Accessibility from the Start w/ Jessica Oddi

Welcome to {{d-show-title}} / Ep {{d-episode-number}}

I wanna get into how we can make our environments as accessible as our design process. We need more classes in schools so that younger and even newer designers can actually learn the basics from the start and it implemented into their design work.

I want agency, design, and corporate design spaces to adapt a more accessible and good life balance, even just for their designers. And I feel like that’s where we need to go to get better designs out there from the foundations.

— Jessica Oddi

disabled designer [my top defining title],

freelance graphic/web designer [more specific to what I do],

accessibility design [passion and consulting aspects of what I do]

That’s my guest Jessica Oddi. Jessica is a designer with a passion for disabled spaces. She’s been freelancing for over 10 years and has had the privilege of working with incredible groups across the globe. Jessica is in the dream phase of Access Design Collective, which hopes to learn from disabled creatives one interview at a time.

In this episode, Jessica discusses her espresso-fueled craft, her passion for disabled spaces, and her goal to empower communities.

Key Takeaways from our conversation:

  • Identity-first Language
  • How Yahoo reached out to Jessica for Global Accessibility Day
  • The difference between Alt Text and Image Descriptions on the Web and social media.
  • Ways to include accessibility from the start of projects.

I hope you learn as much as I did during this conversation. Enjoy!



People Mentioned:

Companies / Sites Mentioned:

Access Design Collective –

Access Design Collective [archive project I’m building in 2023 to accumulate disabled perspectives in design].

The Disabled Life

The Disabled Life [a funny space where my sister Lianna [lee-anna] and I document the perks and jerks of living the disabled life].

Follow {{d-guest-name-8033e996-238a-480f-939d-93d91a8f5c60}} via {{d-guest-url-8033e996-238a-480f-939d-93d91a8f5c60}} / {{d-guest-instagram-8033e996-238a-480f-939d-93d91a8f5c60}}

Full Transcript of Episode




Jessica Oddi 0:11

I feel like if we want to make a more accessible environment now where I want to get into is how we can make our environments as accessible as our design process, because it's not just more about the end product, that's great, we can all learn the contrast. And we can all learn all of those design tools, but we need more classes in schools, so that do younger, like and even newer designers, because they're not necessarily young, they might just be starting out, can actually learn the basics from the start and implemented into their design work. And then I want like agency spaces and design spaces, and corporate design spaces to adapt a more accessible and good life balance, even just for their designers. And I feel like that's where we need to go in order to a combat the technology that you know, we're talking about too is and be just actually be able to get better designs out there from the foundations. We can't do it if we're used to a certain way of working or only one way of doing things.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 1:09

Hey, what's up everyone? Welcome to Works in Process, the podcasts about uncovering creative methodologies from people doing inspiring work. In each episode, whether I'm talking to a designer and educator or an entrepreneur, we learn the hows and whys behind what they do. Through experiences and determination. My guests explore techniques and inspiration that have helped them navigate their creative careers. I'm your host, designer and educator George Garrastegui, Jr. Joining me as I continue to elevate the creative process by shifting the focus to how we work over what we produce.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 1:40

On today's episode, I want to welcome Jessica Odie. Jessica has a deep love for design. Her expresso fueled craft is combined with an underlying passion for disabled spaces. And she's now specializing in accessibility and representation for everyone. Based in Canada, Jess collaborates to empower communities and has had the privilege of working alongside incredible groups across the globe. Jessica has been freelancing for over 10 years, carving out her own work environment, and has brought opportunities, challenges and perspectives.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 2:12

But most of all, meaningful connections with beautiful community spaces.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 2:16

Without obsessing over typefaces, Jessica gets involved with his disability focus campaigns from the disabled life with her sister to intimately disabled with dear friends, as well as volunteering and design spaces. She's in the dream phase of access design collective

George Garrastegui, Jr. 2:32

in hopes that we can all learn from disabled creatives one interview at a time. Hey, Jess, or is it Jessica?

Jessica Oddi 2:39

You know, I am good with either like I've been just Jesse Jessica. It's all good. Jody, even some people have that one.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 2:47

Oh, I can just like you know, go back and forth a bunch of different versions. Thank you so much for the flexibility and timing and I'm happy to so far. I'm happy to finally get you on the Works in Process podcast.

Jessica Oddi 2:59

Thank you so much for having me. I'm like honored. I've seen past guests you've interviewed like Ritesh and Jen white Johnson. And I'm just like Marie's cherry. And I'm like, and I'm here, okay.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 3:12

I mean, I think really, it's just all these interesting people that we all happen to honestly be connected with in some shape, or form. And I've known some of those people doing a lot of similar things. And then just being inspired by what they do and how they advocate for what they're about. And I think that's one of the things that I want to talk to you more about.

Jessica Oddi 3:33

Amazing. I'm an open book. Let's do that.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 3:36

Let's do this. Right. So I really want to get into your you know, your journey about being disability first. Before we do that, let's do something to clear your mind. I start every episode with a fun icebreaker. Are You Ready? Ready? analog or digital? Digital? Espresso or cappuccino?

Jessica Oddi 3:53


George Garrastegui, Jr. 3:56


Jessica Oddi 3:57

or websites, websites,

George Garrastegui, Jr. 4:00

consulting, or designing?

Jessica Oddi 4:04

Ooh, that's a tough one because I'm tired today. So I'm gonna go with designing still.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 4:10

The Disabled life or access design collective?

Jessica Oddi 4:14

I gotta get back to the disabled life. I got you. Only because I've shelved until I can have energy for accidents like like that. So that's my future dream.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 4:26

So a quick word association, right? The first thing you think of when you hear these words, creativity, Disability Determination,

Jessica Oddi 4:35

family, which is weird. I don't know why that would keep

George Garrastegui, Jr. 4:39

business up employed, failure,

Jessica Oddi 4:44

learning opportunities, community that I think of disability right away, but I also think a family

George Garrastegui, Jr. 4:50


Jessica Oddi 4:52


George Garrastegui, Jr. 4:55


Jessica Oddi 4:57

happy accidents. That's Bob Ross.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:00

Yes, Bob Ross the legendary skills,

Jessica Oddi 5:04


George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:05


Jessica Oddi 5:07

Oh, oh my gosh, I didn't like literally drew a blank on that one history I'd say honoring our past

George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:14

opportunity, rest. Accessibility, oh,

Jessica Oddi 5:21


George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:23

Future disabled the

Jessica Oddi 5:26

future is disabled. I've heard about Alice Wong say that a lot.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:31

And last but not least, process.

Jessica Oddi 5:35


George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:36

Thank you. Thank you. I just like doing this, it kind of like just throws us off our game. There's always one where you're like, Oh, my God, my mind just went blank.

Jessica Oddi 5:44

Right. And I love that was history. I'm just like, I was never good at that class, except for remembering dates.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:50

Glad I didn't say math. Oh, my

Jessica Oddi 5:52

gosh, no, I love math, I will totally nerd out on that.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 5:57

So I notice you use identity as first language, right? And I want to language that a little bit here. And before we start the combo, what does identity first language mean? And why was it important for you to specify

Jessica Oddi 6:09

identity first language is basically when disabled people or people with disabilities write us disabled first. So like, I'm a disabled person, versus I'm a person with a disability. Now, for me, language is super subjective. So many people have their preferences. I know many people in the community that don't even want to use the word disability, which is totally fine, right? So I think of it as a relationship for me, my disability is something that I have a very close relationship to, whether I love it, whether I hate it, whether maybe we have a fight, or maybe we get back together afterwards, and makeup. So for me, it's such a, like, integral part of who I am and helped shape who I am that I'm very proud of that. So identity first language is a way for me to a express my pride, and be kind of force people to reconsider or rethink what they think of when they say the word disabled or disability, you know,

George Garrastegui, Jr. 7:12

is that a universal feeling or that something that is not always thought about the same way?

