10 steps to be a better ally

Protest sign on a climate crisis march

Many companies posted statements in the recent days that they are allies of minorities and with the black live matters movement. But posting a black square or a rainbow flag on social media is easy. Being an ally is often not. Here are 10 steps about how you and your company can become better allies.

Disclaimer: this list does not cover everything that is to know about being an ally company. See it as a starting point for things to learn more about or a small checklist when looking for a new company to work with.

1) Have a C-Level and a board that is not only cishet-white men

If you have only one point of view in your highest company level you will have a harder time to understand minorities needs. Look out who you are funding with and who is setting the companies goals and values.

2) Make Accessibility one of your core values

Do not look only what your competitor does. Your product has unique selling points, make accessibility and inclusiveness one of them.

3) Hire a diverse team

If you do not get enough applications from minorities, check what you can do better.

  • Where do you advertise jobs?
  • Is the wording in your job advertisement inclusive?
  • What are your company culture values?
  • Are they visible to potential candidates?
  • Do you offer mentorship for new hires?
  • Are you using positive discrimination techniques in your application process?

4) Listen to the employees who leave

Especially when minorities leave, ask them why and evaluate if you could have done better for them. Take actions out of their reasons. Even though we do not know each other all personally, we are all well connected and we talk.

5) Get to know your users

One of the big challenges in product development is to deliver the right product to the right audience. Be aware who your audience is but don’t exclude others only because they are not your target group. But that should not be a too big deal if inclusion and accessibility are already part of your core-values.

6) Learn and use tools that help to evaluate the accessibility of your product

Some helpful resources

7) Make inclusive design choices

The way your product looks is a great percentage of your usability. If your design focuses too much on aesthetics your user experience could fall flat. For example:

  • A thin font might be pleasing for your eye but is hard to read for others.
  • When choosing CI colours, make sure they match WCAG 2.0 requirements from the beginning. Otherwise, it will be impossible for designers and developers to work with them and have an accessible website.
  • Never use icons alone, they should only be the enrichment but never the whole explanation of a function.

8) Focus on content and use simple language

Your message should be clear and easy to understand. Avoid wordy sentences. You can also hire trained translators to add a simple-language version to your language offerings.

9) Know the bias of your data when using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Computers themselves are not biassed and don’t have prejudices. But they will learn them from us. Examine carefully the data you use when teaching your algorithms. Remove bias by manipulating the data and make it divers. Most common biases to avoid is gender and skin-colour. When using a picture, make sure the algorithm is not learning based on the quality of the picture but on the actual content. Understand that not everything a human does or is, is visible in their appearance, even though some algorithms try to tell you that.

10) Do user testings frequently and often

Testing your product with real users is vital. Don’t forget to also invite minorities and especially people with disabilities, who might benefit the most from your product.

If you want to learn more about built-in accessibility in your frontend, you might be interested in my article about Test-driven frontend — accessibility first

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Frontend Engineer, aiming for a better world.

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Kathrin Holzmann

Kathrin Holzmann

Frontend Engineer, aiming for a better world.

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