Beyond the Usual, Passive DEI Efforts in Tech

A11Y:Inclusive Design

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Manny Becerra as a child

I'm a big proponent of inclusive and people centered design, not just with the digital products and user experiences I have the opportunity to work on and help create, but in my daily life. I also believe that System centered design is just as crucial of a mindset and process to be conscious of. As technologists—whether direct or indirect contributors and creators of technology solutions—we have a social responsibility to be mindful of how our perspectives and beliefs—biases!—can either contribute to oppressive Systems or help dismantle them.

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Designing for inclusion isn't just good for people with special needs and abilities, it's good for everyone; it's about creating a better, just world for everyone.

In other words, through our work, we can either maintain the unjust, status quo or be active redesigners for justice for everyone. Through our work, we can either create more access opportunities to education and mentorship, including technology, health and economic resources, particularly to historically marginalized communities or maintain barriers-of-entry.

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Manny has always proven to be a competent leader. Always willing to lead the pack from the front and push for the best in himself and others. — Eric Ritchey, Staff Engineer, Design Systems @ Tesla

It's Good for Everyone

Designing for inclusion isn't just good for people with special needs and abilities, it's good for everyone; it's about creating a better, just world for everyone. Inclusive design expands your product’s reach, can be a great catalist for innovation, and helps—demands!—your team take on a position of social and economic responsibility.

For a lot of people, accessibility in your products isn't a luxury, it's a necessity; access to information and electronic technologies is a civil right.

Where to Start

Anti-racism

Let's be up front: many points of exclusion, at least for Black, Indigenous and other people of color, revolve around racism, more specifically, being the recipients of racist acts that range in form and delivery from microagressions to outright hate and brutality.

Understanding how and why people are excluded can help establish concrete, actionable steps towards being more inclusive, and this starts with one's self and our actions. So, if you strive for inclusion in your workplace and products, for instance, start by check your privilege and your actions and ask yourself: am I helping or harming? Am I including or excluding?

Tech and Products—the System!—of Inequality, Inequity, and Oppression are by design by those in power. Leverage your privilege and power to redesign and undo flawed tech and product ecosystems.

Even if you consider yourself an ally or progressive, without on-going direct action against racism, it (and exclusion) will continue to prevail over just, inclusive, and equitable treatment. And this too will manifest in the code we write and the products we create, as it does now.

If you lead a team, another thing one can do, particularly in cultivating inclusive workplaces, is to empower staff to be socially responsible teammates, and as Ayodele Odubela states: responsible innovators 👇🏼.

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Technology is inherently political; let's leverage it in ways to help create a better and equitable workplace and world for everyone with empathy, compassion and forward-thinking change at the foundation.

Involve Others

Simply put: involve others in your design process. This doesn't mean just your "besties." Involve people from different communities; they are the best folks to communicate their needs, and they can help us look beyond our own abilities and biases when creating products.

Continuous Improvement

As you identify what areas of exclusion need addressing, in both your products and workplace, leverage the value of continuous improvement; effectively, think about what you're doing and how you're doing it on a regular basis. For instance, seek and implement an ongoing, tight feedback loop between your staff, users and yourself so experiences can be shared and responded to for continuously improving things. And, be transparent about feedback and improvements made.

Empathy & Compassion

Empathy is a word that is referenced a lot for how to approach and interact with people and their experiences. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. However, I agree with Tatiana that empathy is not only not enough, it can often center the person invoking empathy in lieu of the person purportedly being supported.

Instead, I opt for compassion.

Compassion, unlike empathy, allows us to remain rational. It’s what allows us to act when someone gets injured in front of us. Compassion allows us to take action in the face of their pain... — Tatiana Mac

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Related good reads, resources and people to follow

To learn more about building accessible websites and digital products, check out the A11Y project.

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