
As you can see in our accessibility statement, we’ve identified limitations in our platform and are working hard to address these. We’re approaching this from lots of angles, including accessibility audits, creating a design system for all of our components, improving our internal processes, and engaging the entire organization in the importance of accessibility. A11yCon is a crucial part of this work.
We’re also exploring ways to make our labs more accessible. We’re investigating research sessions that involve more disabled users to test the platform at different stages of the development process.
A11yCon is an important milestone in our ongoing commitment to improve the accessibility of our platform and our broader journey toward full digital accessibility. And it’s an opportunity for every Immersive Labs employee to contribute to a more accessible and inclusive world.
Accessibility isn’t just about compliance; it’s about making sure our products and services are open to everyone. So it’s fantastic to see our company put so much effort into raising awareness and promoting accessibility in our day-to-day work.
A11yCon is a testament to Immersive Labs’ commitment to inclusivity, and I can’t wait to see how it helps us grow and improve as a team. By embracing accessibility, we’re not just complying with guidelines – we’re working towards opening doors for everyone and striving towards a digital world without barriers.