Integrating Accessibility Testing Into Salesforce's Trailhead Program

An illustration of a woman standing in front of an enlarged laptop with additional screens floating around showing testing elements

Image Description: An illustration of a woman standing in front of an enlarged laptop with additional screens floating around showing testing elements

Integrating Accessibility Testing Into Salesforce's Trailhead Program

Continual improvements to Salesforce’s Trailhead program are informed by accessibility testing and ongoing feedback received from participants with disabilities.

Apr 25, 2024

An overview:

  • Empowerment Through Employment: Salesforce amplifies its role as a disability advocate by partnering with the Blind Institute for Technology (BIT), strategically hiring from a pool of tech-savvy professionals with disabilities to close the employment gap.
  • From Classroom to Corporate: Cala Campfield's journey from teaching Salesforce at BIT to enhancing accessibility in Salesforce's Trailhead online platform showcases a direct line from educational insight to corporate implementation.
  • User-Centric Accessible Design: Leveraging her experience and ongoing feedback from disabled users, Campfield refines Trailhead’s learning modules. This ensures they're accessible and better align with Salesforce’s commitment to a "shift left" mentality.
  • Legacy Limitations: Campfield points out the complications in retrofitting accessibility to older systems, underscoring the need to build inclusivity into new technologies from the ground up.
  • A Continuing Commitment: Salesforce's ongoing enhancements to Trailhead, including making specialized instructions for blind and low-vision users publicly available, illustrate a dynamic approach to digital inclusion, with plans for further expansion to accommodate neurodiverse users.

Throughout the past few years, Salesforce has developed a strong partnership with the Blind Institute for Technology (BIT), a nonprofit dedicated to helping professionals with disabilities find employment and success in the workplace.

This collaboration has contributed to the transformation of Salesforce into one of the leading disability advocates in the tech industry, one employee at a time. From recruiting professionals with disabilities and reducing the disability employment gap to creating more accommodating in-person events, the Fortune 100 company continues finding more ways to introduce greater accessibility into its ecosystem and suite of products.

This includes constantly refining its online training platform to be accessible to more people.

Partnering With an Accessibility-Focused Organization

Before becoming a technical accessibility writer for Salesforce’s Workforce Navigators, a program equipping professionals with disabilities with in-demand Salesforce skills and certifications, Cala Campfield taught Salesforce courses at BIT.

Primarily instructing admin certification preparation has given her unique insight into the many barriers professionals with disabilities face when utilizing software or working remotely.

“I saw how these students were struggling to bridge that gap between the instructions and their user experience,” she says. “And so I started creating these instructions for BIT just to make my life easier as a teacher.”

Salesforce soon recognized the impact her accessibility efforts could have on its free, online learning and training program Trailhead, so the cloud-based software company hired Campfield to bring her knowledge and educational instructions in-house.

She now plays a major part in accessibility testing for Trailhead.

Accessibility Testing the Trailhead Program

As an accessibility tester, Campfield examines thousands of learning modules identifying where extra context may be beneficial for program participants and writing alternate or mirrored sets of instructions. She also acts as a student user discerning potential roadblocks for other professionals with disabilities who use the learning platform.

She’s not relying entirely on her own experience, however. In partnership with BIT, Campfield diligently seeks out feedback from those undergoing the training.

“I always ask every cohort that comes through, ‘What’s broken? Let me know if you have a different experience,’” she explains. “The students' feedback is really important because I can't be everywhere.”

While Salesforce maintains a “shift left” mentality, an approach that places accessibility at the beginning of the product design process, user experience obstacles can still creep in for people with disabilities.

“For example, instructions might say ‘Click on the pencil and drag it to the lower right region of the page,’” says Campfield. “As a keyboard-only or screen reader user, if you can't tell there’s a drag-and-drop item, then it doesn't mean a whole lot to you. You need instructions that speak to your user experience and how you navigate the platform.”

Adding Accessibility After the Fact Is Always Harder

Campfield’s work as an accessibility tester highlights a problem common to software and digital platforms; retrofitting accessibility features into products later down the line is always more complex and painstaking.

“A lot of challenges relate to legacy or classic systems that haven't been updated to meet accessibility standards,” she explains. “You might have an older system that only has drag and drop with a mouse and doesn't have any keyboard functionality to do that. So some of the new features that come along might be available to most people but they're not available in these legacy systems that some people are using.”

Not every individual or business, however, has the most up-to-date software or hardware, either, preventing them from accessing newer and more inclusive features. And sometimes older systems are incompatible with newer versions.

“Blind users or screen reader users often have to roll back to a classic system to be able to do anything,” she continues. “But then some of the newer modern things that you can do aren't available on this classic system that we're forced to use. The platform is always being updated. Accessibility is always a journey and Salesforce is making huge strides on that journey.”

Continuing to Refine the Platform & Branch Out

When Campfield came over to Salesforce from BIT, all her alternative screen reader instructions were just a set of internal Google Docs. They had proven helpful for those training with BIT, but Trailhead participants had no access to them.

“Ever since I started, our goal was to get these on Trailhead,” she says. “We had to make them public. Salesforce is a huge enterprise system, so it took us a while to get the right people in the room who had the power and the knowledge to build out a solution for us. We finally got there at the end of 2022 and started putting all these instructions publicly on Trailhead in the same units that everybody else experiences.”

While most of her work has focused specifically on blind screen reader users, greater inclusion is always the goal.

“We've wanted to do things to branch out to low-vision users,” notes Campfield. “We would love to write instructions for neurodiverse Trailblazers, as well. We can piggyback off the screen reader solution that we have set up and add links there, as well. This is a huge project to take on for one user group, and all modules are not covered, yet.”

Collaborating with user experience testers with disabilities is vital for product or program design teams. The impacts of employing somebody deeply familiar with the obstacles faced by the broader disabilities community can’t be overstated.

“I fall back on my experience as a blind user learning how to be a Salesforce admin,” she continues. “I lean on my experience of teaching people and what their struggles were. I bring that knowledge every time I sit down to write a new set of instructions.”

A founding partner of InclusionHub, Salesforce is helping bring greater accessibility and digital inclusion to the professional world. Visit its a11y website to learn more.

Written by Jeffrey Howard

Jeffrey Howard is a senior inbound content developer at Hypha HubSpot Development and regular contributor at InclusionHub.

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