The Simply Accessible team is back from our retreat in central Florida. We’re inspired and energized—ready to take everything we’ve learned to build a digital world for everyone.

We gathered. We ate our collective body weight in oranges. We laughed, we cried. (Actually, no one cried except Melanie, who “just cries a lot” anyway.)

Our team retreat was wondrous. The palm trees and hazy sunsets contributed to the magic, but it was connecting with each other and Simply Accessible’s beating heart that made our experience truly exceptional.

We’re excited to share with all of you what we’re taking home with us, and how it’s inspiring us to be better and do better at making the web a more inclusive place.

Scott explains the cool error alert he just made, while Derek looks on, enraptured. Meanwhile, Charles scrum masters masterfully.

Derek Featherstone, Simply Accessible founder

The most significant takeaway from the retreat for me was that effective teaching and learning is not about one person telling another something. It’s much more effective to model the behaviours and skills you want people to have than it is to simply tell them what you want them to do. When a job requires a particular way of thinking, you need to model that thinking and make it overt—expose the way you’re thinking about a problem and provide insight about the decision making process in your head.

Going forward, I want to change my thinking to move from “How should I teach this?” to “How best will people learn this?” I’d like to ensure frameworks are in place that enable people to be active participants in their learning, where the control over learning rests more on what the learner is doing than on what the teacher is doing. That goes for speaking engagements, on-boarding new staff, and our work with clients.

Elle Waters, Director of strategy

Individually, each person on our team is quite creative, but I already knew that. Collaboratively, however, I learned what a powerhouse of innovation we are when we combine our ideas. I plan to look for more opportunities this year where our whole team can brainstorm, working together on new ideas, and finding new ways to solve design and usability problems.

Jeff Smith, Director of operations

My most significant takeaway was the concept of “the butterfly effect.” How everything we do individually, as well as a team, has an effect on our clients’ success as well as Simply Accessible’s mission. Something that can seem incredibly small, like adding a code example to clarify an accessibility recommendation, could have a huge impact. A couple lines of code could be the turning point for a developer embracing accessibility.

I want to apply this insight to my work now by being more deliberate with everything I do, whether it’s a deliverable for one of our clients or related to our own, internal processes. I want everything we do to matter and contribute to our mission and our clients’ missions.

Joanna Briggs, Manager of accessibility and usability testing

Being a remote team, we’re connected, but there’s a little bit missing until you first meet someone. At the retreat, I got to see all of the talent and passion that each member of our team has in person—there’s no hiding it. We had time to take a big step back and look at the bigger picture. After that, it was great to collaborate with people on concrete work. I’m looking forward to all the things we’re going to accomplish together.

Caught in a moment of angelic afternoon sunlight, Joanna and Charles embody the team’s optimism and good taste in laptops.

Charles Callistro, Scrum master

I think my big takeaway was the realization that we’re all on the same page in regards to sharing and affecting each other’s workload. I went home pretty satisfied that we’re going to be clearing up some bottlenecks! Now, on the other side, I’m going to use the clarity I got from the roles exercise to help direct traffic to the right people for the right tasks.

Devon Persing, Accessibility specialist

My major takeaway is how much I like everyone, truly and deeply. Its application will be continuing to want to impress, collaborate with, and do amazing stuff with this team. Also, I’m amazed at just how much we got done. I feel excited about going “back” to work.

Tom Pokinko, Product owner

There were many great teaching moments and collaborative sessions where the energy and creativity of our team really shone. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me, however, was seeing the way our team not only payed careful attention to what needs to be done, but set a gold standard for the way it’s done: with care, compassion, a willingness to listen, and an overall dedication to excellence. Going forward, this inspires me every day in my interactions with our clients. I’m inspired to provide a wonderful customer experience with a shared dedication to accessibility at the fore!

Gavin Ogston, Accessibility specialist

The most significant take away for me was just how passionate each team member is about accessibility. Also, how important it is to always be thinking about how our feedback addresses the emotional state of the team member or client receiving any feedback. How moments like this are opportunities to fire up some passion about accessibility.

I plan to apply these insights to my work now by adjusting the way I present feedback and assessment, so that whoever’s on the receiving end can be inspired and empowered.

Nicolas Steenhout, Accessibility specialist

The most significant takeaway for me was how the power of the team is significantly more than the sum of its parts. I’ll apply this by seeking regular feedback and brainstorm sessions with other team members.

The incredibly good-looking and passionate Simply Accessible team!

Scott Vinkle, Accessibility specialist

As a new person on staff, the most exciting takeaway for me was the fact that Simply Accessible actually does user experience testing with real people in their own environments on a regular basis! This important piece of testing is almost always overlooked within other organizations, which often leads to poor user experiences for people with disabilities. Joanna shared the knowledge that’s been collected from these sessions, and we discussed her findings within the company as a whole, creating a large knowledge base of practical and useful information.

It was great to be be a part of that, to share and absorb the knowledge that everyone has. From here I’ll be able to increase my own skill set through these discussions. I’m also able to apply this knowledge and improve the user experience for anyone using components we help to improve.

Melanie Jones, Editor and content strategist

The most significant takeaway for me was about the importance of asking the big questions. The mission and vision questions. In the day-to-day grind, we get wrapped up in hitting deadlines; it was extremely important to take the time and reconnect to our deeper purpose. Bringing the big picture back into view not only inspired me, but it made me see how I want to up my game as we go forward.

I’m going to apply it by bringing those bigger questions into my work every day. How does every piece of content we produce make the digital world better for everyone? How can everyone who contributes be an ambassador? A blog post isn’t just a blog post—it’s a small part of a larger vision.

What do you want to see more of from the team at Simply Accessible? How will you bring your best to what you do for the digital world? Share your ideas in the comments.