To succeed, a web accessibility effort must be well grounded in organizational culture, process, and practice. To do this, align accessibility with existing organizational approaches; develop and communicate clear, measurable objectives; and engage stakeholders to secure understanding and broad support throughout the organization.

Find out what accessibility is and why it is important.

The better you and your colleagues understand accessibility, the more effectively it can be implemented and promoted in your organization. Deepening your understanding of web accessibility helps you to address issues more effectively. Some sources for learning the basics include:

  • Research introductory articles and videos
  • Talk with colleagues, friends, and family members with disabilities
  • Find training appropriate for your particular role
  • Seek information or training from accessibility and disability organizations
  • Set up assistive technology demonstrations and let people try them out

First-hand experience of how people with disabilities access web content is often enlightening and inspiring. This can help you and others to understand the benefits and value of accessibility.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility fulfills the basic promise of the web - making information and communication readily available to all people regardless of barriers in geography, language, or disability. Integrating accessibility into websites brings broader benefits to organizations and other website visitors. For example, easier code maintenance and better user experiences, particularly on mobile devices.

Learn the organization's current state of accessibility and obligations to help determine the scope of work ahead.

Explore and learn the current state of accessibility in your organization to help when initiating discussions with stakeholders, such as management. Several aspects of web accessibility can be checked fairly easily, with little or no technical skills required. This includes cursory checks of:

  • Key websites and website user activities
  • Web content policies and processes, such as those related to editing and publishing
  • General awareness of and attitude towards accessibility and disability
  • Understanding of accessibility law and policy as they effect your organization

You may not be in the position to explore all these aspects in a first attempt. However, the more information you can gather, the better you will understand the types and sources of the issues that need to be addressed.

Clear objectives identify key deliverables, establish a timeline, and define how to measure success.

Create objectives in response to identified accessibility problems and organizational goals. Develop measurable objectives that address accessibility gaps within the organization's web content, processes, and policies. Objectives help to focus your team, clarify what activities need to be planned, define required deliverables, and ensure that successful delivery can be determined.

Ensure that objectives have management agreement and support. This will help secure the necessary resources, align accessibility and business objectives, and reinforce your strategy. Also ensure that objectives help integrate accessibility into existing project frameworks, production workflows, or quality assurance processes.

Examples of objectives might include:

  • Develop accessibility policy by year-end.
  • Include accessibility clauses in procurement within 6 months and enforce for all new Web procurement activities by year-end.
  • Evaluate primary website and address any Level A and AA non-conformancies within 18 months.
  • Prepare and deliver accessible writing course for all content authors by May.
  • Modify design approval process to include accessibility considerations before June.

A strong business case helps gain buy-in from stakeholders and can make accessibility an organizational priority.

Develop a tailored business case to respond to why accessibility should be addressed within your organization. The business case will be used to persuade stakeholders and management that web accessibility should be financially supported and prioritized.

Depending on organizational priorities, the business case should explore:

  • Direct impact for users with disabilities
  • Broader benefits for everyone, such as usability
  • Financial, time, and resource costs associated with not addressing accessibility early
  • Legal aspects that may be applicable to your organization
  • Impact on corporate social responsibility

The business case should also outline the risks associated with ignoring accessibility, provide some indication of the resources needed, and specify how improvements will be tracked, and anticipated return on investment.

Communicate the goals, value-adds, and importance of accessibility throughout the organization.

Lack of awareness is a frequent reason for lack of accessibility adoption. Many people may know little or nothing about accessibility. Some may not appreciate that their role has an impact on website accessibility. Others may not be aware of the additional value that accessibility brings. A general introduction to accessibility, including organizational goals, will benefit everyone in the organization by improving awareness and building enthusiasm for the task.

Consider audience needs and interests as you raise awareness of the benefits of web accessibility. Management will need to know about risk, budget, policy, and return on investment but designers may engage with understanding and solving the design challenges of accessibility. Developers may also enjoy the challenge of making modern designs accessible using new skills in HTML5, JavaScript, and ARIA. Marketing may be interested in user stories and demonstrating corporate responsibility.

Consider inviting guest or expert speakers to organizational or departmental events to talk about accessibility.

Organization-wide support is vital to ensure accessibility is distributed across the organization and sustained.

Key stakeholder and management support will simplify the process of introducing or improving accessibility. Management support will help with prioritization clashes, access to resources, and communication activities. Use the business case to help secure support from these groups.

Support for accessibility is often found among other project teams involved in the creation of websites. Encourage interest in these groups by exploring how accessibility has broad benefits. For example, individuals can improve their skills, organizations improve their websites, and people with disabilities have a better online experience. This will help increase the enthusiasm for accessibility and create more advocates or champions.

Create opportunities to exchange information and provide support. This could be informal between interested individuals, such as chat channels and lunch gatherings, or more formal presentations to management during staff meetings or feedback sessions.