Faces of Accessibility – Upasana Tandon

Upasana and I had an instant connection. We hit it off from day 1. She is a star developer on her team and always the one to take the initiative to learn something new and teach others what she has learned. I first met her about 2 years ago while working on Accessibility at Sam’s club. Neither one of us knew how we were going to tackle this domain that we knew so little about but we were determined to overcome the fear and uncertainty.

Upasana’s energy is contagious. You can feel the energy in the video of our conversation. I have been very fortunate to work with very talented engineers during my almost 20-year tenure in tech. From veteran engineers to new grads, I have learned from all of them. What I love about developers is how they approach problems. I get that its part of their education and training but developing deep customer empathy is not a requirement (unfortunately) to become a developer. Many developers approach their work as merely writing lines of code or designing a great technical architecture, or learning and building using new technology. But I have great admiration for the developers who take the time to understand the customer pain point, spend time engaging with real customers, and then apply their technical acumen to solve those problems. Upasana is a developer who cares deeply about customers and wants to apply her skills to address these problems.

It was evident in our Accessibility journey early on that we needed to build awareness with the developer community and educate them with access to tools and resources to build good, accessible code from the ground up. Upasana played a key role in evangelizing Accessibility within the developer community. What I loved about her approach was she taught by example. She learned new skills, practiced them, showcasing it to her peers, encouraging them to do the same. She was always present at every opportunity where she got to engage with customers with disabilities. She also challenged me to do more and was also a cheerleader when I most needed it. I would joke that Accessibility is the unwanted stepchild that no one loves. They just feed it twice a day but that’s not enough. It wants to be loved and nurtured. Upasana understood the importance of Accessibility from the get-go and that defined our partnership and friendship.

What’s really interesting about Upsana’s journey is that she didn’t know what Accessibility was when she was asked to work on it. It was her first job out of college and she had joined with the expectation of using the skills she had acquired. A lot of developers start out this way and how Upasana approached it can serve as an inspiration to many developers who may be overwhelmed by Accessibility and don’t know where to start. It’s also a great example of the importance of maintaining an open mindset to take on new challenges that stretch you beyond your current abilities. I can relate to this as well.

It was a great pleasure to talk to Upasana about her Accessibility journey, how she continues to engage her peers to move the work forward, and what’s on her Accessibility wishlist.

As a bonus, our sweet little pups made an appearance towards the end. Butter, her 4-month-old yellow lab got to meet Penny Lane, my 4-month-old labradoodle.

Here are a few things that Upasana said that I loved –

Developer oriented workshops and demos are so important to inspire them and educate them about Accessibility and why it’s the right thing to do. Show them how to do it and why its not such a daunting thing.

The other thing that’s most important for developers is to following good coding skills which you are taught.

As developers, our biggest challenge is when designs are not accessibility friendly.

You can enjoy the conversation below:

More about Upasana below:

Upasana’s LinkedIn Profile

Here is a sweet photo of Upasana with Butter.

Upasana with Butter
Upasana with Butter