Jessica Oddi 7:18

Definitely subjective, not always the same way. I mean, disability covers one of like, the widest ranges, we have so many other identities within being disabled, you know, you also attaches all other like ethnicities, sexual orientations, age. So, you know, a lot of people say, ability is temporary. And eventually we all become, you know, we all age, we atrophy, we it's a very common experience. Yet, it comes in so many different ways. Some people acquire their disability over time, some people are born with their disability like I was, so it's a completely different life, and I think experience. And so I don't think we have really one communal way to do it. I mean, overall, we're trying to use the word disability and disabled more, you know, so that non disabled people can really start to honor us, rather than think of it as some like, weird social construct, or some weird, like, you know, stereotype. So yeah, I think it's deeply personal. I don't, I think it really depends on each person's relationship with their own disability.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 8:22

And it's good to know, I think that's, you know, the idea of just like, kind of the reframing of the idea of putting the disability up front and allowing people to think about that, because you sometimes can't separate the person from the disability. And, you know, nor do people want to, and I think you made a great distinction, if that's something that you want to project versus some people who don't want to project that, right. So it's just good to know, right, and thinking about how we address that, because sometimes, people may feel it's insensitive to do it one way or the other.

Jessica Oddi 8:53

Absolutely. Even when I'm in conversations with people, I tend to use person first language just to kind of encompass more perspectives. Meanwhile, me, I'll just say disabled Deaf Disabled that, you know, left to right. So I have to be conscious of it myself as well.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 9:08

Yeah, I know, it's something you don't even think about until, honestly, is brought to your consciousness. And then it's kind of like, which one do I do? Do I, you know, like you said, person first or identity first. And, and just wanted to make sure that, you know, as we start to use possibly this language, you know, throughout the episode, people understand why we're doing it, you know, this way, because that's your personal preference. And that's how you want to be identified. So awesome. Thank you so much for that.

Jessica Oddi 9:32

Thank you for honoring my point of view on that. I love that. Oh, yeah.

George Garrastegui, Jr. 9:36

My podcast is always highlighting the individual who, who I'm lucky enough to be interviewing on my show. So I'm going to honor whatever way they want to be discussed. So thank you for just having that for something to have this conversation. So we discussed on that and I kind of want to give my listeners a little bit more of a glimpse into how you were introduced into art and design. So I call this section the orange Didn't story.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

So where did you grow up? And were you creative as a kid?

Jessica Oddi:

Yes. So I grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, still there. I am basically a copycat, because you know, my older sister was very creative. My mom's very creative. So I just like, did whatever Leanna did. It was like, oh, Leanna is drawing I'm drawing to our brother, poor guy. He's the oldest, but he can't draw. He's good at other stuff, though. So I've always kind of been creative. And I mean, honestly, even disability and art wise, right, you kind of just have to, like, be creative and come up with new things. We literally call my mom MacGyver. And you know, my dad would always be like, the engineer technical trying to figure it out, my mom would always be like, Well, I'm gonna, you know, put a wooden spoon on the back of your chair. And that's your headrest until we could fix it, you know, so I always love to draw, and do that kind of thing. In school, I was always either like, oh, you know, the kid in the wheelchair, or, Oh, that's artists. That's the girl that draws and they would always ask me to, like, do all their covers and stuff for their reports. Yeah, and then, you know, as I got older, and into high school, just physically doing like, illustrations and paintings just became a little more exhausting. And that was the wonderful time era where the Wacom tablet was being introduced. And it was like digital world starting for the first time. So I had to learn how to draw all over again, on a digital platform.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Oh, wow. Well, yeah, I can see that being a totally, you know, not necessarily in your mind, but a physicality thing to do something very, totally different. So I don't consider you being a copycat, just because you you followed your mother or your sister, but I kind of feel that's kind of in the blood, right? The creativity just kind of runs in throughout the family, but who have any was your biggest supporter of your creative career?

Jessica Oddi:

Oh, my gosh, I mean, I'd have to give it up to my family and like, extended and the core five of us because they always wanted us to draw things for them. I'd be drawing up tattoos for cousins. I, even though now I'm like, don't do that. Because let the tattoo artists do their work. But yeah, like my family was always the biggest supporter of it. They mom kept all of our art all the time dad put all of our artwork up in his office back in the day, I swear, people thought he still had kids when he was older, because he just never took down our art as kids. We're like, Dad, we're adults, this is weird.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

That's great. It's great to have such a impactful family group to kind of keep on. Sometimes people don't have that support. And it's good to, you know, sometimes to allow us the creatives to know that somebody else is watching. And even if they don't get it, they're just supportive.

Jessica Oddi:

Yes, exactly. Like I would not say my dad or brother would always understand they'd be like function over thing, like, who cares how it looks as long as it works? And then we're like, no, so we don't debate all the time. Oh, they're like, oh, that person's logo, especially since they're in construction. So I'd always be like that person's logos garbage. And they're like, What are you talking about? Who cares? I'm like, come on. And yeah,

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

that would be lovely. Right? Like the construction versus design, like the function of of that I can see the arguments going long and different, you know, many days.

Jessica Oddi:

Yes, we love a good debate.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

So what was your first creative job? And how did you stumble into it?

Jessica Oddi:

Ooh, okay. Well, it's hard to say, right? Because I kind of in high school, I would always do the art posters for my volunteering hours, if you had to get a certain amount of hours, we'd be like, we just paint like, you know, the play posters and stuff. And we had to fight for that. Because a lot of people were like, No, you have to go to, you know, an office or do this. And we were like, you know, I'm not gonna ask my mom to drive me after school to this office every day, like, you know, so anyway, after some fight in there, they let us do that. And then after college, I kind of just jumped right into freelancing. So my first work was always like, either family, friends or recommendations from people back and forth and word of mouth. And I just started doing like, random design things like from audiobook companies, because maybe a friend or a family member knew I was creative. Pharmaceutical pamphlets in Alberta. I was like, cuz like, I had a friend from high school move out to Alberta. And I was like, okay, so it was just the random odd jobs here and there,

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

right. So it seems like being recognized as that's the girl who draws that still got you jobs. That's so that's kind of awesome.

Jessica Oddi:

Definitely helped. And it always helps to everyone always remembers me, because it's like, such easy identifier for the wheelchair. So they'd always be like, oh, yeah, just like we went to kindergarten together. And I'd be like, Oh, I do not remember. I take that a lot. I'd be like, Yeah,

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

of course we did. Yeah, remember that? Yeah, that's always great. When did you first consider yourself a creative

Jessica Oddi:

Oh, I would definitely have to say, probably like a year into freelancing that first year I did not feel like you know, when we're all stumbling around trying to figure out like, is this what I'm doing? Is this a job? Or am I just like, is this a hobby like, I don't really, I don't really know how to identify that. But as soon as I started getting more local work, like I now I've been doing on going branding work for ena electronics. And actually, the original designer, was my educational assistants husband, who was a graphic designer. And we both worked on this rebrand together. And it was so cool to see because he'd be like, almost, he almost like mentored Smalley in that little project where he wanted to see what I came up with and where I went with it. And I had no idea. So I was just, you know, going into town. And then it ends up being that we came up with the exact same logo idea for this rebrand, and he was like, so proud. And we like love the family. So I was just like, that's when I really felt like, Okay, I got this, I could do like, a brand guide and do all this stuff and feel professional. Meanwhile, I look back at the brand guide now. And I laugh like, Oh, that's not how I do brand guides anymore.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Your first big thing is always very different than what you know now. Absolutely. Yeah, I know, I look at some of the old stuff. And I'm like, Oh, that was good. But then I'm like, this is horrible. What were you thinking? I can't believe you even thought that was quality work. Well, God is here though, right? Yeah, definitely. Right. And so you know, I love doing this kind of like quick, deep dive right? It helps everybody kind of learn a little bit more about you, but in a more condensed and concise way. Because I really want to get into some of the deeper things, you know, in conversations we want to go into. And I think we run in the same social media circles, right? I think I've seen you participate in virtual conferences such as AIGA, where all the black designers ally and Ally ship, right. And even when I look at the work that previous guests Jen White Johnson does in diversity, she shared a lot of your posts and things like that. So you've been on my radar and the way you you talk about accessibility, right. And I love that this podcast allows me to give me an opportunity to meet a lot of new people, but also hear about their processes, right?

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

So design is so multifaceted, right? And accessibility, like diversity has been a hot topic in design. I mean, this will probably be the whole entire podcast. But can you tell me what does accessible design mean?

