The Question Still Remains: How Do I Know You Know Accessibility?

Handouts Media

Presented at 10:30am in Cotton Creek I on Friday, November 17, 2017.



  • Michele Williams, UX Researcher - Accessibility, Pearson
  • Mallory van Achterberg, Javascript Developer and Accessibility Specialist, Pearson

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


People without accessible technology expertise are often the decision-makers for procurement, design and development, and hiring specialists. While many efforts are working to change this trend, this talk seeks to give practical tools for evaluating candidates, contractors, and products.


Despite the formation of IAAP and the start of movements such as Teach Access, schools and edutech companies still may need to assign decisions regarding procurement, design and development, and even hiring of internal and external specialists to people with little-to-no accessibility exposure. While universal access is a goal and mandate for higher ed and edutech companies, this lack of knowledgeable decision-makers can lead to wasted efforts and errant outcomes for universities and companies even when intentions were good. This talk seeks to fill in the gaps and give non-experts practical tools for evaluating candidates, contractors, and products. This includes distinguishing types of accessibility expertise, understanding background experiences that help indicate expertise, and questions to ask and responses to expect when interacting with vendors and candidates. We also welcome discussion from the crowd on how they have handled this issue in their roles.


  1. Evaluating accessibility expertise
  2. Interviewing candidates and vendors
  3. Understanding accessibility without being an expert

Disability Areas

Topic Areas

Administrative/Campus Policy, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Michele Williams

Dr. Michele Williams is currently a Senior User Experience (UX) Accessibility Researcher at Pearson. She holds a doctorate in human-centered computing from University of Maryland Baltimore County and has 13 years of education and industry experience in UX research and design, software engineering, and accessibility. This includes previous roles as a Voice User Interface Designer and Accessibility Consultant. During her PhD matriculation she conducted user-centered research with people with disabilities to create new technologies at Microsoft and Toyota. Findings of her academic research appear in two journals and many conference proceedings including the ACM ASSETS Conference. She is passionate about ensuring universal design is included from beginning to end within all consumer technology, but particularly the higher education technologies that immensely impact user life outcomes.

Mallory van Achterberg

Mallory van Achterberg is a Javascript Developer and Accessibility Specialist at Pearson. She's helped to code accessible front-end Web technology for 8 years. Over those years she has been active in the development community throughout the US and Netherlands (where she is based). This includes frequenting many in-person meetings such as CSUN and Fronteers, and engaging in accessibility online such as via Twitter and SitePoint forums. She is also an advocate for open-source software and is often vocal against practices that marginalize access.