Building Engines: Making Accessibility Part of the "Definition of Done"

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Building Engines is a software platform for modern commercial real estate management. The platform aligns people, processes, and activities to improve tenant service delivery, maintain equipment, manage risk, and improve communications.

Building Engines worked with Perkins Access to provide accessibility training to key staff members across its engineering, UX and design teams who work on the client-facing software platform.

Aaron Vanderpoel, Principal Software Engineer, said, "We were working with a couple of customers where accessibility was already a big priority, and government contracts require accessibility standards be met as well. The combination of those things put it on our radar – and with some research, we realized that accessibility would make for a better design overall."

Vanderpoel arranged for role-based training sessions for his teams. "We knew we needed to have our engineers up to speed on accessibility, but it was also very important to get design and UX folks exposed to and engaged with it. Everyone needs to understand how to think about accessibility from the very beginning – we didn't want designers sending engineers plans for something they couldn’t build," he said.

The sessions went well. "The training helped us realize that accessibility doesn't have to be daunting and overwhelming. It's really just a common-sense, usability-focused approach to building things the way we should be building them anyway."

And Vanderpoel's teams began implementing what they learned immediately. "Following our work with Perkins Access, accessibility is embedded into our process. All new features are tested through the lens of accessibility – it's now a part of our 'definition of done.'"

When asked if he would recommend Perkins Access to a peer or colleague, Vanderpoel said, "Yes! I'm glad we went with Perkins Access – building accessibility in makes for a better product and is a much better option overall."