UX Design Innovation and Accessibility Work Culture

Gratitude and Accessibility

Building a gratitude routine

I once saw Shawn Achor, a happiness expert, explain that teams that regularly express gratitude are more effective during times of crisis. He described a hospital crew who started every shift with each person saying something they were grateful for and how this practice helped them effectively treat patients during extremely stressful situations, including a horrific mass shooting a few blocks away.

When I joined VMware, I put gratitude on my team’s weekly meeting agenda. We rotate who begins ending with whoever is taking the meeting notes. As an introvert, I like having a predictable, low-pressure routine for our geographically dispersed team, which helps us get to know each other beyond the regular work topics.

Today, I’m sharing an example of gratitude focused on accessibility progress inspired by my colleagues at VMware.

Designing inclusive, interactive sessions

When I joined VMware as Head of User Research in early 2021, I started gathering examples of personas used across the company. When I heard about our internal design conference called SHAPE, I reached out to my colleague who owns the Marketing personas to see if he would like to do a workshop with me. Together, I hoped to gather feedback on personas and help us better connect the Marketing and Design personas over time. We ultimately decided to collaborate using Miro, a visual collaboration tool widely used across VMware for whiteboarding sessions.

When we described our plan to the SHAPE organizers, we heard that Miro was not accessible, so we met with members of our Accessibility team to decide how to proceed. They explained that blind colleagues could not use Miro since a screen reader could not convert the text into speech. Using Miro would also affect attendees who joined by phone or were sensitive to the movement of a board rapidly filling up. Instead of requiring us to use another tool, they suggested we use Miro and add other elements to support the attendees. For example, we could encourage people to use Zoom chat if they chose not to use Miro, and we could speak throughout the activity, so those who couldn’t read what was being entered could hear what was happening.

During our session, we resembled sports announcers, discussing feedback we saw going into the board. That kept the workshop lively and maintained the attention of the more than 60 people who joined. After the session, we shared our approach on a wiki page to promote accessible collaboration for others using Miro.

Inspiring change outside our company

While those accessibility hacks helped make our individual session a success — the story doesn’t end there. Several months later, some of my colleagues and I met with members of the Miro accessibility team. They said they were hired after VMware requested Miro become more accessible and offered advice on establishing an accessibility team. They planned to support screen readers and wanted feedback on some design options. It was fun to see another company doing user research with target users before they launched their new features, including someone who is blind.

During that call, we expressed gratitude for the work the Miro team accomplished to support screen readers. Of course, there was more to be done, but it was great progress! Once Miro released their new accessibility features, we made sure to highlight them on our wiki page.

Gratitude on a larger scale

At the end of 2022, when the VMware Design leadership team planned our last Town Hall meeting of the year, Beverly May, our Vice President of User Experience, recommended we focus on gratitude. She wanted to invite people to share successes from the year, what people were grateful for, and who people were grateful for. More gratitude!

We decided to use Miro to make the session interactive but wanted to ensure that all our colleagues could participate. So I offered to help set up the board based on what I knew about Miro’s accessibility and confirmed it worked for screen readers before the meeting. Hurray! During that meeting, more than 85 people added content to the board. That’s a lot of gratitude in one location!

Brainstorm board three categories and colorful notes around 1) Success 2) What we're grateful for and 3) Who we're grateful for.
A Miro board full of gratitude from people across VMware Design

Thank you to everyone in my community

I’m sharing this story to inspire you to focus on gratitude, inclusion, and improving accessibility. I’m glad to have the people mentioned here and many other great people in my community.

This example focuses on supporting people with vision impairments, but that’s just a small portion of what our accessibility team is accomplishing!

Thank you to all my colleagues at VMware and the people we interact with at companies worldwide. I am looking forward to seeing what we’ll do next!


One comment has been added so far

  1. Truly, By expressing gratitude for accessibility, we can create a more positive and supportive culture that celebrates diversity and empowers individuals to achieve their full potential, regardless of their abilities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *