Beyond Barriers with Floris

Beyond Barriers, an accessibility podcast, with Floris Horsman, CS Leader at Microsoft

In the latest episode of Beyond Barriers, an accessibility podcast, we sat down with Floris Horsman to discuss the intricacies of developing effective accessibility strategies. Floris, an accessibility expert, shared his journey of overcoming accessibility challenges and inspiring a more inclusive world.

Commitment to Accessibility

Floris Horsman’s dedication to accessibility began at birth. Born with low vision, he faced numerous obstacles that shaped his mission. “I’m born into it,” he said. “Having low vision, I just... I guess I'm born into them together along the way.” His experiences with frustration and the desire to participate fully in life fueled his passion for creating a more accessible environment for all.

Reflecting on his early challenges, Floris noted the difficulties he encountered during his education and early career. Tasks that took others a short time required extra effort from him, such as needing more time for exams or utilizing various tools at work. This realization sparked his drive to build more inclusive environments.

The Importance of Awareness

Acceptance was a crucial step for Floris in his journey. He shared a poignant story about his teenage years when his father, concerned about his safety, attached a reflective number plate to his bike. Though Floris initially resisted, he eventually recognized the importance of such measures.

His approach to accessibility extends beyond mere compliance; it’s about enhancing user experiences for everyone. Floris believes that starting with small changes can lead to significant improvements. “It starts with awareness, like making sure that people are aware how important this is. And I really believe it's not a minority we're talking about. We're talking about, like, depending on where we are in the world, like 17% of the population.”

Building a Culture of Inclusion

Floris’s professional journey includes creating a community within organizations to foster accessibility. He described how starting with awareness sessions can lead to broader organizational changes. For instance, one of his notable successes involved working with a customer to build accessibility into their application from the beginning. “We try to together with their testing teams, we were testing alongside them, giving them feedback, literally logging accessibility issues, grouping them together with the teams, raising them,” he explained.

He stressed the importance of integrating accessibility insights into all aspects of a company, from IT to HR and beyond. “Raising awareness with senior leadership and making sure it's embedded into, for example, their corporate structure, mission and vision, but also top-down approach and also bottom-up,” Floris highlighted.

Accessibility Challenges and Solutions

One of the significant obstacles in advancing accessibility insights is the siloed nature of many organizations. Brian Gavin reflected on this, noting, “Like any larger organization, the siloed nature of any strategy is the biggest downfall and risk you run across.” Floris agreed, emphasizing the need to build accessibility from the start to avoid costly and ineffective retrofits.

Technological advancements also play a critical role in accessibility testing. Floris is optimistic about the potential of AI to simplify and enhance user experiences. “AI can definitely... help people with different abilities, helping with challenges, tasks. I think AI is now hot and happening and I also see the benefits of it.”


Floris Horsman’s journey underscores the importance of making accessibility testing a priority in all aspects of life and work. His closing words serve as a powerful reminder: “Don’t forget how wildly capable you are and accessibility doesn't have to be super hard. Yes, it can be hard, but it's in the little things we do every day that can make a difference.”

The conversation with Floris is a testament to the power of perseverance, awareness, and community in overcoming barriers and creating a more inclusive world. As technology continues to evolve, the potential to make significant strides in accessibility grows, making it an exciting time for advocates and innovators alike.

The podcast is now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Amazon Music, Pandora, and Stitcher.