October 2, 2023

Blogtober Blurb

#blogtober This list is a part of a series of blogtober posts for October 2023. I very frequently overthink what I write and end up not writing it. Maybe if I make myself write and post something every day, I can help get past that.

Not everything needs to be an Epic. Sometimes a nice couplet can be revelatory. 2 of 31 (hopefully)

Step Two: Get Prepared to Fuck UpStep Two: Get Prepared to Fuck Up

Step Two - Get Prepared to Fuck Up

A few years ago, I was working on a project with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. THe project, of course, had a lot of attention, and part of the whole handshake of it was convincing interest groups that we had or shit together. The company agreed to have a series of VA interest groups on campus to talk about the software.

This was probably the first time I’d ever heard of us bringing interest groups out? But I was excited because, as the person owning the accessibility of the project, they wanted to talk screen reader support and company process so I got to attend the day.

Well That Sounds Pretty Neat

I’m not finished.


The presentations went well enough. My part was explaining how our accessible design processes worked. They asked some tough questions but we had actual, substantive answers which was, apparently, novel. At the lunch break, one of the board members for BVA - Blinded Veterans Association - came up to me to thank me the process presentation.

He asked me how the project was going.

This Is Where You Fuck Up, Right?

And this is where I fucked up. I said… and let me tell you that I know this is a quote because my embarrassment has burned it into my head.

It’s been really fun learning to use screen readers but I can’t imagine dealing with them all day.” See… I told the blind person… that screen readers are an ordeal. Me.. a sighted 30-something real keen to be working on the accessibilities…


After blanching, melting into the floor, and dying six or seven times after realizing what I said, I paused a second before he, graciously, continued the conversation. Lunch happened. I assume. I don’t remember much else from the day.

And Yet

I’m still here. In fact, I learned a ton about screen readers, blind user experience, and the intricacies of bureaucracy (in a good way). This was not the first time I’d fucked up but the humanity of it was especially jarring to me in the long term.

Meaning, the myopia of my phrasing, regardless of what I meant, was insensitive and callous to that person’s experience. One of the biggest things we, as designers, shit.. as humans.. is to understand the limits of our own experience and take care not to ignore those of others.

What Did We Learn?

Let the takeaway from this not be centered on MY emotional experience. That doesn’t matter and it misdirects away from the problem. I was thinking about screen readers as a distraction, in the dalliance” sense as well as the :how could I get work done” sense both of which are, at best, insensitive.

Understand that you’re going to fuck up. Probably a lot. The important thing is to learn from the experience and do better next time. Accessibility is all about getting better and better and better especially when you do or say dumb things.

Own it and get better.

Up next

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