Hi Emma! Hi Jess! How are you both?
Emma: All good thank you! Waiting for the snow to arrive in Chesterfield at the moment.
Jess: Hi! I’m doing well, thank you! It’s a bright, sunny day! I hope you’re well too!
You’re both Accessibility Test Analysts here at Zoonou – tell us a bit about your role?
Emma: My main role at Zoonou is to test software, websites, and apps on how accessible they are. I work with a script which lists out all the different test cases we need to test the site/app against, and from here we pass or fail them depending on how accessible each page/screen is. We also carry out user journey testing which we complete using screen readers, speech recognition software and screen magnifiers. Once we’ve tested the site, we write a final report to the client explaining what needs to be improved on so everyone can access their content the same way. In summary, we’re trying to find out if everyone can access the same information without anyone missing out.
Jess: When I describe my job to family or friends, I tend to say that I test software and websites to make sure disabled people can access them which I think is a good description. As an Accessibility Test Analyst, we assess websites against the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) success criteria. From this viewpoint, you can test what works and what needs improvement so that everyone can easily access what they need.
So, how did you first become interested in working in Accessibility?
Emma: In my previous job I worked for a health charity as their Senior Digital Content Producer managing their website. The website needed to be accessible to everyone and so it was my job to make sure it was – in fact, we worked with Zoonou to help make this happen. Leading on the accessibility initiatives at the charity really kickstarted a keen interest in all things accessibility.
Jess: I used to work with local councils across the country and often answered queries from benefits claimants, many of whom had a disability. I felt a lot of sympathy for people who were incredibly stressed and upset as they could not access what they needed online. Accessibility is very important to me as I don’t think anyone should be left out due to their circumstances.
Are there any challenges you face in your role? And if so, how do you overcome them?
Emma: I think for me it’s been the fact that at 37 I started a brand-new career in something I’d not really ever done before. I’ve had to learn a lot of things from scratch again including taking exams – which I’ve not done since I was 19. The support of my colleagues and manager really helped me through the tougher days when I thought I just “wasn’t getting it”. The whole team is so supportive!
Jess: Accessibility is a constantly changing field, the guidelines are always updating and there are always new things to learn. Working in a team who are all interested in accessibility helps with this as we can all support each other in our learning.
Can you tell us about your career path and how you got to where you are now?
Emma: Ooo how long have you got haha?! I left college when I was 17 to start work in admin, while going to night college to get my qualifications in typing and computer skills. Within a few years I was head of admin at an agency company and then went on to be a tracer for a debt collector. After a couple more years, I started my journey into the digital world and worked for a health charity. Part of my day-to-day there was to speak with the public and upload content to their website.
After a few more years, I went to work for the NHS as a booking clerk, but deep down the pull of digital was a bit too strong and I went back to the health charity as their Digital Content Executive. I worked for the charity for nearly 5 years until changes there meant that I was on the lookout for another job, and the rest is history! I knew I wanted to carry on helping people digitally, and accessibility seemed like a good fit for me.
Jess: After completing my English Language and Linguistics degree, I initially started teacher training which I found was not the career for me. From there, I worked as a consultant for online services with over 100 councils across the UK, mostly focusing on their online form provision. It was there I became interested in accessibility and then moved to Zoonou!
Outside of the client projects you’re working on, what else are you up to?
Emma: I’ve just recently completed the ISTQB Foundation Tester Certification and the Section 508 Trusted Tester Qualification, and I’ve just started a course on Computer Science (CS50). I’m also trying to understand code more than I currently do, so I’ve also got a CSS and HTML course on the go too!
Jess: I’ve also achieved my ISTQB Foundation Tester certification and become a Section 508 Trusted Tester, which is a US based accessibility qualification. I’m currently working on expanding my coding knowledge through taking Harvard’s CS50 qualification.
Do you have any female role models or mentors who helped shape who you are and your career?
Emma: My main female role model would be my best friend, Danni. We’ve known each other for nearly 13 years now and she has always championed me to be the best I can be. Danni has always believed in me and was the main reason I went back into the digital world 10 years ago. Danni is my go-to for all things digital and I have no idea what I would have done without her.
Jess: During my time at sixth form, one teacher took a lot of time to support me and build my confidence. We are still in contact to this day and she continues to be a big cheerleader for me and my career.
Lastly, what is the best piece of advice you have received which positively impacted your career?
Emma: Never be afraid to ask for help. We’ve all had to start somewhere and without asking questions and being curious how can you progress?
Jess: My dad always used to say to me that panicking fixes nothing. The immediate reaction to making a mistake can be a panic, but trying to keep a cool head and think through things logically will always fix things much faster and prevent a lot of stress! It may sometimes be a struggle to live by that, but I try to reassure myself that I can fix a mistake and take time to calm myself before addressing any problems.