4. Creating Digital Accessibility Culture
The initial goals reached by the accessibility committee through its first few meetings are to create an “accessibility culture” where the whole company is aware of the importance of accessibility, creating a policy that guides how digital accessibility is addressed throughout the company.
With a number of gaps identified, the committee suggests several initial areas to focus on, which together will provide the basis for the company’s accessibility policy.
- Build awareness
- Provide training
- Communicate accessibility guidelines
- Monitor adherence to guidelines (quality assurance)
- Ensure accessible procurement practices
One of the main reasons barriers arise is a lack of awareness. Most people have never met a person who is blind, let alone get to know such a person. As a result, they have little reason to think about accessibility and the potential barriers that may prevent a blind person from accessing digital content.
Hiring People with Disabilities
One sure way to raise awareness of accessibility is to hire people with a disability. Having people with disabilities in a company’s workforce helps build diversity, spread tolerance, and raise awareness of inequalities that are created when people have little or no experience with disability.
Hiring a person who is blind, for instance, will help expose your workforce to the challenges a blind person faces in everyday life and at work. This person could be a member of the accessibility committee, providing valuable input based on firsthand experience. This person could also provide screen reader testing of the company’s digital resources and quickly identify accessibility issues before they become complaints.
People who are blind can be just as skilled at many activities as people who can see. There are blind programmers, accountants, teachers, lawyers, even hairstylists, to name just a few occupations. Many are highly educated with advanced degrees and doctorates.
Blindness is used here as an example because this group tends to face the most barriers in digital content. However, many people with disabilities are skilled workers. They are often overlooked as a result of systemic misconception of what people with disabilities are capable of.
Run an Accessibility Awareness Campaign
Accessibility awareness campaigns can take a variety of forms and can involve publicity, training opportunities, presentations, an archive of resource materials, and an initiative for more company staff. Depending on the size and type of business, some of the following strategies could be used to implement an awareness campaign:
Posters can be placed in prominent places where staff are likely to encounter them. Some of these locations may include elevators, printer and copier rooms, lunch rooms, reception areas, and bathrooms. Posters could also be made available through an archive linked from the company’s website, where accessibility resources are gathered.
Here is a sample of the types of posters that might be used in an accessibility awareness campaign: Accessible PDFs [PDF]
Instructional materials can also be created or gathered and added to the accessibility resources. Here are a few examples of the types of instructional materials that could be distributed:
Instructional videos can also be created, or gathered, and made available to staff. There are a great many videos from sources like YouTube that can be gathered into a single, easily accessible location, then publicized throughout the organization. Here are some examples of accessibility-related instructional videos. Search YouTube for more.
Email campaigns can also be another effective way to raise awareness, perhaps as part of a company newsletter include an “Accessibility Awareness” section. This section might include a link to video tutorials, perhaps updated from accessibility efforts ongoing throughout the company, links to various resources, or announcements about upcoming accessibility workshops. The possibilities are many, and, because a newsletter is distributed regularly, staff are consistently reminded of their accessibility responsibilities.
Or, you could set up a company mailing list, that anyone with an accessibility question can post to, as well as posting accessibility-related information similar to a newsletter. A person or two from the company’s accessibility committee could be assigned to monitor the mailing list and provide responses when others have not replied. All employees can be added to the mailing list, so everyone becomes aware of ongoing accessibility efforts, and receive regular “reminders” through the dialog occurring there.
Educating staff and teaching them new accessibility-related skills can help raise awareness throughout an organization. You may make workshops mandatory for particular staff, like web developers, or optional with a little bribery, like a pizza lunch, to get staff in the same room for a presentation and a question-and-answer session.
- Professional Web Accessibility Auditing Made Easy (free MOOC for developers)
- WAI-ARIA Workshop
- Accessible Documents Workshop
- Accessibility Testing with ChromeVox
Accessibility Knowledge Base
Providing an on-demand collection of resources related to accessibility and encouraging employees to use them can also help raise awareness. A knowledge base can be created with various types of educational materials, such as printable how-to tutorials, video, and examples of good practices. Employees should be encouraged to use these resources and contribute their own accessibility solutions. New additions to the knowledge base, or simply reminders to use what’s there, can be encouraged through the company newsletter, or perhaps with a prominent link on the company’s employee portal.