Lynn Wehrman first got the idea for WeCo when her boss at the Minnesota Department of Transportation asked her to make a set of webpages accessible to people with disabilities. MnDoT had recently faced legal challenges that prompted them to rewrite their Americans with Disabilities Transition Plan, and it was important that people with disabilities be able to access that information online. Having lived with a cognitive disability herself, Wehrman decided that, rather than guess at people’s needs, the best way to redesign the webpages was to ask people with disabilities to use the website as she observed them. She contacted two members of the Transition Advisory Board and visited them at home.
As she struck up a friendship with the board members, they realized that having disabled people conduct user testing was the best possible way to ensure that sites are fully accessible. Not only would this give people with disabilities more agency over web development, it would also create professional opportunities for people with a wide range of disabilities. Within a few years, Wehrman founded WeCo, a company where people with disabilities work in user testing for companies who want to make their services fully accessible.
Wehrman has made use of SCORE’s workshops on issues ranging from email marketing to business planning to human resources management.
Wehrman also received mentoring from SCORE mentor Dan Nissen, who had worked as one of the first corporate accessibility legislation coordinators in her area – before most companies even knew the requirements existed. “Without Dan’s knowledge and willingness to help us troubleshoot difficult times, getting our business going to provide user experience testing in this area would have been much more difficult,” says Wehrman.
Eight years after starting WeCo, Wehrman says she “employs a team of 20 certified test consultants who live with disabilities that represent the four primary disability groups recognized by the U.S. Department of [Health &] Human Services: cognitive, hearing, mobility and sight.” WeCo also employs nine other team members with disabilities who support the test consultants’ work.