Dillon Carney is known around Audible as a champion for accessibility—in fact, his passion for it has won him an Audible employee award for exemplifying one of our People Principles, Be Customer Obsessed, and an Amazon Accessibility Award. But the Quality Assurance Engineer admits that he “didn’t know how blind people use the internet or that 15% of the world’s population identifies as having a disability” until he took a series of onsite trainings from Amazon. It taught him to notice opportunities where Audible and all tech companies can improve.
Dillon gathered like-minded employees who share a passion for accessibility and formed the Audible Web Accessibility Committee (AWAC) that is now made up of around 15 employees—from public policy to legal to customer support to tech development and user research. “You see reviews and tweets where people say, ‘Audible has changed my life,’” says Dillon; He and the AWAC committee have made it a priority to spread awareness of these customers’ experiences throughout the organization. "It was really exciting to meet people I didn’t even know who worked here" who shared his passion, he says.
“Dillon has made it his mission to raise the bar for accessibility for our customers,” says Andy Marks, Senior Manager of Market Research, who has been supportive of Dillon’s mission. “When he encounters opportunities, he never hesitates to raise his voice and advocate for our disabled customers.”
Last September, the committee hosted an employee happy hour in our Newark campus. They had devices lined up that showed how people use a screen reader if they’re visually impaired, or a head wand if they are unable to use their hands. Posters and stickers simulated color blindness—which 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world experience—while other posters challenged attendees to think about how they’d grab a beverage if they used a wheelchair or were unable to see. “Everyone left that event learning something new,” Dillon says proudly.
Another major focus of Dillon’s has been cataloging and fixing software bugs that affect how people with disabilities interact with the site, such as a photo missing alternate text (what a screen reader would describe an image on a web page as) or link text (the text describing a hyperlink) not being descriptive enough for visually impaired users. He also spearheaded adding automated accessibility tests to our web development process, which scans pages to make sure they meet accessibility requirements.
Dillon is inspired by small innovations that are as ubiquitous as a curb cut, the dip in sidewalk curbs. Though initially “created for wheelchair users,” he explains, “everyone can benefit from them”—from people pushing shopping carts and strollers to the elderly to an average pedestrian. The best inclusive design “not only helps folks with a disability or impairment, but also helps all of us!”
In early 2020, Dillon received news he won an Amazon Accessibility Award for his work driving awareness across Audible and Amazon; Just one of five people across Amazon to win, he was honored in a virtual award ceremony in May.
Dillon is grateful he’s had the support and encouragement to continue to make accessibility an Audible priority. “I don’t think many companies give their employees this much opportunity to do so much outside their normal function,” he says, “I felt supported to take this on and I’m very thankful that Audible encouraged me. Anything can happen here."