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Quality assurance engineer’s journey promotes inclusion and accessibility

Manikandan “Mani” Murugesan uses his life experience to create inclusive and engaging digital experiences for customers and employees alike.

During his second year of college, Mani lost his vision. Though he struggled to complete his degree and adapt to his visual impairment, he was determined to be self-sufficient.

“I moved out of my town for training,” Mani said. “I wanted to learn how to manage with a visual impairment…The approach to everything is very different.”

In 2019, Mani joined Best Buy as a quality assurance engineer on the Accessibility Team. As a contract worker in Chennai, India, he and his team are responsible for making digital applications accessible, meaning inclusive and barrier-free for users with disabilities.

One way that Mani combines his personal life with his work is his daily walking routine. Mani enjoys trail walks, which require him to use a map on his phone. By sharing this experience with his colleagues, the team can better determine how a visually impaired customer might navigate a map feature in a web or mobile application. This lends itself nicely to finding better solutions to enhance accessibility or developing new design ideas for customers.

Mani also volunteers with computer education programs at a variety of local non-governmental organizations. It’s his way of creating more accessible and inclusive experiences for all.

A team effort

Since joining the company, Mani has seen accessibility become more of a priority as Best Buy has made more commitments to inclusion, diversity and equity.

Best Buy is investing in workplace technology that makes our accessibility program more robust and gives individuals like Mani a voice.

“Best Buy has done a very good job,” Mani said.

Vidhya Subramanian, an experience design senior manager, agrees. “[The company] believes that accessibility is a human right, not just a compliance issue,”

When Vidhya joined the Accessibility Team three years ago, she carried most of the work, from design to testing.

“There was no accessibility process or program in place. It was just ad hoc,” Vidhya said.

Now, there are nine team members, including engineers, designers and even a content writer.

Through extensive user experience research and design, the team has created a standardized process for making Best Buy retail and Health applications inclusive and accessible for all customers and employees, including those with visual and cognitive disabilities or mobility impairments.

In practice, this looks like creating zoom-in capabilities to increase text size, supporting assistive technology like screen readers for visually impaired users and adding captions to audio and video content for hard-of-hearing users.

Unfinished business

Despite the progress that’s been made, there’s still room to grow when it comes to making tech experiences inclusive to all.

To boost awareness, the Accessibility Team publishes a quarterly newsletter about the efforts happening across the company. The team is also working on a training program to educate all Best Buy employees on digital and physical accessibility.

“We need to develop empathy and a better understanding about experiences [for people with disabilities],” Vidhya said.

Mani’s coworkers appreciate his passion for making things better and his willingness to share his own experiences.

“He is a great asset,” Vidhya said. “He’s always been there to support us.”