overlay three people of color and one caucasian person exhibiting different forms of disabilities

The Difference Between Headshots and Headsh*ts

What is enjoyable accessibility?

Recently I was working with the Growth department on a small newsletter for Firefly Partners marketing outreach. As part of our renewed commitment to being champions for inclusion, we took a hard look at the accessibility of our own internal materials. Sadly, as organizations have pushed through this performative cycle of public declarations of DEI in this last year, there hasn’t been a lot of substance to back these conversations up. Firefly Partners has always passionately believed in equity and justice for the marginalized.

But how can we actually put this intent into actual impact? Where do we exist?

The difference between ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ is where Firefly comes into play. In ethics, ‘nice’ is the polite, non-boat-rocking societal norms that people find pleasant. Kindness is the action of showing that you care. Showing up each and every day to fight the good fight, and to even out the systemic inequalities that hold us back from being a better, more evolved species.

So the difference is in the millions of small decisions we make every day. When we follow up our declarations of inclusivity, that action is caring. We make marketing materials because we need to, for our business to survive. The ‘nice’ thing to do is to make them as accessible as possible. So we add alt tags, and work on our color contrast, and make sure that our links are underlined.

But then what?

The action of following through, and of caring for the betterment of humanity is our mission substance. So we stepped through this newsletter with an actual screen reader. Assistive technology gives access for individuals to self-empower. Our role as Fireflies is to make that assistive technology speak to the end-user in a way that brings usefulness, ease, and belonging. We need to bring enjoyment into accessibility. Beyond meeting ADA standards for legal compliance, we seek to bring the millions of small acts we do every day a little accessible joy.

While we quality-controlled the alt tags on our newsletter, we saw our blunder.

One of the tags used the descriptive term “headshots” to describe the avatar illustrations of our staff members. This is a widely used term, it’s easily understandable, it’s a good description of the item…so we thought! Until our screen reader proudly dictated “headshits” in a loud, steady voice. That’s a pretty bold mistake that we fixed right away!

Our best practices would have made this newsletter compliant, but our staff partnership is our “secret sauce”. In this work, we make it our renewed mission to approach every service, every client, every interaction with equitable digital practices. Let’s work together in tangible action to ensure that justice, equity, diversity, and accessible inclusion are the fabric of our existence.

Together we’ll make mistakes, learn, improve, and march forward.

Interested in talking about accessibility at your organization? Learn how and where to start

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