4. Creating Digital Accessibility Culture

Managing Change: Kotter’s Model

Dilbert cartoon, making light of change management.
Source: Andrews McMeel Syndication

Instilling digital accessibility culture throughout an organization is likely going to involve change, change that may meet with some resistance. Change can be uncomfortable, and for processes and practices that are ingrained in an organization over many years, it can be very difficult to upset this “status quo.”

Depending on the scope of changes that must occur, preparing for change may be critical to successfully implementing a digital accessibility plan. It is helpful to have a framework from which to manage the changes that will occur as digital accessibility is being implemented throughout an organization.

But which model or framework should you use to help implement a successful accessibility plan? Change management books will introduce you to many models that may fit with your company culture and work processes. To give you a couple of samples of proven change models, we will use Kotter’s eight-step model in this section and Lewin’s three-step change model in the next. Both have many loyal followers and can help you think about how to start moving towards your new digital accessibility plan. Whichever model works best for you, it is important to remember that all of the steps must be followed in order for the model to be effective.

Kotter’s Eight-Step Model for Leading Change

Dr. John P. Kotter at the Harvard Business School, devised the “Eight-Step Process for Leading Change.” It consists of eight stages:

  1. Create Urgency
  2. Form a Powerful Coalition
  3. Create a Vision for Change
  4. Communicate the Vision
  5. Remove Obstacles
  6. Create Short-Term Wins
  7. Build on the Change
  8. Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Video: Implement Change Powerfully and Successfully With Kotter’s Eight-Step Change Model

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Using Kotter’s process, you imagine the pieces of your growing plan fitting into his framework as a way to optimize the strategies and ensure that your hard work pays off for the company.

1. Create Urgency

The obvious element of urgency in your company’s case is the complaint and the suggestion by the customer that legal action may be taken if the company does not show active movement toward resolving the accessibility issues with the online store.

In addition, you may also argue that the market of people with disabilities is a large one, and the company is currently missing out on a good portion of this market, even sending potential customers to the competition. There is an opportunity to capture a growing market of older people with disabilities, many of whom are baby boomers who have reached a stage in their lives where they are losing their sight or hearing, and may not be as mobile as they used to be.

Most of all you need buy-in from senior people in the company. The business arguments discussed in Chapter 2, carefully crafted to highlight the benefits to the company, can go a long way to convincing those who will ultimately determine whether a shift in the business culture has a chance of success or not. In the case of the Sharp Clothing Company, the threat of a lawsuit is a strong motivator for senior management, though ideally other business arguments should help lead to change before it reaches the point of legal action.

2. Form a Powerful Coalition

The accessibility committee you have established fills this step of the process, gathering leaders and knowledgeable staff, including those who may need accessibility accommodations, from across the company. This group of people will help define acceptable practices for the company by its’ actions.

3. Create a Vision for Change

Understanding that many people will resist change, they want/need to understand where the company is heading. Articulating a clear vision for the company as to how the company wants to be seen and recognized with respect to accessibility is key here. The accessibility committee’s plan — including steps to build awareness, develop training, communicate guidelines, monitor accessibility quality assurance, adjust procurement processes, review hiring practice, and consolidate these in a digital accessibility policy for the company — meets the objectives of this step.

4. Communicate the Vision

Through the newsletter campaign, strategically placed posters, training opportunities, a series of guidelines tailored to particular roles, and the involvement of people from across the company, you will communicate the company’s move towards creating an inclusive business. This does require a highly coordinated and planned communication strategy that must be consistently applied by the change team.

5. Remove Obstacles

You decide to make the accessibility committee meetings open, so anyone who wants to attend may do so. You also decide to setup a virtual “suggestion box,” positioned prominently on the company’s employee web portal. There employees are encouraged to suggest improvements or identify where accessibility issues occur. Since most employees like to have a say in how things get done, take time to give them the opportunity to try ideas that are in alignment with the vision and strategies.

6. Create Short-Term Wins

The accessibility committee has come up with the idea of highlighting accessibility accomplishments in the quarterly newsletter and on the company’s main websites. Once per year, all the accessibility related projects or suggestions would be gathered for the whole company to vote upon, with the winner receiving a weekend for two at a local hotel and spa. The reason short term wins are important is that they not only make the participants feel good about accomplishing something, but it also then gives them the momentum to move onto the next step or phase. By having one large undefined project, employees may give up if they can’t see the finish line ahead of them.

7. Build on the Change

Through the wins that have been gathered, the submitters or implementers of more significant ones are given an opportunity to show off their accomplishments. Presentations are recorded and posted to the employee portal for all to see. Links to the videos are included in the quarterly newsletter. Acknowledging the accomplishments and those responsible for them acts as an important feedback mechanism and form of appreciation from the change team.

8. Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

With much of the accessibility plan in place, your plan is to formalize all of these elements into a company Digital Accessibility Policy. Culture defines what is acceptable behaviour or not, and the goal here is to make sure that your policy becomes part of your company culture and what your company values.

Readings & References: For more about the Kotter change management strategies, visit the following resources:

License

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Digital Accessibility as a Business Practice by Digital Education Strategies, The Chang School is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.