An adventure in definitions & principles.

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For the last few months I’ve been doing very different work to what I’ve done before. It’s still accessibility stuff, but in a really different role.

I work on the BBC accessibility team and we’ve had a lot of change in 2022. More than half the team moved on to new opportunities as various things came to an end.

I’ve been working with the rest of the team to start figuring out how we approach stuff and we had an idea.. I was chatting to one of the senior leaders about that idea and he asked me… how does this relate to the charter? What are the principles? What exactly do you mean by ‘accessibility’?

That led me on a really wonderful adventure. I didn’t know the answers and I needed to really think about it. I hadn’t inspected the foundations of my role for years.

Since then I’ve had a dozens of chats, calls, natters. Long windy conversations and short concise ones. I’ve talked to folks all over the BBC and beyond.

I went back to the BBC Charter and put together a slide deck starting at the charter, using it to define some terms and then ending at a set of accessibility principles. The wording of the principles is derived directly from the Charter itself. They are utterly bespoke to our organisation and it’s values and remit.

I’m not ready to share them yet (lots more work is needed!) but I am ready to talk about how useful they are.

I didn’t set out to build a tool or a workflow but it seems to have happened by accident. Each time I chat with someone we go through the basic lenses and concepts (social model etc) and then chat about the wording of the charter and the definitions it leads too. From there we chat about the principles.

Then the most magic thing happens. We talk about how to apply them in the context of what the other person is doing. Ideas, actions and questions start coming out. It’s really fun and collaborative. The principles act as a guiding lens rather than a solution. They create a conversation focused on the hard questions but in an approachable way.

I’m meeting more people that ever. Each time I chat to one person they tend to introduce me to more. Every chat has been productive and the definitions, phrasing and wording is slowly evolving to be a little clearer or more effective each time.

We’re also using the same slide deck each time we’re supporting a product team. I run through a short version to establish a shared language.

I started the adventure just looking for help to answer some tricky questions. Since then it’s morphed into a slightly new way of working.

I don’t know where the adventure will go next. I’m still nervous to share them publicly but that’s what I am aiming for eventually

I’ve been at the BBC for over 10 years and this is probably the thing I am most proud of. I wanted to share the story as It’s imperfect, ever evolving… and really effective.


Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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