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Speaker Spotlight Q&A: Julia Wong, IT Accessibility Compliance Officer, Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services

7 | By   parmstrong  | July 7, 2021

For nearly 20 years, Julia Wong has been instrumental in addressing accessibility issues within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through her knowledge of general accessibility standards and compliance, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, WCAG2 standards, as well as testing and remediation of various forms of electronic mediums.

She has contributed to the accessibility standards for the Commonwealth by co-authoring the original state standards and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Secretariat Accessibility Policy. In her current role as the EOHHS Accessibility Compliance Officer, she ensures that EOHHS agencies are creating website content and developing applications that are accessible. Though Julia has the ability to evaluate and determine whether a waiver should be granted for content and applications that are not accessible, her goal is to enhance agencies’ accessibility presence. 

Q1:

What is your favorite part of your role? 

Answer: My favorite part of my role is meeting new people and exchanging knowledge.  Because I work with such diverse groups, I learn new things from their programs while I share my knowledge about accessibility.  Did you know that the state has a program to help families with large medical bills for their children under 22?  I didn’t know that until I worked with the program.  There are certain criteria to meet, but it’s good to know there’s a program that may be able to help you out if your insurance won’t cover it. I like to think I’m banking some serious information that will be super helpful in real life events.second to none. There is alchemy in the work they do together and how they do it. They are fearless, determined, and humble. Out of nothing and no way, they make a way. They inspire me.

Q2:

What is your favorite screen-time break activity at work? 

Answer: Given the opportunity, I like to step outside.  Even if it’s just for a few minutes, I will go outside.  If it’s a beautiful sunny day, I just want to feel the sun. If it’s a rainy day, the smell of fresh rain is refreshing.  Bonus if someone just put cedar mulch down.

Q3:

As a leader, how do you help to foster an environment of collaboration within the MA Exec Office of Health and Human Services? 

Answer: It is key to have open communication and dialogue.  Oftentimes, there are discussions by groups of people who do not understand the importance of accessibility in the beginning, and they’re under pressure to push through an update immediately.  However, once you’ve explained the why’s and how’s, they understand what they need to do.  When you are able to get your partners to put themselves in the shoes of the people you are trying to help, it really helps them understand the importance of accessibility.  And once we’re all at that critical junction, everyone works together to get things done. 

Q4:

Your Session: Adaptive Accessibility and Inclusion in Technology: Making Innovations in Technology Work for All will explore how to get started on the technology accessibility journey. Is there one principal that you found essential to this project? Can you explain why? 

Answer: It is essential for our leaders, aka senior management, to be on board.  Government and public sector mentality is very hierarchical.  There are times there are delays because the people who are the hands-on people, can’t do what they need to do, because their managers won’t approve it.  However, if the directive comes from the top down, there would be no delay, because everyone knows what they need to do.

Q5:

What is the best advice you’ve received regarding your career or working in the public sector?  

Answer: It’s ok to say, “Let me look into that and get back to you.”  Nobody knows everything 100% of the time.  With technology, there are new developments every day. What might have been an issue yesterday, might no longer be an issue, because of a patch fix.  If you had said No, because yesterday, you were unsure, you just delayed your project three weeks instead of just one day.  And delays are costly!

Q6:

What advice would you give concerning recruiting for the public sector workforce? 

Answer: We work at a very different pace than the private sector.  We’re not driven by the same metrics as say, a Wall Street banker.  (And while we’re definitely not compensated the same as a Wall Street banker, we don’t have the same stress levels either!)  If you’re looking for a fast-paced environment where you see instant results, the public sector is not for you.  If you’re looking for a communal environment where you might find out about a positive outcome that happens a month later, than the public sector is for you.  

Want to hear more from Julia & other government leaders from across New England? Join us in-person at the upcoming event:

GOVERNMENT INNOVATION MASSACHUSETTS

Where: Hotel Commonwealth | Boston, MA
Where: Thursday, June 30, 2022 | 8am ET

Register now!

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