Cast Member Advocacy Leads to Accessible Technology

Joanna Collins, a software engineer in the Technology and Digital organization at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, is known for her passion and advocacy for accessibility in Disney’s websites, mobile applications and other digital products. Joanna has worked in the accessibility space for years and is a subject matter expert on accessibility standards and practices.

“Joanna goes above and beyond to ensure our applications are accessible for our guests and cast. She doesn’t stop at the systems she owns or supports – she is the cast member who sees something that needs to be fixed and works to partner with the right teams to help them make changes to ensure our applications are inclusive for all,” said Kelly Noble, Joanna’s leader.

Joanna loves visiting our parks in her spare time!

Joanna didn’t develop these skills overnight. Prior to her role as a software engineer, Joanna’s started at the Disneyland Resort Travel Sales Center as a Reservation Sales Agent. There, she picked up technical skills and eventually moved into a technical role supporting applications used at the call center.

Joanna began providing technical support to cast members with visual disabilities at the call center who use screen reading software to navigate and read information while they book hotel reservations and travel packages for guests over the phone. Over the years, her passion for accessibility grew.

“I first had to learn how the screen reader worked and the types of issues that caused incompatibilities in other software. I had experience in HTML coding, and that sort of sparked everything. I learned how to write custom scripting for screen reading software, and how to make an accessible website,” said Joanna.

Visiting Shanghai Disney Resort

Along with advocating for and supporting those cast members, Joanna now collaborates with design and development teams, ensuring accessibility compliance for the wide range of content created for guests on our websites.

“There’s a difference between being able to identify an accessibility issue versus knowing how to fix it as well – I can do both. I can write code to our developers saying exactly how to fix an issue. So, instead of saying, ‘we’re having an issue with this button,’ I can say: ‘This is the issue, here’s who’s affected by it, here’s what’s causing it, and here’s how to fix it,’” said Joanna.

Meeting Disney Legend Marty Sklar!

While Joanna’s skillset and technical abilities are unique, her passion is shared by many other cast members across the company.

“People across the company care about accessibility and do what they can to support it. Everyone knows accessibility is important, and it falls under our Inclusion Key,” said Joanna. “My goal is to make every single person feel welcome and included. Disney is committed to diversity and inclusion, and I lead the teams in my area acting on that commitment. We want people with a wide range of abilities to have that magical experience whenever they interact with our digital products.”

Cast members like Joanna work hard every day to ensure everyone can experience Disney magic, from booking their dream vacation on our website to experiencing all our parks and resorts have to offer. Thanks for all you do, Joanna!