As technology penetrates daily life in new ways and we find ourselves spending more time online, it’s become more important than ever to ensure that all web users have equal experiences. This shift has made digital accessibility vital to today’s modern world.

With 2020 in the rearview, why not make this the year you commit to jumpstarting accessibility within your organization? Whether you’re looking to introduce good accessibility practices, or reboot your current efforts, these steps will help you reach your goals in 2021.

Acquire executive support

The first step in prioritizing accessibility is getting the support of the executives. Accessibility must come from the top down to be continuously successful across the organization. Be sure to keep executives engaged with your initiatives by meeting regularly and asking for help when needed.

Support from executives is especially important in the early stages of implementing new accessibility practices, when there may be disagreements among staff about how to prioritize this new initiative. When company leaders clearly communicate the importance of accessibility, other stakeholders are on the same page, and there are no doubts that it should be a main priority.

Grassroots efforts may be successful in the short-term, but coordinating goals across departments can be difficult over time. In addition, when a handful of employees are tasked with creating and implementing an accessibility strategy without expressed support and guidance from company leaders, it’s likely that these employees will experience burnout from taking the burden. 

Appoint accessibility champions

Once you have executive buy-in, consider naming accessibility “champions” or point-persons in each department of your organization. Each champion serves as the accessibility lead for their department by:

  • Becoming the accessibility expert in their department’s line of work.
  • Answering questions and helping solve related issues.
  • Helping set up documentation and tooling.
  • Serving as a liaison between their department and the organization’s accessibility lead (if applicable).

The departments involved will most likely include, but are not limited to, the following: Content, Design, Development, and Quality Assurance. When considering which departments to loop in, be sure that the right folks within the Project Management, Legal, and Human Resources departments are also educated and on-board with your efforts.

A woman works at a computer station using a braille device with a keyboard in front of it.

Image provided by the Helen Keller National Center.

Assess state of products and internal expertise

Once you’ve identified the people who will lead the charge for your accessibility efforts, it’s time to think about your offerings. Start by evaluating the current state of accessibility of your organization’s products and services. This may include websites, mobile applications, and procured software. There are several different ways to assess the state of accessibility at your organization, including third party audits, automated tests, and usability tests with people with disabilities. Doing so will help identify gaps and will guide you as you create your accessibility plan. 

It’s also a good idea to get a general sense of the level of the staff’s knowledge of accessibility. From there, it’s easier to assess how effectively improvements can be implemented, how much training may be needed, and whether outside consulting is needed.

Establish accessible patterns and procedures

The fourth tip is to establish accessible patterns and procedures in different departments at your organization. In addition to better accessibility, this will greatly help consistent product implementations and also reduce the amount of work all around.

To start, design systems should be used to ensure not only consistency and branding, but accessibility as well. Accessible developer components should be used for obvious reasons, and will reduce the amount of “reinventing the wheel” during development. Accessibility testing procedures should be implemented to help QA do its job well. For HR, job postings for relevant positions should include accessibility requirements (or at least desired skills).

Summary

Jumpstarting your accessibility practice isn’t terribly difficult but does take planning, resources, and effort. By incorporating these four tips into your strategy, you’ll be well on your way to meeting your digital inclusion goals. If you need some extra guidance, we’re here to help! With decades of collective experience in accessible web design, we can perform an accessibility audit for your team, and when you’re ready, create accessible web experiences.

This post was written by Dennis Lembrée, Director of Accessibility at Diamond. Follow him on Twitter at @dennisl. To learn more about our work at Diamond, check out diamond.la. If you'd like help building accessible digital products or training, please contact us