Is it you or somone else?
In our decades of working with various groups on digital accessibility, one thing has become very clear – most feel that addressing accessibility is someone else’s responsibility. When it comes to web specific content, developers are often singled out as the group that should be responsible. This has been the common belief since the early 2000’s and sadly, continues to be the common belief for most organizations today. It is a broken model, yet it is repeated time after time.
A few weeks ago, the Accessibility in the News weekly newsletter, published by our friend Jack McElaney, listed a TechCrunch blog post by Joe Devon, a co-founder of Global Accessibility Awareness Day and chair of the GAAD Foundation. Joe’s post mentions that due to the pandemic digital accessibility has experienced a tipping point and that a Forrester survey found that 8 in 10 companies have taken their first steps toward working on digital accessibility.
Joe’s blog post acknowledges that "companies are now realizing the advantages of creating accessible products and properties that go beyond doing the right thing" and that "this is an opportunity for your company to get ahead of the competition and reap the rewards of being an early adopter." The post also outlines why focusing on digital accessibility is beneficial from "doing the right thing" to tapping into a market with a large amount of disposable income. It also provides five things that can be help with making changes in your company to integrate accessibility as a core part of your business. Which is in line with what this blog post is all about…who is responsible for web accessibility?
The reality is that everyone in an organization has a responsibility toward creating, maintain, and promoting accessibility. This would include the obvious groups that are part of the web development lifecycle such as UX Design, Content Creators, Graphics Creators, Media Creators, Developers, and Quality Assurance. Other groups that are typically overlooked include Project Management, Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, Training, and yes even Legal and Corporate Management!
What is your responsibility toward accessibility?
As you may realize, accessibility is the responsibility of more than just the creative, development, and QA testing groups. If you are not part of the previous mentioned groups, you may be wondering where your responsibility falls. Following is a sample breakdown that can help you find your place in contributing and supporting the accessibility efforts in your organization.
Corporate Management & Legal
- Encourage and support accessibility initiatives within the organization.
- Promote and support the creation and maintaining of accessible products.
- Hold staff accountable to meet accessibility initiatives and goals and reward them for success.
- Take the lead in internally evangelizing and supporting the competitive edge that comes by having accessible products..
Product Management & Marketing
- Provide training and resources to ensure teams are aligned in their understand and efforts to meet accessibility standards and can be successfully in doing so.
- Incorporate accessibility into product requirements at the early stages, especially during design and user experience.
- Promote and advertised product accessibility to support the competitive edge that comes with having accessible products.
- Set and track yearly accessibility objectives.
- Understand the accessibility features of the product.
- Provide product accessibility documentation to customers during sales process.
- Ensure VPATs/ACRs and other accessibility related documentation is kept up to date and accurate.
Operations & Publishing
- Ensure that eBook and PDF files are marked up to be usable with screen readers.
- Ensure that accessibility features are documented and available to users.
Design / Copy / Graphics & Media / Development/ Quality Assurance
- Understand the needs and user experience for end users with various disabilities and create designs that account for those needs.
- Include accessible design as part of the wireframes, mockups, ??? so developers do not have to guess.
- Code according to accessibility web standards, and guidelines.
- Test and validate accessibility web standards, and guidelines are followed, and the accessibility needs of various user groups are met.
Customer Support & Training
- Ensure that the accommodation needs of customer issues are communicated to the correct channel.
- Ensure that there are various methods for users of all groups to report issues and seek support.
- Respond to request for accessibility support requests within in a timely manner (1-2 business days).
- Provide customer support training on how to help users of assistive technology.
Creating accessible digital content is everyone’s responsibility.
As noted above, there are several areas where various individuals can contribute to creating a culture of accessibility within an organization.
Joe Devon’s post supports this thinking with these statements:
- Accessibility needs to be everywhere in software development, from requirements and beyond to include marketing, sales and other non-tech teams. It cannot be a niche concern left to a siloed team to handle. If we, as an industry and as a society, recognize that accessibility is everyone’s job, we will create a culture that prioritizes it without question.
- By creating this culture, we will no longer be asking, "Do we have to make this accessible?" Instead, we’ll ask, "How do we make this accessible?" It’s a major mindset shift that will make a tangible difference in the lives of 1 billion people living with a disability and those who eventually will have a disability or temporary, situational or episodic impairments affecting their ability to use online and digital products.
- When you understand the people you build accessible products for and the reasons they need those products, it becomes easier to secure buy-in from people in all parts of your organization. Creating this culture is the first step in a long quest toward accessibility. And the best part is, it gets easier from here.
While companies are starting to recognize the importance and benefits of create accessible content, where and how to begin incorporateing accessibility into the company’s culture is still a challenge.
How can Converge Accessibility help?
We have years of experience in helping organizations understand accessibility and how to apply it to their digital content an make it a part of their internal process. Following are some of our past blog posts that discuss things to consider when facing legal complaints, performing accessibility audit, and integrating accessibility into your web content development lifecycle.
Accessibility Legal Complaints
- Expert Witnesses in Web Accessibility Case - Part 1
- Expert Witnesses in Web Accessibility Case - Part 2
- Expert Witnesses in Web Accessibility Case - Part 3
- Practical Steps Toward Web Accessibility and Reducing Liability Risk
- First Steps to an Accessible Website - Part 1
- First Steps to an Accessible Website - Part 2
- First Steps to an Accessible Website - Part 3
- First Steps to an Accessible Website - Part 4
Don’t wait, start today!
At Converge Accessibility, we believe everyone has a critical role to play in achieving and maintaining accessible content. We want to help your organization be empowered to understand and successfully incorporate accessibility into your everyday processes. In so doing, accessibility is no longer an afterthought or something that is done once a product or content is ready to release. Instead, accessibility becomes part of the corporate culture and results in accessible user experiences from the very start, which lowers an organizations accessibility legal risk, expands their market share, provides a competitive advantage, and generates brand loyalty and trust.
Please, give us a chance to help you with your accessibility needs.
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