Jessica Oddi:

First of all, I'm just gonna fan girl for a second because I'm sorry, Jen, wait, Johnson shared my posts. And you're right. And I love how you said like, it's been like a hot topic or a hot issue. Because I've made a joke about that with a designer friend a while back, like me doing accessibility work all the time, just because I'm trying to make like my community members get to be involved and actually get to see the stuff that I'm making. And then you see it like trending now all of a sudden, and you're like, Oh, I didn't realize this was a trend like, so for me. I think accessible design and accessibility is just, it's the foundation of everything we do, like good design aligns with accessible design. And it's always been for me at the very base, a human right, like I'm doing this because as much as we talk about physical world disability, like an accessibility, you know, if people saw that a building didn't have a rant, they would lose their minds, right? We'd all lose their shit. Like, No, it's 2023, how do you not have a ramp in this building, yet digital accessibility, Nobody considers it and we're making so much of our content, not accessible for a big chunk of the population, I think one in for people in the globe have or identify as having a disability. They can't access your website or your branding, because it's not accessible for them. So for me, accessible design is just it's like the start. It's like everyone should be doing this as a start and then exploring through, you know,

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

but you mentioned, right, like, a huge chunk of the population is missing out. But what type of accessibility even on a website, are we looking to understand, right? Because obviously, people who currently don't identify as disabled may not be noticing any of the discrepancies that you who are noticed every day, what does that accessibility look like? Or inaccessibility, really,

Jessica Oddi:

there's so much I like to call it beginners versus like then the art and complexity of color contrast. That's a whole podcast in itself. So we're talking about font size, we're talking about color contrast. We're talking about the way the websites built even like, and it's so funny because back in the day when I was learning like HTML in high school, just for the fun of it, you realize a lot of accessibility in web design specifically is just good coding. It's good writing but a lot of people now we jump into the web design world and it's all templates. It's all you You know, you don't even have to do a single line of coding anymore. And a lot of that is actually getting in the way of accessible websites and accessible design and websites. Because people who use assistive technologies like screen readers or talk to text functions on their phone or on their computer, if there's a problem within the code, or there's a problem within the frameworks of your website, then their assistive technology isn't going to be able to read things to them or like alternative text, making sure you have your headers, your sections, your footer tags, and making sure all that but most people I even talked to in web design don't even know that exists. They just do whatever looks pretty on Squarespace, you know, or something. Meanwhile, Squarespace has foundations in itself has so many bugs are so many things that I have to go in and fix with coding just to like, make it accessible, or make sure there's like a focus state on their buttons even like that's how small the detail it can be.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Right? And I've seen some of those options, right? Sometimes, the websites you notice have this ability to include that. But then there's also this little, little funny hovering guy that can change the accessibility options of it. But it almost seems like a skin. It's not embedded in it. So it almost seems like it's an afterthought.

Jessica Oddi:

Yes, and I'm so glad you brought that up, because that is like the biggest hot button issue. Like there are lawsuits that go on with that. And there are all these overlay companies that are trying to like appeal to non disabled people by being like, Oh, you don't want to not be compliant to put this little widget in and all of a sudden, you'll be compliant. And as Aubrey Lee says compliancy is complacency. And you look at these things, these overlays. And they actually cause so much issues for people with assistive technology. Because visually speaking, right for sighted users, or for people who you know, they might look at it be like this is so cool, you can change the font size, you can do this. But what a lot of people don't know is that a your browser in general can do that anyone can zoom in text with Chrome or Safari. So a lot of these fancy widgets and things actually add in so much code and really mess up with some screen reader users. So they fight against it all the time. And I used to use it back in the day too, because I was even excited. I'm excited because they're I don't know shit about assistive tech sometimes because I use the talk to text on my mobile, but I really don't use any like voiceover or things like that on my desktop. So I was even and then a few colleagues were talking to me about it, we were talking about in some Facebook groups, and I immediately took them down from all my sites, I was like, thank you for this, like we should build from the floor up not adding this little widget afterwards, that will actually mess up for half the people that are trying to access the site.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah, I've noticed that. And I've noticed and I've heard that that comment of like, that is lazy accessibility design, right. Where it's it's such a, the intention is the idea of helping and like you said, it may be helps and supports people who have visual disabilities, maybe because you can do these things. But it doesn't take into account all the things. That mean, as we'll get into it, I think that's a very difficult thing to do.

Jessica Oddi:

It's an art, I do say it is an art. But the funny thing is, is for me, I find people are far more concerned with perfection over process. Whereas if you just do one thing to change, just start with the basics have a little more contrast to your post or a larger font size as your base. You know, a lot of designers love that nine point font scale, and it's like, so tiny, no one can read that. So those little things are going to make a huge impact. So even if you're not going to be at let's say, you know, maybe my level or maybe the community level of we've been doing this our whole lives, just because we add to you can still do something, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Everything counts.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Right. Right. And I think I think even just bringing up the idea that Squarespace you have to go back in and do so much work, it almost seems like those themes could, like you said, on the base level, have a function that you can choose to turn off, but it's embedded first versus choose to turn on. Right, exactly. I think that would definitely allow us to, to consider that more often. Because probably most of us are like, I don't even notice it, right? Because people are not, you know, people who are visually impaired I've been who can actually visualize and see the stuff like that. It doesn't bother them because it's not something they deal with. But I think part of the thing is to realize that the stuff that we create and design is not only for people like us, it's for everybody else. So, you know, depending on who we're designing for, we need to hopefully include them to just have access to the same tools that we tend to have.

Jessica Oddi:

Absolutely, absolutely. You know, like, I know not to generalize but non disabled people love to like when they discover a thing that like we've already been doing for accessibility. It's always hilarious. I love watching the reaction, you know, like, even pandemic talk, right? The fact that more people now are pushing for like, working from home, and they're like, this is great, I can have a work life balance, I could do this or like, I love remote work. Meanwhile, like, I have colleagues were like, rejected left and right for years, because they couldn't work from home, I didn't even go into a design agency, because I couldn't work from home, you know, I had to start my own business, I had to do this. So there's that like, and I'm always conscious of it. Because I know it can also be a chip on my shoulder. So I also need to be conscious and be open and warm hearted to people who are really genuinely passionate and interested. I've met some really cool non disabled allies who like, want to get this done like Tiffany Stewart, oh my god, she's my favorite. We chat about like, the accessibility of things all the time. But it's just funny. Sometimes, you know, you're like, now you're seeing all these accessibility things. We're like, this is easier to read, or I love closed captions. Because, you know, now I don't have to have my phone audio on, I can just read it. And it's like, well, yeah, and that also helps deaf people. You know, welcome to The Club. Like,

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I know, I know, sometimes you in 2017, I was at an AIGA conference. I think I was in Minnesota, and Elise Roy was there, Deaf designer, she's also I think, on the board of AIGA. And she was doing her talk and just basically being like, like you're talking about, right, the idea of accessibility being everywhere, and how the keyboard, the normal thing that we know, was designed for disabled people so they can be able to talk, you know, if they couldn't, I don't think anybody can think about a computer without a keyboard.

Jessica Oddi:

Right? It's so true. And like, so many things were built from those spaces, like even infomercials. People joke all the time. Oh, infomercials are, you know, selling products for lazy people? And it's like a the word lazy. I'm lazy. Yeah, I'm exhausted. I'm tired. I want that shoehorn. I want that orange juice, tipping machine thingy like that is great. And it's cheaper. Because the more you all buy it for us, the more the price goes down so that we can buy it on the cheap. So it's like, yeah, no, so many things. And everything like everyone has access needs, I think is one of the biggest takeaways that people don't understand, technically speaking, you need public washrooms, or else that's an access need. I can't use your public washrooms. But, you know, if I could, that'd be great. So everyone has, I think, what their own needs to make themselves function and feel good and rest in community. And so do we just have a little bit more? Or maybe we've had them a little bit longer, you know?

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah. I mean, honestly, we can probably dig into some of that, because I think, you know, there's so many things that not that we ignore, it just that we're just not aware of, because it doesn't hit us the same way. I think the fact that we need to have more people that had hits us a different ways to understand the complexity of the things that we do, and how these little decisions can ripple in big ways.

