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My Co-op at D2L: Making a Difference with the Accessibility Lab website

During my time as the Accessibility Coordinator Co-op, I worked on a handful of preexisting projects that were on-the-go. One of my favourite projects that I worked on was redesigning the D2L Accessibility Lab website.

The D2L Accessibility Lab was created for the Fusion Conference in 2019 to create a space where attendees could interact with various assistive technologies and understand how they work. The D2L team flew to Florida for the conference, bringing with them high contrast keyboards, sip-and-puff devices, switches and more. They set up spaces to demonstrate various assistive technologies used for sensory, physical, and cognitive disabilities. The “Accessibility Lab” website was a companion to the physical space, and used to help guide people around the room and through various interactive activities. It also served as an example of D2L’s philosophy and practice of accessibility.

The Accessibility Lab was a great success, and D2L had planned to replicate it for the 2020 conference, however the in-person conference was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Accessibility Lab website was quickly adapted to offer a scavenger hunt for accessibility issues via the virtual Accessibility Lab set up for D2L’s virtual 2020 conference.

When I started at D2L in September 2020, I already knew about the Fusion conference, which was spread out over a 6-month period. During one project, I helped out a team-member with a Fusion presentation, and this is where I was introduced to the Accessibility Lab website. I learned more about it and noticed that I could tweak it with my UX expertise and make it more of a standalone experience. Since my co-op was quite flexible, my boss was happy for me to take on this project and see where it went.

With my background in UX design, I approached this project by examining how someone with no prior exposure to an accessibility lab might navigate through the website. This led to my re-design of the website navigation to help guide users on a linear learning process through the different areas of assistive technology; from technology to help those with physical, cognitive or sensory related disabilities. I also integrated section headers throughout the website to help group information in smaller chunks.

I also adapted some downloadable resources about assistive technology that the team had initially created for the website. I integrated various accessibility checkers into these resources, so people could learn about and try these free online resources for themselves. Accessibility checkers are a great (and easy) way for content creators to constantly check to make sure their work is accessible.

Although I came into this position with previous accessibility experience, I learned a lot from completing this project. It was fun to search the internet for various accessibility checkers, test them out for myself, and then write instructions for others so they could benefit from them, too. Even though I worked primarily on my own, I was able to ask other D2Lers questions or reach out for assistance. When I needed to make HTML changes to the website, I talked with a member of the Digital Marketing team for guidance. Instead of someone else making the changes, a member of their team hopped on a call with me and talked me through how to make the edits. This was a great learning opportunity, and I appreciated the time they took to teach me skills that have been useful since then.

I’m excited to be returning to D2L as a full-time Product Designer this summer, and looking forward to seeing the work I did on the Accessibility Lab website back in action during their 2021 Fusion Conference. When I look back on the quick transition companies had to make when the pandemic first began, it’s quite amazing what some have been able to accomplish. The adaptation of the Accessibility Lab from a physical space to virtual speaks to D2L’s mission of making education accessible to all, even during these unprecedented times.

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