Before we dive in, get to know our author!
Kelsey H., Head of Accessibility, leads accessibility efforts with the mission to ensure ADP’s product teams deliver fully accessible, disability-inclusive experiences to our users. From writing a monologue to performing on Broadway, she went from studying musical theatre to becoming an accessibility professional. She enjoys hiking and bicycling with her husband and Blue Heeler dog Ollie.
Accessibility and Tech: Driving Change at ADP
By Kelsey H., Head of Accessibility
Kelsey and her husband
Coming to ADP
I came to ADP because it was an opportunity to impact the disability employment divide directly and positively. As an HCM software company, we can empower people to obtain and maintain employment through inclusivity. This is an important goal for me, recognizing a significant number of people in the disability community are un- or under-employed. Technology can be empowering – we have such an opportunity to use technology for good!
Designing for All People
I firmly believe qualifying the word “people” with “all” is important. We’re always designing for *all* people because we want to include everyone. I wish we didn’t have to qualify for that, but we live in a world where we are still breaking down barriers. It’s time to recognize our differences and learn that different ways people exist make our world work – the voices we each have bring meaning and enhance our understanding of community.
My Story – How it Began
I’m not sure if how I got here was entirely “intentional.” My path has been long and winding – it wasn’t planned, and it’s changed at many junctures. There’s something special in seeing a door open and pursuing it wholeheartedly, even if it’s not what you originally planned or saw yourself doing.
I have disabilities and medical conditions, which certainly have both indirectly and directly guided me on my path to my current career – I grew up surrounded by disabilities in a variety of ways. A big part of my background has informed how I show up as an advocate in the disability community and an accessibility professional.
I was trained as a speech-language pathologist, teacher of the deaf, assistive technology specialist, and language/literacy professional. During my career journey, I’ve worked in various sectors, such as early intervention, K-12 education, community transition, sub-acute rehabilitation, higher education, and at large corporations.
The disability community has nurtured me through every opportunity to grow, and I thrive on learning something new every day. The late Stella Young said, “Having a disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does,” and truer words have not been stated.
This is not a field for “ego.” Accessibility is a space of constant learning. I arrived at this work by following the path that unfolded before me, trusting myself and the community, and always being willing to wonder, “what if?”
Leading the Accessibility Team
Accessibility is a critical and foundational aspect of the user experience.
I love conceptualizing the positive impact we at ADP can have on disability employment. There is so much work to be done in this space, and this is work that matters. It directly impacts people’s lives.
Accessibility professionals are unique – many of us are members of the disability community or have loved ones who are. The path is both great and challenging. It can be difficult to advocate for your rights and the rights of those in your community while living in the world as a person with disabilities.
The level of empathy accessibility professionals have is unmatched. I also find so much creativity, mindfulness, love, and care leading accessibility teams because the work is often so misunderstood early on that it takes strong comradery and partnership. It’s such a joy leading and growing accessibility teams!
Getting Involved in the Tech Community
At my previous employer, I co-founded their Disability-focused Employee Business Network, DIG (the Disability Inclusion Group). I was so excited to know ADP has a Disability-focused Business Resource Group (BRG), Thrive. I am currently the Vice President of North America, serving Thrive! As for conferences, I attend many – because of my certifications, I must keep up with many continuing education hours.
Here are the conferences I usually attend. I hope to see you there and if you see me, make sure you say, “hi!”
- Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference (ATIA)
- CSUN Accessibility Conference
- ICT Testing Symposium
- Disability: IN Annual Conference
- Inclusive Design 24 (#ID24)
If accessibility is new or something you are curious about, here are three pieces of encouragement I have for you:
- Keep learning – just when you feel like you’re figuring things out, assume there’s more to learn about disability and accessibility (and that’s okay).
- Progress over perfection – accessibility is never done. It’s a forever journey that makes products better, stronger, more usable, and more innovative.
- Never lose your wonder – I cannot stress this enough. Wonder about disabled people. Wonder about accessibility. Never stop asking questions, even if you don’t get concrete answers. I fear many professionals, particularly in corporate environments, have lost their ability to wonder. I think this is dangerous!
Photo credits to Disabled And Here Project by photographer Chona Kasinger
It is okay not to know everything and to sit in wonder – it reminds us life is complex and nothing is entirely sure. This is true of accessibility sometimes, too. And I think there’s beauty in working in a field that does not always have a concrete answer. Sometimes we must pave the way through a great unknown!
Leadership: Making an Impact
Kelsey and her husband
I’ve shared my journey and how I entered this impactful role at ADP. So, what does the future look like? Well, I hope to be a catalyst for people’s understanding of accessibility. Everyone has a stake in creating accessible and inclusive experiences – whether it’s due to a person or a peripheral connection. The disability community is the largest under-represented population in the world, and it’s also the one anyone can become a part of at any time.
With age often comes disability. Accidents happen that change how people navigate the world. We are a highly connected society that expects physical and digital access. I remember a non-disabled designer once telling another non-disabled designer, “You’re not designing for the current you; you’re designing for the future you.”
Disability is a natural part of any living being’s community and experience. It is a way to exist in the world. If I do nothing else, I hope I can help impact people’s understanding of disability and the role(s) they must play in making or breaking someone’s ability to show up and engage.
Listen to and learn from the disability community. Understand their experiences – include them in conceptualizing and building products. Don’t assume their needs and make choices on their behalf of them. Make mindful choices with them.
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