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Strategising Content and Accessibility at Valla

Text reading: "I honestly believe it doesn’t matter. I also honestly believe it does matter."

I’ve just begun work at a startup as their Content & Accessibility Strategist. So… what does that actually mean?

Sorry I’ve been gone

For those of you who read this blog regularly, I’d like to start with an apology for the long break.

I was in hospital for a couple of weeks towards the end of May and I am still getting back on track. I’m not seriously ill, but do have fresh insight into a whole new area of disability. (I won’t go into it now, but I’m assured it is temporary.)

I have also been kept busy by a new regular freelance gig, which I am very excited about.

Valla is a legaltech startup with a total staff of 7, which is a huge change for me from working at a university with thousands of staff. And so far, it’s awesome.

Disability-positive employer

I am working 2 days at week – from home, of course – which is the most I can do as a regular gig. (I’m still doing other bits and pieces of consultancy/training here and there.)

Firstly, I want to thank Valla for actively recognising the value of having disabled people in the company. It’s so wonderful to be hired not in spite of my disability, and not as a ‘diversity hire’, but genuinely because of what my skills and experience – including my disability – can bring to the company. I can bring my whole self to work, and I’ve never been happier.

Content & Accessibility Strategist

When I started, we had long chats about exactly what my job title would be.

On one hand, I set little stock in job titles. Almost every podcast I listen to seems to have something about the difference between a Content Designer and UX Writer. During Services Week, I opened a can of worms at a virtual meetup by asking at what point you can really call yourself a Service Designer.

(If you don’t know about Services Week, here’s a useful post from Serena Nüsing at the Scottish Government)

I honestly believe it doesn’t matter. As long as you know what you’re doing, and other people understand your role, you can surely call yourself whatever you like?

I also honestly believe it does matter, beyond ego. It helps when you’re talking to other people about what you do. It helps set the scene in a company – especially when new people come in.

We settled on Content & Accessibility Strategist. According to LinkedIn, I’m the only one. It’s perhaps an unusual combination, but it makes best use of my talents, and most accurately describes what I do without becoming ridiculously long.

Content strategising

Five weeks in, I’ve only recently started to edit actual content. First, I needed to look at our editorial process, align values, voice and tone, and work out our editorial style (as a starting point, we’re just wholesale nicking the Content Design London Readability Guidelines). I’m trying to fully answer the question of why we’re creating content at all. That’s where the Content Strategist part comes in.

Does that mean I don’t actually do any writing myself?

Never! We’re a start-up. Everyone is involved in the metaphorical ‘rolling up your sleeves’ part. To me, that’s a huge relief. The unfortunate reality in a lot of large company structures is that you get promoted out of doing what you love into managing other people who do it, and I’ve never liked that. I’m hugely enjoying the chance to work across the full spectrum.

Accessibility strategising

So that’s the Content Strategy part – what about accessibility?

Creating accessibility guidelines is in my job description, and I felt it was important that the title reflected that. We toyed with just going for ‘Content Accessibility Strategist’. That’s pretty much my thing, generally. But that downplays both content and accessibility, for all that they massively overlap. All our content will be accessible, but some of my work isn’t about directly addressing that, and not all of my accessibility work will be about content. I’ll be writing accessibility guidelines – and helping to embed them, which is always the hard part. I’ll be the annoying-but-requested bee in everyone’s bonnet highlighting accessibility issues at every part of the process.

I’ll also still be here blogging about content, accessibility, and content accessibility. Do get in touch if you’re looking for help in those areas.

Contact me

PS: If you like the cut of Valla’s jib, and you’re a Django Software Engineer, you should know that they’re hiring. Remote, flexible hours, full time but also open to job share. You can read the job ad on the Valla careers site.