Prior the Digitally Accessible Finance & Insurance Event. Digia11y Accessible Founder Juan Olarte talks with Andreas Helge, Senior Consultant Ergonomics & Usability at Allianz Technology.

Andreas is Quality Manager at Allianz Technology in Munich, Germany and makes sure that enterprise software becomes more accessible and usable for everyone. Together with a colleague, he leads a company-internal global community to share knowledge and tools that help everyone deliver content more inclusive.

Accessibility 101:
With Andreas Helge of Allianz Technology


[Juan:] Hi, I’m welcome to Accessibility One on One. My name is Juan Olarte, and today we’re with Andreas Helge. Andreas, thank you so much for being part of the show.

[Andreas:] Hi, Juan, and thanks for having me.

[Juan:] Great, thank you. So, Andreas can you please tell us a bit more about you?

[Andreas:] Yeah, of course. Yeah, I’m Andreas I’m, uh, 43 years old, married, father of two and I live near Munich in Germany. I work as a quality manager for Allianz Technology, so my job is to make sure that enterprise software becomes more accessible and usable for everyone. 

[Juan:] Oh that’s great, thank you so much. We, we love having people that know about accessibility, especially in the enterprise space. How did you get started with accessibility?

[Andreas:] Yeah, it’s actually funny. So I simply looked for a new job and, in a field of usability and in one of the FAQ sessions in one meetup, one guy asked the audience for, let’s say, at least for me at that time, really unusual questions about, testing methodologies with people with disabilities, high contrast mode, screen reader and stuff. And to be honest, that wasn’t the usual boring stuff and I got in touch and later the job.

[Juan:] Oh, that-that’s amazing. That’s actually, I, I always like to ask people how they get started with accessibility. I know with me, even though I have a disability, I first started as a developer and then actually fell into it. But it’s great, It’s always fascinating.

What are some of the things you wish you knew when you first started with accessibility?

[Juan:] Can you please tell us something you wish you knew when you first started with accessibility?

[Andreas:] It’s a great question. I-I was, I was lucky because I started in a team of professionals that made it really easy for me. I had a proper onboarding phase. I even had a blind colleague and I really used the time to meeting people to experience assistive technology. And-and I was able to, to code some prototypes, to learn things, doing the right way and even the wrong way. So… yeah, I had a, I had a great start in this field. But there wasn’t, or there isn’t one particular thing I really missed.

[Juan:] That’s actually really good. And one of the things I like and I-I always encourage people to find out even more is, to get exposure to assisted technologies as well as people with disabilities. because many times people are going to use technologies in different ways. So having the exposure and having the proper onboarding actually makes a big difference, I agree with that. Can you tell me why accessibility is important to you?

[Andreas:] Oh, yes. it, it has a bit- a bit, to do with my past. So being a designer myself, I never really like the endless discussions about colours and images and stuff. And, there must be more. I always ask myself or said to myself, I always wanted that my clients enjoy, for example, ease of use, content management systems to update their own pages. And then I started in the field of- of accessibility and at Allianz I experienced real gratitude because my colleagues are able to live their life in a self determined way because of my work. And of course my colleagues work, and this was a completely new experience of gratitude that really motivates me till today. And then further, of course. 

[Juan:] Yeah, that’s fantastic, I know working with people with disabilities, it can be very fulfilling especially if you’re working in a big organization and then you can actually see the impact of your work. That’s, that’s great .

[Andreas:] Yeah. 

How do you promote accessibility in your projects and with your teams? 

[Juan:] How do you, now, how do you promote accessibility in-in-in your projects and with your teams? Is there something in particular you try to do, or is it part of onboarding? How do you ensure accessibility integrate early on within the development lifecycle of a project?

[Andreas:] Ah, okay. Yeah I have together with a colleague, I run an Allianz internal global community where we share our knowledge and motivate colleagues to take small steps. For example, try to use the accessibility assistant of PowerPoint, or, just run the Lighthouse audit on yourself and see what you can fix or what you understand just to- to get familiar with the topic, to do a little bit of optimization. So this is, I guess, one part knowledge sharing. And, um, the other part is: I support the processes in my company that ensures that software becomes accessible. And that means, projects come to us as a team and we do classic consulting staff. So we come together talk about, the software itself, the solution, they bought or they built. And sometimes we make workshops, which means developers and designers come together with us. And we talk about the requirements and how do you achieve things.  And, yeah, in the end we, we help testing. So we show for example, the screen reader, and test for the project and or together with the project to make sure that things are accessible as possible.

[Juan:] Yeah, that’s, that’s great. One thing that I really like, is the fact that you have your own little community and support group. I, you know, oftentimes people don’t realize that accessibility is one of those things that gets forgotten, but the fact that the organization is supporting it as well as internally you’re supporting it with other teams, within the organization is fantastic.

Any advice for anyone who is getting started in accessibility?

[Juan:]Now, uh, what would you-, your advice be for somebody who’s just starting with web accessibility today? What are, what are some of the pointers that you’ll say, oh, these are some of the things that you must do or take advantage of?

[Andreas:] Um, so based on my experience, I can say take time, really take time to get familiar with the topic and always be open and, and keen to learn more. I- I sometimes say there’s nothing more user centered than accessibility, and this means you will learn more and more day by day. There are really special things out there, assistive technologies or even technical solutions and it is a huge field and yeah, take the time and always be open. This is, I guess right.

[Juan:] That’s- that’s great. No, no, that’s perfect. Thank you so much, Andreas. Thank you so much for being part of the show. We really like having you here and I hope… this is the, the first time out of many times, you’re going to be here. Thank you so much for being part of Accessibility One on One.

[Andreas:] Thank you, was fun. Thank you for inviting me