Jessica Oddi:

Absolutely. Oh, my gosh, yea h. I mean, most people growing up, even my sister and I, and maybe a few other people were the only like, physically disabled people they knew, you know, like, so a lot of times, I'm also realizing that, you know, as soon as I slide out of my little disability bubble and community, I'm like, Oh, that's right. Some people haven't even like, met someone with a disability before. You know, like, it's just wild to me. And you have to, like, I have to remember that to that. Like, yeah, I have to sometimes like speak about it, like, as if no one has any idea what I'm talking about.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah, no, that's totally true. And I think that that's part of the some of the things of like, the more interaction, and obviously, disability or race or things all have that same kind of complexity. Where if if you're in your own little bubbles, and then you're experiencing this thing, you're like, oh, shit, I haven't actually experienced as much as I thought I have, just because I watch TV or see it online, or I think I'm an advocate or an ally. But then when I go outside of like, oh, I have no idea how to talk to XYZ. I don't know what to say. It's very telling how sometimes that type of information goes by the wayside because it's just not something that we're so used to dealing with on a day to day.

Jessica Oddi:

Absolutely. And I think it really comes down to I think once we drop that fear of like, Oh, am I good ally, am I doing this right? And actually just do the work? I think it makes a huge difference, right? Like, because there are so many subsections of disability I will never understand an autistic perspective, or what it's like for someone who's deaf blind or like all these different like, I have a bit of depression as well. So I have that spectrum, but like I'm not in the neuro divergent world. So it's like I can't When and then we have overlaps and complexities on top of that, because there are black disabled people, there are queer disabled people out there. And I, and I think the more we realize, I'm not going to understand your experience, but I'm going to open up and listen and validate your experience. I think that's what makes that better process. You know,

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I think that also just reminds me of a design process, right? The willingness to be wrong, or the willingness to fail more often is the same thing, the willingness to, you know what, I am gonna fuck up along the way. And I'm gonna apologize for it. I'm gonna say I said the wrong word. And I'll you know, do it in real time. And hopefully, everything will be okay. Just because versus never addressing it, never touching on it, never figuring out the right way to address people. You know, that's the worst thing that you can do.

Jessica Oddi:

Absolutely. We just have to, you know, and we do as designers, right? We were that classic, what you got to grow thick skin and take criticism, because every day, your client is not going to pick your favorite option. We all know your clients gonna pick the one you hated the most. So you know, it happens. So same thing, right? We've got to build that tolerance so that we can do the work and, ya

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

know, right, they will always pick the worst. I don't understand what kind of water they drink, but they always pick the worst thing. Right? The old school process was give you, you know, give you two that you liked what you didn't. And then the client learned to always pick the shitty one. So I don't I don't understand how that ever happened, but became a thing. So now you you can't show them that anymore.

Jessica Oddi:

Yeah, now exactly. Now you just start with your best work. What do you like the most? And then then they ask for the revisions. And we're like, Okay, fine.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah, exactly, exactly. So now we're getting into client work, right? So look, digging into the stuff that you've done, we found this amazing thing you've collaborated on with Yahoo, right? The artwork for the Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Can you talk a little bit more about the project in general, and how you were contacted?

Jessica Oddi:

Okay, so first of all, completely wild, every opportunity I've had. And I always say this has been either because a disabled person recommended me or we chatted on some random group somewhere else. And like, you know, it's like planting those seeds, right? Like, a lot of the connections I've been trying to make have nothing to do with, oh, I want to do this. So I can build my career. It's more like, Oh, my God, you're so cool. I love what you do there. Let's talk about it more. And I've been really honored and blessed that that's come back to me through the years because, like, I am pretty sure that Yahoo message was just randomly because it was the disabled life, or one of my past illustrations for maybe Access Now, one of those ones that I was doing, or even xes products, where I was literally drawing disability figures for accessible sex products, which was hilarious, because I'm like, now Yeah, who's mastered because they saw my like, disabled person swinging on a swing with dildos around them. So that was hilarious. But you know, and I'm like, that they message me out of the blue, like, we love your work. And we love the way you like, try to incorporate the whole spectrum of people in your work. So let's, you know, let's do something. And they were so cool, because they really just let me go with it like, like, there were no parameters beyond oh, here's our palette a little bit, but like, have fun with it. I actually had to sit back and think before I said, Yes, because one thing I always have to be conscious of, especially as a white disabled woman is, is this for me? Can someone else represent my community better? Can someone else do this better? And then at the same time, the whole fact that yeah, who was even thinking of hiring someone for global accessibility awareness day with a disability was huge in itself. So I really went back and forth, because it was a huge, I didn't want to take the responsibility lightly of like, how am I going to represent an entire community in one little square? And I have to say, my process through it all was just always based off people I knew and loved already. I like know so many people with severe scoliosis, or who use a wheelchair, a lot of queer disabled people who identify as non binary and just using that as my inspiration to just create the love that I feel when I think about the word disability or the word community. And I tried you not even like I sent it to a few people I probably shouldn't have sent it to because I don't think I was allowed to do it, but I did it. And, you know, now that it's over, I could say that just to like, be like, Okay, I'm on the right path. Is there something I forgot? Is there someone I left out? Because that would be my biggest fear as a disabled designer? Like Did I leave someone out?

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Right, right. And then I mean, looking at some of the you know, doing the research I mean, we have obviously the on Yahoo, they have the article and it seems like it's kind of this one splash image, but I can't find more and I know there is more like what other little aspects assets were you able to create? You know, was it just that specific like piece for an article or was it a larger thing?

Jessica Oddi:

Yeah, so that piece in itself was just used. I know, they can also use it internally. So that'll probably go on, you know, whenever they're talking about global accessibility awareness day, but it was actually on like the whole search page that day as well. So like when anyone like search disability or accessibility was like, on all of their banners to advertise for global accessibility awareness day. So that was wild, I was like, wow, oh, my gosh, my artwork was up there for like a whole day and people got to see it. And then you could click it and read more about like the article and stuff. So that was actually a one off piece that I did in vector format, so that they could either add a title to it, or just use it as is, or if they had to put another background color towards it for a different banner, you know, then they could play with it.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah, I can definitely understand the idea of like, Oh, my God, this global company is using something and it's on all of their stuff on this day. Like, how many eyeballs are on that? You know, I love the fact that you're talking about the inspiration for those are people that you know, and all the different intersectionalities of all that queer disability, different race, disabilities, things like that non binary, I think when you look at the image, it includes so much of that, and I really want to know, this style, right? This very heavy vector very flat. But very clearly, you understand everything that's going on? Is this something you're normally used to? Because when you look at some of the other sketches and illustrations on the disabled life, the old archive blog, it seems to be more traditionally, kind of sketch comic panel like So was this a departure for you or just kind of something you were trying to do because of what they allowed you to do? Well,

Jessica Oddi:

the funny part is, is I actually got into the more vector versions of it for ease ability. Its traditional art is like so much more physical work. Not the vector was because I still have to go through the sketches and do stages like that, like I'm a, I'm an illustrator. Like I have a traditional art background in that sense, where I sketch first all the time, even though I digitally sketch I still have to, so I still sketched it all out, like a comic strip, and then went back in to vector it later, which I know most designers are probably like, why wouldn't you just build it in vector and I'm like, that will work that way. Photoshop has to be first. So for me, it was just I think I was used to doing that style for a few other clients as well, like access now, the xes. And the first big project I ever did for Wells Fargo for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. So for me, it was just you know, scale, and to have to be able to like I can create smaller, so you know, my viewer wouldn't crash at the time. So even just resolution basis, so much easier to work in that vector format. And I love it. I love experimenting with different styles. Like, one day, I'll paint a Bob Ross painting. And the next day, I'll go in and do like the most minimalistic thing ever, just because I get bored. And I like to explore new styles and not not do the same thing over and over again, I actually get bored doing that a lot. So I need to change it up.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

But are you getting bored with like, the just the style you're working on at any given time or bored with the output you're putting out for clients? Or is it kind of one in the same?

Jessica Oddi:

One of the same, I just feel like we kind of joke that I my mother's daughter because she's the jacquelene of all trades, we joke but so like I just once I've done something like if I've worked on a website, let's say for like, a big project for a while I was doing it for like, let's say two months. And then I'm like, I'm over it, I don't want to code again. Now I want to go draw, or now I want to go do a logo or want to do something different or meet a new challenge to or a new problem to solve, right? So I think it just comes from that or if I'm bored or what mood I'm in, what music I'm listening to.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I definitely can see that happening with that piece. And we noticed and even when I follow you on social and even you know the certain things, with most of the stuff that you create, you always have captions and descriptions that go along with your visuals. Two part question one, how do you decide on the wording for those specifically? And is this an accessibility practice? We all should adopt?

