Empathy and Leadership

In May I attended and spoke at the John Slatin AccessU Conference sponsored by Knowbility. My good friend and retired IBM colleague, Richard Schwerdtfeger, was the keynote speaker. Rich was the Chief Technology Officer of Accessibility for the IBM Software group. He gave a great talk on “Empathy and Leadership, Where have they gone?” Rich outlined the importance of empathy and leadership in creating and driving the WAI:ARIA specification and ultimately advancing accessibility. He gives the back story of how accessibility helped to break Microsoft’s hold on browser dominance. It was a collective effort by many companies and individuals to drive ARIA, Web standards, and to ultimately improve accessibility within the Web. Leaders with empathy and understanding made the hard, but correct choices to push for inclusion for all. For those involved in accessibility, it is well worth watching. A recording is available on YouTube thanks to Philly Puddy Designs.

On a personal note, Rich’s talk was also a great ego boost and advertisement for me as he called out my participation several times. At 31:20 minutes in he calls out my work on the Dojo Open Source JavaScript Toolkit to incorporate ARIA and make it the first fully accessible JavaScript toolkit. Then at 34:00 he gives a few more kudos. Yes, I am bragging a bit, I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

Rich also gives credit to the many other folks who participated. If you ever get discouraged trying to advance accessibility, this talk will show you the benefits of empathy and passion as you push forward. If you want to learn more about accessibility from recognized leaders in the field, plan on attending AccessU. It happens each year in May. I hope to see you there.


About Becka11y

Web Accessibility Consultant with 30+ years in the software industry and 12+ years of direct accessibility innovation.