Narrator: The AFB Talent Lab is an innovative new education experience with the goal of closing the accessibility skills gap. Darren Burton, Accessibility Specialist, and AFB Talent Lab mentor.
Darren: When I was in Silicon Valley working for Yahoo, I interviewed and trained over a thousand engineers, but only a tiny handful of them had any knowledge of accessibility at all, much less the knowledge to build inclusive products. And, more often than not, once I got an engineer trained up, she'd get poached by another company.
Narrator: Because accessibility talent is so difficult to find, products often end up being inaccessible to people with disabilities. The Talent Lab is an effort to train engineers with these skills before they enter the workforce.
Kristin Reuschel, AFB Talent Lab Program and Curriculum manager.
Kristin: When we first started with the Talent Lab, we made a major effort to figure out what was already really out there. And what we found was that there's a lot of great resources but not really anything comprehensive. So, we really had to start from scratch.
Narrator: The Talent Lab has an internship opportunity for undergraduate engineer and design students and an apprenticeship program for dedicated accessibility professionals.
Kristin: So for this program, we're going to be leveraging pair-testing and project-based learning as the principal strategies for teaching critical thinking skills, particularly with accessibility and inclusion.
Darren: It's so important to teach engineers to have empathy for the users, understanding how people with disabilities actually use technology, so they can build inclusive products. It's not enough to just bolt a little bit of accessibility on at the end and say it's good enough. Accessibility has to be ingrained into, the entire process so that we build products that are usable by people like me who use assistive technology.
Narrator: The AFB Talent Lab conducts real-world accessibility projects drawing on AFB's 20 years of experience helping companies make apps and websites accessible. We're focused on scaling our impact by making all of our resources open source, conducting research, and developing student projects. Hanna Fugulin, AFB Talent Lab Intern Ambassador.
Hanna: I'm really excited about all the opportunities the AFB Talent Lab has to offer students wanting to become more well-rounded. Not only do we get digital badges that we get to show off in our resumes and connected to partnerships wanting to hire us, but we also get to learn and do a lot of good.
Darren: I can't tell you how many times I found a problem that could have been avoided if we just had someone in the room that could guide the team to a more inclusive solution.
Kristin: Right now we're looking for partners to help the Talent Lab grow. We're looking for sponsors for both participants and for the content. We're looking for participants who want to join us and learn these accessibility and inclusion skills. And we're also looking for companies who want to partner with us, so they can tap into this great talent.
Narrator: For more information, please visit afb.org/TalentLab.