Jessica Oddi:

Alright, so number one that evolved over years, if you ever I think it's because I wiped out my social feed way back when I rebranded so that it would all look aesthetically because I was very particular. So if you look at like go back to my first image description I ever wrote It's garbage. It's just like yep, person sitting there doing the thing. But as like, you know, we know writing is a practice as designers practice image descriptions became a practice. So as I wrote more, I got more confident in the way I was describing things and because we're artists, I also feel like we kind of have to describe the vibe as well not just what it is. So for me it's just if I'm I use identity First language I read a bit controversial one was even in the in the Yahoo one, one of the people is plus size. So I wrote that disabled person because I know a lot of people in that community who are like fat is not a bad word that is not an ugly word. Why are we not saying this, like, the more you're scared of it, the more fat phobic we're going to be, you know, so I did. And obviously, they had to change it, because they're a big company, they don't get that luxury of like being an independent getting to put your foot down on that thing sometimes. So they changed it to just like, you know, a plus size person or using it as that to be a little, quote, safer. So for me, I just tried to be mindful of the language that the people around me use to and the people I follow and connect with.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Interesting, interesting. Yeah, and I'm reading the description, just kind of as we're talking about it right now to see how they changed it. But it is interesting, you know, because in the visual, and I'll add this to my website with the show notes so people can see it, right, you're talking about, you know, nine people that you've designed in various things from, you know, nine by binary to gay to, like you said plus size to somebody wearing a hijab, right? Somebody in a in a wheelchair, right? So somebody with the prosthetic it looks like, right? So there's all these different things you're trying to address so many different layers in this even somebody I think with like alopecia, it looks like you know, to yet, you know, to even say that skin color is not even a given in the way that it, it's differential. So it is very interesting, right. And I love how you say, writing as a practice designing as a practice, right, and how all these things come together. So it, it allows us to kind of really understand and, and be mindful once again, that the fact that like, it's going to evolve over time. And I think I've noticed Gen Y Johnson do this a little more on her posts when she's been posting some of her stuff. And what it really means is, you know, since we're so visual people, we allow the visual nature of the image to tell us all the things that we're not really saying. And so our listeners understand when adding a caption or this description to an image, it's allowing somebody who maybe can't honestly see the image to just read the description, and still have the same visual picture of what this image is supposed to be like. And just as a really good job to making sure she's identifying it looks like gender fluidity, different types of races, right to ethnicities, to even type of illnesses, or things like that, to help identify with this, which things that we would normally, if you're able to see, you can notice all of these little things with your eyes, but somebody who cannot rely on their eyes to do that type of same type of seeing needs to read this stuff. So just in case listeners don't understand what it is to have image descriptions besides just a caption of like, what the image is supposed to convey versus no, no, I need to actually describe the whole entire image before somebody else.

Jessica Oddi:

Really it Oh, look at you, you are you did your research. I love it. Yeah, exactly. It's, it's a very good accessibility practice, because the thing is, actually, I'm gonna be doing a post, probably in a month now, because I'm tired. I was actually gathering information on Instagram for Instagram stories and how screen readers if they read out the text, or if it reads out things, so where I learned to put image descriptions in my post, rather than just the alt text. So like my alt text, which is in like the settings of you know, when you do an Instagram post, let's say you go down to the very bottom, click More Options, click accessibility, click all text, whatever. It's a convoluted process, so that I actually go very basic, because for me, if the image descriptions in the caption, then it can also appeal to more disabilities than just visual. Like I learned this from higher priestess on Instagram, where some screen readers don't even read the alt text just because of the way the social media platform is built, let's say so some of the legacy devices just don't catch up and don't read it. But then also I was thinking, well, sometimes, there are always different types of learners, right? We learn this in school, there's tactile learners, there's visual learners, and there's audio learners. So for me by adding an image description, in the caption, I'm covering all my bases. So if someone doesn't like to look, they like to they'd rather read, they can read the description and understand something they might miss. Like, even if they have maybe a cognitive disability or a processing disorder, or something. So yeah, it's always like for me, gotta cover all three of those bases, and you're basically going to cover the most majority of people.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

It seems like a lot of work though, right? That's not simple, right? I mean, meaning like, I know, I'm not trying to say that we're not going to adopt this, but it does seem like a lot of extra layers on top of just sharing a post, you know, share a thing you know, doing a video and putting it up there. Now, it's like, there's a more methodical thought process going into Everything, right? Because the intention is you just want to get the information out there, the impact of the intention means you have to make sure that you said, I want to hit the widest available audience I can.

Jessica Oddi:

Yes, exactly. And to me, it goes against the whole, you know that we're doomed with the algorithm, or we have to post we have to mark it. And that's one of the things, you know, kind of post right now. And for me, it's like, if it's not accessible, I'm not posting it. And I get that also privilege, because sometimes we don't have that opportunity. Sometimes we do have to share it quick. Sometimes it's like an emergency. So if you're posting like a really important thing, so I've even offered to volunteer and write the captions for people in their posts, if they don't have the time to do it. And obviously, I'm physically disabled, so I can't do anymore. But it's just planning differently, right? Like, sometimes I'll do a few of my social media posts in advance, I'll write it out, or I'll ask community members to help me write it out. If I'm tired, you know, we're so good at this cross disability support. Because there are even people in the disabled community who don't make their shit accessible. And it drives me up the wall, because they're like, Well, I'm tired. I'm like, I get it. I'm exhausted. You know, yeah, some days, it means doing an hour to do you know, upload your video and make sure there's closed captioning and not just auto transcribed stuff. Because auto always creates mistakes and can never pick up on they don't even know what OD is, which is hilarious, because that's a very short word. So I do you get up put in that extra love and effort because I don't give a CRUD if I don't get traction, or if my post didn't track while I even turned off my life counts. Like I don't care anymore. I just, I would rather share what I have to share and make it accessible for everyone then. And then it took me 10 years to get here because everyone's like, how did you are here? How do you even get these clients? I don't know, I needed people and loving people and just going back and forth with wanting to know what they're doing for work. And then all of a sudden, you know, you hear 10 years down the road. Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize, like when I met Liz Jackson, it was like, Oh my gosh, that I didn't even know who Liz Jackson was when I met her. I know. And then all of a sudden, I noticed later and after that job that I'm like, Oh, she's a big deal. I didn't even know, you know,

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

yeah, I think most of that usually tends to happen in the sense where sometimes we're in this spaces, and we meet people, and we're lucky enough to meet somebody in a thing. And we don't even realize who we're actually talking about. And sometimes that's the best way because then you're not you're not enamored by who they are, you're just talking to them as like creative to creative or something like that, versus being totally stifled by their celebrity or their access point that you're like, who am I to talk to this person, you know, like just being able to, to do that. And so you're talking about how much time you're taking and putting in the extra efforts. And it begs the question right are, are the tools of Art and Design set up to support creators with disabilities.

