Close up of two hands holding a phone and a 3D castle is popping out of the phone screen

Sinking my Teeth into Professional Development: Accessibility Edition

It’s been a minute (as the kids-these-days say) since I’ve taken on any substantial professional development.

I’m always reading articles, white papers, and case studies relative to this communicative world we live in, but the professional, personal, and pandemic stressors of today have kept me from enrolling in any kind of course that would add real beef to my skill-set sandwich.

Thanks to the university system for which I work, however, I was able to turn that around and take advantage of a full suite of online accessibility training free-of-charge this month. It was coursework I’ve long filed under “I really need to do this,” and once I got started, I wished I’d done it sooner.

Digital accessibility — the process of making websites, apps, and everything on ’em accessible to all, regardless of disability type or severity of impairment — is a discussion that surrounds a lot of what I do as a writer and marketer. With so much of the content we create headed online as a final destination, checking that screen readers, closed captioning services, and other assistive tech can interact with that content is imperative.

That said, it’s also easy to get lost in the mire of everything that needs to be done to get a message out at all, and fail to check or optimize accessibility. Or, in what seems to happen even more often, we limp along with just enough of an understanding to make a document, photo, or video compliant, but not necessarily ideal for the end-user.

That’s when those “I really need to take a class…” thoughts start creeping in, because we, the content creators, know through both gut and experience that it’s easier to make something accessible upon creation, not after-the-fact.

So finally, I’ve taken the damn class. Offered through Deque University —an off-shoot of global accessibility consultancy Deque Systems Inc. — I plowed through 22 online accessibility training courses and earned four curricula certificates, and I’m feeling much better.

The courses were meaty; I know I’ll use the information in my job immediately, and frankly there’s something to be said for finishing the quizzes and receiving your certificate and continuing education credits. It’s very Pavlovian.

Here’s a run-down of what I was able to bite off by carving time out of late afternoons and evenings:

DeQue University certificate of completion

Document Accessibility Curriculum 1.2 Certificate

This set of courses is probably the most appropriate for a full-time writer or communications wonk like myself. It includes 11 classes focused on ensuring documents are created with accessibility in mind, from Word docs to PDFs to online content.

DeQue University certificate of completion

Accessibility Program Management Curriculum 2.0 Certificate

I think I ultimately enjoyed this curriculum the most, as it presented a lot of new information and taught me some new tricks. It consists of five classes focused on ‘baking in’ accessibility at a departmental level, continuing some of the document accessibility lessons from a managerial perspective, and adding others with a legal flavor. An overview of Section 508, for instance, dives deep into the requirements all Federal agencies and departments must meet to provide access to information and communication technology to people with disabilities.

DeQue University certificate of completion

Native Mobile Apps Curriculum 1.0 Curriculum Certificate

This three-course block focused on accessibility as it applies to mobile apps — managing, designing, and testing.

Certificate
OF COMPLETION
Jaclyn Stevenson
has completed the courses in the
Customer Service for People with Disabilities
Curriculum
Version 1.0
28th of May, 2021
4 courses, 1.00 IAAP Continuing Accessibility Education Credits (CAECs)

Customer Service for People with Disabilities 1.0 Curriculum Certificate

It seemed like a no-brainer to take this unit, and the four-class run included communications courses geared toward both in-person and remote conversation. It also came with the added benefit of a glossary of accepted and unaccepted terms that can be added to our style guide.

While I didn’t have any particular allegiance to Deque as a training body before, these curricula definitely felt important and applicable while I was taking them; they’re updated frequently, well-written, and appear to be recognized as valuable certificates out there in the zeitgeist.

What are you getting certified in these days?

Cover Image by FunkyFocus from Pixabay

HVAC Trading Cards? Sure, Why Not?

HVAC doesn’t sound like the most exciting topic to write about, but it’s actually pretty interesting.

The industry has long been a leader in energy efficiency, for instance. New technologies are always being applied to the development of products, and in the U.S., the “Made in USA” logo truly means something — creating not just exemplary products but jobs and expanding opportunities for those of us who live here.

It’s also an industry that has welcomed new forms of communication as social- and public relations continue to bloom. Part of the reason why is that there’s always new information to share in the HVAC biz, and even better, we have myriad places through which to share that content.

These guiding principles were behind a recent writing assignment I took on in tandem with Winstanley Partners for the KN Series of hydronic, cast-iron boilers. Starting with the idea of a technical brochure that would extol the benefits of the product to its key audiences, we took the assignment a step further, creating pieces of ‘mini-content’ that were even more targeted to core audiences.

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We didn’t negate that first idea of a one-sheet technical brochure, but rather created it to include components that could stand alone, and therefore speak directly to engineers, architects, builders, managers, and others.

As the copy and design started to coalesce, we soon noticed that the end-result was not unlike a set of trading cards.

HVAC trading cards? Well sure, why not? They’re shareable, printable, scale-able, and (yes) trade-able. That’s what we want when it comes to sharing information about a decidedly niche product. Plus, there are plenty of uses for such a thing – from social media content to trade-show giveaways.

These one-hit wonders were designed by Victoria Fiorini — copy by moi.

for-contractorsfor-building-ownersfor-architects

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing on the Flip

lenoxvisitorscenterflip

Writers have come a long way in terms of where their words can be seen. Once relegated to the printed page, now we’re writing for virtual places all the time.

That’s what made a recent — and very tactile — writing assignment so unusual and fun. I was charged with writing a few highlights regarding the Berkshire town of Lenox, which were then placed on the literal flip side of some photo placards.

The placards are just one part of the newly redesigned Lenox Visitors Center, meant to offer information and inspiration to residents, tourists, and business people alike.

A handful of writers contributed to the project; below are a few of the snippets I was able to sneak through.

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Placard Photos by Ed Acker.

Madvertising Update

Clockwise: Jane Maas signs copies of her book; Erin, copywriter at Winstanley Partners, chats with Jane; I show off my copy of Mad Women; Jane’s inscription in my copy of her book.

I met real-life Mad Woman Jane Maas this week — author of Mad Women, her memoir of life as a copywriter at top Madison Avenue ad shops.

The biggest takeaway of the day, for me, was that at 80 Jane Maas has the energy of a 20-something. I hope I have half the energy at that age – I feel like I have about half now.

I also Tweeted up a storm though, recording some of Jane’s best lines of the day. There’s something for everybody here.

Tidbits from Jane Maas:
• Women represent 3% of all agency creative directors in the U.S.

• Women in ad agencies today make an average of 90 cents on the dollar compared to men.

• ‘We have to go back to the old lesson that we can’t put money into too many different slices of pie.’

• ‘an ad can’t make anybody do anything’

• Jane Maas’ favorite campaign she’s worked on is I Love New York.

•’My secret of success is that I’m little. I don’t intimidate men, and I don’t intimidate women.’

• Jane Maas used to write ‘spontaneous dialogue’ for Name That Tune.

• ‘Have women come a long way in ad agencies? My answer is no.’

• ‘I knew there was pot smoking going on at Ogilvy, but especially at Wells Rich Greene.’

• ‘get the money before they screw you.’

• ‘Linda’, a copywriter, lost her virginity to the account exec on Lime Jell-o.

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