In the spring of 2015, while attending a conference about accessible technology in southern California, a casual conversation between accessibility leaders at Yahoo and Meta (formally Facebook) revealed a common concern: both organizations were committed to designing and developing accessibly, yet both were frustrated that their designers and developers had little-to-no knowledge about the subject so they were training their colleagues on the basics of accessible design and development.
It was from this discussion that the greater problem became clear – core courses in Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, User Experience Research, Design, Web Development, and other related departments needed to include this subject matter and reach the greater numbers of future tech builders and designers.
Leaders from Yahoo and Facebook founded Teach Access with the goal to be the changemakers addressing the Accessibility Technology Skills Gap. Other companies experiencing the same concerns quickly joined the initiative including Adobe, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Intuit, Walmart, Apple, and more. A core group of dedicated thought leaders began meeting regularly and reached out to colleges and universities to enlist the help of faculty to drive critical curriculum changes. Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, Olin College, Rochester Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Towson University, University of Colorado, University of Michigan, University of Southern California, and University of Washington were some of the first institutions to join Teach Access efforts.
In the spring of 2016, Teach Access held a Kickstart Workshop at Yahoo headquarters in Sunnyvale, California that was attended by practitioners from industry, academia, and disability advocacy organizations. The group developed a set of high-priority principles and goals including the efforts to add the teaching of accessibility as a requirement for accreditation in Computer Science and Design, which is how Teach Access evolved into our current initiatives within higher education. Additionally, an early win included partner companies adding simple and straightforward language to job postings: “Knowledge of accessible design and development preferred (or required).”
Today, many corporations, universities, and advocacy partners have joined the Teach Access effort helping guide our vision of reaching 1 million students by 2030 and creating a more accessible future for all.
We believe this goal can be achieved
To tackle these challenges, our objectives are:
To include accessibility and universal design principles in the curricula of computer scientists, designers and researchers in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education;
To foster expansion of accessibility in higher education through approaches such as internships, challenge grants for research and curriculum development and industry partnerships. These initiatives will focus on practical applications for accessibility including open-source projects and research studies;
To build online learning tools that reflect and teach accessibility best practices. To make these tools widely available to individuals, companies and organizations;
To develop job descriptions that include preference for accessibility knowledge, to increase accessibility focus within recruitment activities and to extend the post-secondary foundation through “on the job training” in product and service development.