Jessica Oddi:

They're getting there. And I feel like since the boom of it, as we're seeing becoming trending and becoming thing, you're seeing a lot more things coming out, which is great, like you're seeing, I think Snapchat now has, you can type the text and then click the voice kind of like tick tock does. So it'll read out the text and like all this kind of stuff. Now, as far as design tools, I can't even speak to all of it because I need the end of my disability other than the fact that I need to be digital, the tech works for me, so I can't complain, I think it's going there. But then you look at Canva or figma figma, starting to do some plugins and things like that. But that it's like, if you make a PDF, let's say are trying to make a PDF in Canva and export that it is riddled with accessibility errors, like you are never gonna get a clean PDF, you might as well just build the PDF right in Adobe Reader, you know, like, you might as well just start from scratch. So there are some things I think in our current applications that aren't up to par yet. They're not helping you make making design with accessibility in mind easier. They're starting to like you're seeing illustrator now has color blindness simulators. So you can kind of see how your colors are going to look across the board. They're starting to kind of implement more document accessibility in the other programs, not just InDesign, because I know not everybody uses InDesign or even uses Adobe for that fact. Right? So it's back and forth. It's a slow process, and I think it's gonna get there more in the future than it is now.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Can you explain what a clean PDF means? Oh,

Jessica Oddi:

okay, so everything's code, right? Everything we see on our screen is code that we're seeing is visual examples. So when you open up a PDF, there's a bunch there's like tags, structures and things like that. So let's say you have a two page document with a header one, header two and some paragraphs. If you don't tag that header one or that header two as a header, then the screen reader like won't be able to navigate through the page. So if there's no tags, or if you know you just scan the document, it's all like a flat. jpg as a PDF No one with assistive tech is going to be able to read that because there's no, I mean, there's not even alt text for the image, right. So when you're building accessible PDFs, which is an entire art in itself, you have to like be mindful of the way you're styling, even as simple as making a paragraph style. And then using that paragraph style, rather than highlighting the text, and then using your top banner to style it, it's little things like that, that then when you export it, like Adobe will know, okay, that's a paragraph tag, that's a header tag, this is an image tag, and then someone with assistive tech can read the document and go through it.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

That's amazing. It's amazing that even things that you don't consider code based, like these design programs, even though they are right, but do you think of web stuff is like code based, right? Just because of Yeah, you know, but like to be like, right? If you don't have the proper if you don't use character styling, or the styling versus this and like you said, go up to the toolbar and do that. It's gonna reread differently, just blew my mind, in the sense of not even realizing that little thing leads to better accessibility.

Jessica Oddi:

Absolutely. That's why you need disabled people in development. And I, I love them, because I am not a back end developer, I am a front end developer at best, I know, my HTML, my CSS, and then everything else and see you later, I'm gonna hire someone else to help me do it.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I agree with you on that. I'm a front person, I'm a front end person. Yeah, I can dig in the back if I need to, like fix a little glitch or something and make sure there was like a tag here or, you know, a less than sign or something is missing. But besides that now, as design continues to evolve via its technology and thought processes, right, you mentioned obviously, the idea of physical space, which unfortunately, you know, often has limitations for disabled individuals. What are you noticing, is happening in the same thing, but in the digital space, right, who are the biggest culprits? And honestly, who are the best advocates that are helping in this other type of space?

Jessica Oddi:

For me, I find the biggest, it's so hard to say. Because as people are trying, and companies are trying, it's just the way our systems currently work online and digital spaces that are just not helping, like, half the time as ugly as 19. Windows 98 was, you know, it was code wise, beautiful. Now, don't get me wrong, I still don't think that's accessible, because there is visual accessibility things to consider, like, you know, size of your font or spacing, layout, having some negative space in there, please. But as far as like the digital realm, these big companies that are just trying to like market on accessibility, or try to do these quick fixes, rather than really start from scratch, like a lot of even the clients that come to me to get their website accessible are like, Oh, I just use like, what platform should I even use? Or what should I even like go to so I try to help them there. And for me, the community members, like I said, higher priestess, Haben Girma, the way we're trying to like, then it's weird. It's like back and forth of us trying to combat things that are launched without even being considered, you know, when the first person launched Instagram, they weren't thinking about is this clean for a screen reader to use, they're just trying to get traction and trying to get popular. And now you're seeing all of these big companies back pedal. Because as the WCAG are, I apparently see WCAG. And that's not right, which is the accessibility content guides, whatever that acronym. It's like, as that's becoming more of a thing and more compliancy is going in government work, even you're seeing more of these websites now backing up or fixing their things or launching the widgets to like, fix their apps and try to make it more accessible. And it's like, well, if you just built this, from the start with the disabled people who were telling you how to do this, it would be so much easier. And I don't know if there's one culprit versus fixer answer for that, because it's kind of just like the way we look at technology in general. And the way we kind of advanced so fast that we're not even taking a break and a breath to say, did we even do this right? Did we even consider all the people here because like, back in the day in school, a lot of this tech was for disabled people only, like I was the first kid in my class to get a laptop because I got to tight because it was easier and less fatiguing than writing or they tried to get me on Dragon Naturally Speaking so that I could speak and I'm still haunted by the command scratch that because every time it would get an error, I'd have to say scratch that it would delete. But like a lot of this technology was for assistive tech and for adaptation and then somewhere along the lines as soon as it got to the public and just expanded. It's like we got left behind. And now we're having to combat all of these things that just aren't being built for us or not even being considered but the changes happening, you know, you're seeing that shift, you're seeing new apps, consider that and new people asking and hiring disabled people on their team to like, get it going and get it started from the foundation or even consulting of like, Hey, am I doing this right? Or what have I thought of. So there's some good coming.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

It's so unfortunate, like you mentioned, the idea that a lot of this stuff that we use comes from the ability to give access to, you know, people didn't have access before. And then of course, once it becomes for the masses, then your accessibility goes away, right? Because it's no longer like you were almost the testing ground for this versus continuing to evolve. Like, instead of being like, always the alpha, right, like, okay, you can always test this. And as it moves on, we can test a new thing. It's like, okay, you get left behind, right, which does suck, but it is unfortunately, true. And it's so much in so many spaces, right? Not just accessibility, but in, you know, racial equity and in everything, right, we, we like your culture, but we don't like your people, right? Like, just it's such a weird, human thing that once once we've learned from you or stolen from you, then we don't need you anymore.

Jessica Oddi:

Yeah, you know, and you know, and it's, and then on the flip side, technology has given so much access to disabled people to like, you know, once we work past the tech issues, you see, like, so like, even now I'm getting fitted for a new chair for the first time in five years. And the process alone is so different than it was that I'm, I'm sitting in expecting it to be like eight months, and y'all probably can't get this and they're like, oh, no, we're gonna give you eye level. So you can move your chair up and down. And we're gonna do this fabric so that it's breathable, and I'm like, Oh, shit, okay, we are in the future. Like, it's just so it's really cool to see. And as sometimes, as backwards as it is, sometimes sometimes it goes forwards in ways we can't even imagine. And it's wild, like Aubrey Lee's creating Tech with Google that so that they can pick up on text better for people who maybe aren't so audible or can't speak, like, because like, maybe their jaws are a little more stiff, so they can't speak as well as they used to. And like they're creating, you know, technology, we can drive your chair with your frickin eyeballs. Like it's just it's so cool to do. So there is a cool side to check that disabled people get to see and get to use.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

So it sounds. That sounds awesome. Doing some research on your website. Right? There are three areas that I noticed, right consulting, updating, and new work. And your new work is touted as obviously, we've been talking about accessibility from the start. You just mentioned question that I was going to follow up with, right, the idea of including disability disabled persons in the project earlier, right. But besides that, which is obviously just having the right people in the room to even just ask the right questions. How can more designers start including accessibility in their practices from the start? Oh, gosh,

Jessica Oddi:

yes. So many ways. Like there are so many courses out there, too. And free resources, even like a lot of what I learned were either taken from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or ally, though, a one one why, like, there's so many resources, like there's really so much information at our fingertips, that it's almost like we can learn something today, you know, like, so even as simple as running your logo through a color blindness simulator, you know, because there's a compliancy rule that logos don't have to be accessible for contrast ratio. And I'm like, Why? Why? Because that person doesn't want to see the logo, like, yeah, you know, building brand guides that, you know, explain those accessibility things, like I even put in, I'll put in a whole contrast accessibility page. So it'll show every swatch, let's say the client has four colors, right? So I'll even take those colors and give them the matching colors to go with it. So it's like, if you're using this as a background color, you can only use these colors with it. And then right from the start that and then a social media marketer can look at that, and know, oh, okay, I have to pair these colors together, so it's accessible. And then they already know.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I agreed. And I mean, that was that last part, right? Just follow more designed or disabled people designed disabled people, like it's such an easy thing. Because they're going to be doing the practices that you should be using more often, like, so you'll learn by just like you said, absorbing. I think people need to just be that's a comfort zone thing. And the more we can not follow the same people that we always do or the same types of people. Right? To me, it's like you're a creative right designers who are creative who doesn't matter if the disability first this first African American, black Latino writers just creatives follow creatives and want to follow with because it's good stuff, right? So, to me, it's like almost like the democratizing idea like good stuff is good stuff, regardless of where it comes from. Right and to me, it's art from there. where, and when you respect what people are doing. And they just happen to be, quote unquote, doing things a little differently because of wherever they're coming from. Learn from that. Right? Right. Like I said, that's why I'm listening to you know, you, Jenn white and other people who are doing it and going, Okay, this is how they're asking to be respected and talk to, if you're talking about them, right? They're showing you how they do it. So respect that fact. And in kind, that's how you want to address them, talk about them when you're mentioning them. You know, so you're learning from those spaces, right? It's not that hard to do. It's actually a lot harder to go against the grain than it is, right?

Jessica Oddi:

It's true, it's true. And it's as everything in the world, like, nobody's gonna agree on everything, right? Like, there's way too many of us in this planet, to have one cohesive view of something. Even in the disabled community, we get in arguments and things like that, or some different perspectives or some different things. So like, at the end of the day, like, just don't be an asshole, right? Like, just take the time to follow someone learn something new, like, one of my design philosophies, anyway, in general is like, if I get to a point in my career, where I'm like, I don't need to learn anything, you need to do it this way. Or like, you know, there's nothing new that I can learn that I guess I should retire, because I'm not going to understand what's new, and what's adaptive, like, you know, so the same thing applies everything else we can always learn from someone else, even if it's not a design thing, you know, it can come from anywhere.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I agree with you so much. I mean, literally on that, if I have nothing else to learn that I shouldn't be in this space anymore. There's nothing wrong with that. If but if I feel that I'm, I'm already done with learning, then why am I still here? I'm gonna move on to do something else, right? Because I agree. You know, like, if that's the feeling, then I can't give anything more to this. I, you know, I have this air of confidence that I know everything, which is obviously always fake. But, you know, if you do, then you shouldn't be in this space anymore. I mean, when I think when I read that in one of your articles, I was kind of like, yes, that's exactly I mean, exactly what I've said before. So that's

Jessica Oddi:

don't get me wrong, I'm still stubborn, I'll still be stubborn. I'm 100% covered in my design work. But you know, I'm

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

stubborn, because I'm a Taurus. So it's just built in me, so I gotta be stubborn. So look at it, we agree on multiple things.

Jessica Oddi:

Yep. I think mine comes just from that. Wanting to myself, advocacy can sometimes also be just ads don't like the authority. Thank you telling me to do this, I'm gonna go to the

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I get that. I get that. That's it's a good stubborn thing. So let me ask you this. Is it possible to design for all? And if so, is it tactic driven? Or is the process flexible?

Jessica Oddi:

Okay, well, for me, designing for all is being flexible, I hope like there and there are some disabled designers who will probably disagree with me on this, that's fine. But 100% accessibility is a myth. Everything is contextual, and it depends on the situation. So all you can do is do the best you can do at the time and try to encompass as many people as you can for that specific project. But start small, because it's easier that way too. And you're gonna solve more problems that way, then, because it can feel overwhelming, right? When it's like, ah, design, everyone. But for me, it's as simple as are designing for the people that exist in this world, like, the last time I checked, like disabled people exist, you know, like, all these people exist. So all I'm trying to do is just take what I see from the world and what I've had the honor of connecting with in this world and put it into my work. So as far as like the technical accessibility, even people who are saying, Oh, this is 100% compliant, half the time I disagree with some of their design choices, I think it could have been done differently, or I think it could have been approached from a different perspective. But that doesn't mean like that. It's all because I don't like that all or nothing mentality. To me, it's flexible, that I might be working with a mostly deaf community who might need specific things that maybe counteract with something that someone else needs in the community, like there are across disability issues sometimes. And sometimes you just have to do the best you can. And that comes with having those hard conversations, and figuring it out with who's in this space. You know, like for webinars, maybe you won't have a disabled person on a webinar, maybe you will have plenty. So if you give them the option to see what their access needs are, then you can accommodate for the people you know, are in your space, and start there. It doesn't have to be everyone. It's just got to actually reflect the world we live in.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Mm hmm. Thank you for that. Thank you for that. Before we start to end this, talk to me about the blog you did what your sister called the disabled life.

Jessica Oddi:

Oh my gosh. Okay. So I think we're gonna end up switching into some audio based thing soon because she's like a student in psychology right now. So and I'm doing all this design work, so none of us have the time to illustrate anymore. But that really just came from a fun space because we've always been just I want to say we've just been jerks. It's fun. You know, like we just we always rose people, we had an idea for maybe putting it together in a collection and, and we wanted to literally say thank you to all those awkward non disabled people who made our jokes a reality by being awkward in front of us, you know, because without that, we wouldn't have half the laughs We had. So we just wanted to just draw things from just shit. We go through the funny things people have said, and just planning a laugh. And it'll because, for me, it's like, no different than this is mine normal. And I don't like the word normal, because normal doesn't exist. Everyone's different everyone, but at the same time, we're all the same too. And just because my experiences in my life happened to be from a disability perspective. And so many people are like, Oh, my God, like I couldn't imagine not being able to walk. And I'm like, I can't imagine walking. It sounds exhausting, you people have to put one foot in front of the other all the time, just to get from point A to B, like, who's winning here? I think I have it figured out because I don't know if they're walking around everywhere. But like, you know what I mean? So it's just we have a dark sense of humor to in that sense, or not a dark sense, humor, sorry, we have like a, we do have a morbid sense of humor. And that comes to life expectancy and different things like that. So it just, we've our whole family's always been that way. And it was a great way to break the ice when we were younger. And it's also just been a great way to just laugh at some of the stuff that happens in life. Because I find it that like kids are my favorite. They always like say the coolest stuff because they're not afraid either. Right? They don't have that social like, they think so like my little cousin who maybe I you know, they'll walk up and be like, Why can't you walk? And I'm like, I was I didn't eat my broccoli. And then he's like, Shit, I'm gonna eat my broccoli now, you know, like, and I love it. I love those because they're curious. And that's the best thing I think have is to be curious over then being afraid to like, or being like, I don't know. So we just found a way to put that together. And to just laugh about it together online. And apparently it got traction, because we had no, no intention of going anywhere. Where's our outlet? Even now, people are like, what are you going to do with this space? We're like, nothing. It's something else when it comes up, we'll probably roast them like, that's it?

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah, it's so great to be able to, like do something where the intention is just to explore a lot of the different things versus like having to do something like oh, what you know, and the fact that you're able to just look at it and be like, we were just trying to vent trying to acknowledge trying to just do these and express our morbid, you know, comedic abilities, and how we can talk about the world. Because usually the things that I've noticed when you're doing it from that space, is when it will get traction, because people can see the authenticity in it, because it's not trying to do it for any other purpose than just trying to do it.

Jessica Oddi:

Exactly. I mean, you know, many people like would come I've had disabled people like, roast us about the club one because we were joking about why we hate the club. And they're like, you're just not doing it right. And it's like, Dude, you can go to the club. I don't care. That's amazing. I hate it. I don't want to stare up butts all day. If I do go to a club, like, you know. Right? Yeah. No, it was it was a fun outlet.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

All right. So yeah, so there's the potential, but it can it can evolve into this audio format, which I think would be a great thing.

Jessica Oddi:

Right? I just I have some already on the on the records. And we just go on thought processes, right? It's basically the jokes we come up with because we share a room. So it's just the jokes we come up with it to in the morning, you know, and it's like, then you wake up the next morning, and you're like, that probably wasn't funny, but we were really just dying laughing at night, right? That's where it all comes from.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

That sounds actually really funny. Because I can understand that that moment of having those funny conversations with somebody, and then realizing like, I have no idea what I was talking about it too. Oh. So as we start to end up stuff, let me ask you some final questions. As a designer, what is something new, you would like to explore creative wise?

Jessica Oddi:

So I kind of want to explore more about maximalism, and how that can relate to digital accessibility as well. We're often told that like, you know, the grid system and the Eurocentric way of designing is the most accessible to and a lot of what I've learned from like a local creative, and even where the black designers do their amazing, like workshops, and just talks and chats are that like, No, I think you can do accessibility and not have to follow this, like colonized way of designing. So it's just been something I'm really curious about and is and to kind of play with more in my own accessibility work and how I treat accessibility as an art form as well as a technical accessibility for everyone.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

I like that. I like this idea of maximalism. No, I mean, I think that's a great approach. And to also, I guess, say that we should be in that space to you know, like, not just right, we should, yeah, like don't limit it to the type of designer the type of creature Have anybody should be in that place? And what does it mean to be in that space? So as a consultant, what shifts? Are you seeing? Or how should the industry shift in the next five years?

Jessica Oddi:

Oh, okay, good question. Because really consultancy just started as my retirement plan. Yeah, so if it gets too tired to design, I can then consult. But for me, what I'm seeing a lot of is I am seeing a lot of the basics are really getting out there, which is good, I'm seeing a lot more designers consider font sizes, I'm seeing a lot more of them. Like I've even seen clients now start to like add image descriptions, because they saw it from my posts, that always makes me excited. But as far as like an industry where we need to go in five years is a we need to drop the gatekeeping. All right, no more of this hierarchy of only a director can do this and veto this design. And that design, I feel like if we want to make a more accessible environment now where I want to get into is how we can make our environment as accessible as our design process. Because it's not just more about the end product is great, we can all learn the contrast, and we can all learn all of those design tools. But we need more classes in schools. So that does younger, like and even newer designers, because they're not necessarily young, they might just be starting now can actually learn the basics from the start and implemented into their design work. And then I want like agency spaces and design spaces, and corporate design spaces to adapt a more accessible and good life balance, even just for their designers. And I feel like that's where we need to go in order to a combat the technology that you know, we're talking about too is and be just actually be able to get better designs out there from the foundations. We can't do it if we're used to a certain way of working or only one way of doing things.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yay. That's just I mean, yeah. I mean, there's nothing I should add to that. What advice would you give a younger Jess entering the industry today? Oh,

Jessica Oddi:

well, I mean, the biggest thing was be Don't worry about your life expectancy, because apparently you're going to live a while. That was one in itself. But probably I just calm down. And you're going to be floored by the amount of things you're going to do. Because honestly, I still that young designer that's like, wait, what do you mean, Google messaged me for something? Or what do you mean? I'm talking to January Johnson right now, like, that's still and don't lose that sentiment. Don't lose that on just keep doing what you're doing because you're on to something, and just maybe take a little more breaks because I'm still trying to tell myself. I'm not practicing what I preach in the whole life balance figuring out what do we ever know, we never do?

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

You know? Do as I say, not as I do right?

Jessica Oddi:

Now, did they do? Exactly my one colleague Michael literally said, There's no such thing as a design emergency. He's like, you know, you're not going to see an ambulance come down, because the logo wasn't finished by tomorrow. And I was like, That is so true. Like I need to rest.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

We all do rest needs to be part of our process.

Jessica Oddi:

Yes, it really does.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

And so lastly, I'm starting this new ending to my show. I'm calling it pay it forward. Now that you've been on the show, who do you think I should have on? And what one question about their process? Should I ask them?

Jessica Oddi:

Oh, my gosh, okay. Give me a second. Because I want to make sure I'm thinking about

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

you take as much time as you need. Okay, so Jamal,

Jessica Oddi:

he is in postman, Berlin, Germany, and he's a product design student, and he does renderings like disability studies, all of these things. So I would love for you to have them and say, where he would like to see product design go in the future for accessibility?

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

All right there. Yeah. Gotta look them up now.

Jessica Oddi:

Yes, they're on my disabled made content list. So they're there.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Okay. All right. Good to know, good to know. And then, of course, I know you're not taking clients anymore for 2023. But what else is up next for Jess? And where can our listeners find out about you and the things you're doing and the future and everything? Just od related?

Jessica Oddi:

All right. Well, I'm trying. I'm trying to be better on social media, because my colleague Kae Tran is actually someone else you should check out. So k is telling me I should get on LinkedIn and stuff. So I'm trying to do that. So you can follow me on Instagram, Tik Tok, and LinkedIn all od doc Jessica, because I tried to stay consistent. So yeah, I'm very fortunate to be booked out this year, which is wonderful. And that's that is me also trying to just enjoy life a bit more this year, too, because you know, we've been locked in for a while and it's good to get out there again, and trying to slowly find that work life balance. And I am excited because I'm doing two things that I signed NDAs for and that just makes me sound so fancy. Like, oh, I'm sorry, I can't talk about this and just so just so wild, but those two opportunities are really big and I hope you might learn more about it. In maybe six or seven months from now, I'm hoping so you have to follow me on socials to get the scoop on those things because I don't, I can't say it now. But I am excited that this year, I get to really put a lot of my energy into continuing with the disability Philanthropy Forum there, I'm like, do most of their brand work and I have a little team we have together for like accessible design and things like that, and doing all their documents and their things. So I'm gonna be really excited to explore them more this year, and to be able to like, give them more of my time and energy. Because anything I get to do that I get to work with, like disabled led organizations, or people or connections and businesses like that's my fun. That's the stuff I'm more looking forward to, in these next hopefully, few years to is to continue just with and for, you know, working together.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah, that sounds amazing. That sounds. I mean, it sounds like what you're doing, obviously, that you really can't talk about it. So we can't talk about it. But it sounds like those things. And what's about to come up is just the ability for the industry to catch up to you and other people like you who are doing the amazing work in this space, and really trying to advocate for thinking about disability in the beginning, thinking about accessibility in the beginning to try to design for as many people knowing that there is no 100%. But try and really strive to that, you know, is better than never trying to attempt.

Jessica Oddi:

Yeah, exactly. It should take the pressure off. It's not meant to be a scary thing. It's meant to be a load off your back. So you can be like, Okay, we are human, I've messed up, trust me, you know, many times I've gone in and been like, oh, that didn't work. Let me go back and fix it. You know. So

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Right? Well, we learned we learned from our mistakes, we learn from our failures, we figure out where to where to move next. And I thank you for for kind of just really, honestly shedding a light on some of the things that maybe I or people tend not to talk about, because there's like you mentioned a fear of, of not knowing. So you just don't even ask versus if you ask the right people who are willing to help you along there, they're going to bring you along with them versus like calling you out for making the mistake. And I think we as designers need to just do the work as well and not be so inhibited. Or think that it's somebody else's job to do all this type of work, we can start and then there's going to be things that we don't understand, and then we'll go to the experts. But but we should definitely start from scratch and and thinking about how do we need to be more inclusive in the way we design because once again, that idea of a clean PDF just blew my mind. And that's something that regular designers, quote unquote, deal with all the time and probably have no idea that it's not made, you know the quote unquote, right way. So

Jessica Oddi:

I promise you accessible design is just nice. Good. And like, it'll make you a better designer. It really well.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

Yeah, yeah, I agree. I agree. And I thank you for just kind of letting us hear that. Letting us know that that's a thing that we can be a part of. So once again, just I want to thank you so much for your flexibility. Hope the weather is not too bad in Canada. Take care.

Jessica Oddi:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm I'm honored. And I'm so glad I got to have this chat with you. It was so much fun. Thank you so much. I can't figure it out. I don't know it. Maybe that's the Canadian. Thank you. And right now, it's been an absolute pleasure to chat with you today.

George Garrastegui, Jr.:

It's been my pleasure. Take care. Until next time, this has been Works in Process. Wow, what a great combo with Jess, I want to thank her so much for sharing our perspective, and advocacy for accessibility from the start. I learned so much that little small things can make a difference, and that we need to practice and weave it into my methodology. I hope you'll look up the people she mentioned in the episode via the links and your podcast platform. The Works in Process podcast is created by me. George Garrastegui, Jr. in the content and transcriptions have been reviewed by Or Szyflingier, and this episode has been edited and produced by RJ Basilio. You can find the Works in Process podcast on all media platforms such as Apple, Spotify, Google, Amazon, and more. And if you liked the episode, come on, feel free to leave us a five star review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. And of course, if you're feeling extra generous, write us a review. It really helps. And it's so easy. Just subscribe on the podcast platform you're listening to right now. Also, follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on the new releases of every episode. I appreciate you taking the journey with me and I hope you enjoyed our conversation. Until next time, remember your work is never final. It's always Works in Process.

Transcribed by

An educator, designer, and a creative catalyst, George is a native New Yorker who started a podcast in 2017, because he didn't like to write. He also wanted a way to learn and chronicle varied ways or making. We hope you enjoy his journey.

Further reading

Episode 30 Max Masure

Inclusive UX Strategist / Consultant,

Befriending Imposter Syndrome.

Episode 28 Jessica Oddi

Disabled Designer, Freelance Graphic/Web Designer, Accessibility Design

Accessibility from the Start


Recent posts