Accessibility Training Builds Accessibility Culture

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Whose job is accessibility?

In a previous article about creating accessibility culture, it was mentioned that accessibility is everyone’s job.  Every employee should accept the responsibility to ensure that your company and its digital resources are fully accessible to everyone. This means ensuring all content, messaging, and internal and external platforms and materials are accessible to everyone regardless of ability, just as it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that what they produce is spell-checked, grammatical, and politically correct. Building accessibility culture within your organization is a process that requires supervision from leadership, training for employees, and a strong commitment to ensuring success. Accessibility training is a key element. 

Training for accessibility culture is a process

Training staff to handle their responsibilities and accept that accessibility is everyone’s job is also a process.  It begins with a company accessibility policy that is clear and available to all staff.  Employees might not know exactly how they can contribute to a culture of accessibility, so it is important to educate your staff on how they can make a welcoming, inclusive and accessible environment for everyone, both internally and externally. Depending on the size and composition of your organization, there are a variety of viable options for the success of implementing accessibility culture. 

Small organizations can train everyone at once

A small organization (25 or fewer employees) can implement staff training for all employees and provide resources for the entire team to help them ingest the nuances of what is required to achieve accessibility.  There are a number of ways to achieve staff training. Staff can attend webinars, attend workshops, or a professional trainer can be invited to your organization. Articles and policies can be circulated within your organization. 

Training should include information about disabilities, best practices for communicating with people with disabilities, physical accessibility, and digital accessibility.  Using a combination of all of the above will create a cohesive program for bringing the staff up to speed and motivating them to maintain accessibility best practices. Regular reminders and continuing education for the staff will keep accessibility top of mind and remind them that accessibility is everyone’s job.

In 2018, 26 New York wineries were sued for having inaccessible websites.  This is an example of small businesses that would benefit from accessibility training for their staff. It’s unwise to assume that a small business will be exempt from digital accessibility requirements. Training staff to be aware of digital accessibility issues can help avoid litigation and loss of income from failing to reach assistive technology users. Making staff aware of digital accessibility issues would have led to these wineries hiring web designers who produced accessible websites, producing accessible content, sending out accessible emails, and creating accessible documents (such as brochures and sales materials).  

Larger organizations can train staff incrementally

Larger organizations may find it useful to train staff incrementally, starting with one representative per department and training others over time. Each departmental representative can participate in accessibility training and then share their knowledge within their department.  That trained representative can monitor the digital materials created by the department and help staff to make their materials accessible, correcting accessibility errors as necessary. Members of each department should rotate through training so that all employees are trained over time. Start with a single person, and then perhaps one or a few additional people every quarter or year to spread out the cost of training.  The goal is still for all employees to be responsible for the accessibility of their work. Having a long term plan for training and implementation of your accessibility policy creates a roadmap to accessibility culture within your organization. 

SUNY in Oswego, New York created a strategic IT plan to address digital accessibility campus-wide.  “To achieve this, collaboration, cooperation, and communication are keys to all technology initiatives. To deliver value to our community, stakeholders and Campus Technology Services (CTS) must contribute as equal partners to planning, projects, and service delivery. When we looked at how we were approaching accessibility, we saw that we were reactive; remediation projects were done in isolation, and we did not make systemic changes to eliminate making the same mistakes repeatedly. In the end, we were not involving the community enough to avoid and resolve the issues…”

“Representation came from the president’s office, IT, Marketing and Communications, Extended Learning, Procurement, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and Accessibility Services. Assistance was enlisted from faculty who are experts in web accessibility and universal design. We also hired graduate student interns trained in accessible web design to update web pages and develop training modules. Procurement rewrote wording in RFPs for software and in contracts. All web designers have been trained in their responsibilities around accessible web and social media content. As more people have become involved in the project, we have seen the spirit of creating an accessible digital culture grow.” The more comprehensive your organization’s accessibility plan, the greater chance for success and a real change in digital accessibility culture. 

Create a tier of accessibility accountability

For some organizations, especially larger ones with a complex departmental structure, it may make sense to appoint a staff member to handle accessibility issues that cannot be resolved within departments, such as complaints or issues which arise from external sources.  This can be a person from human resources, information technology, support team, or all of the above. The important factor in this scenario is that the responsible person or people must handle the issues promptly and completely. (More on the topic of addressing complaints in a future blog post.) Assign this person (or team) responsibility for staff training in accessibility. They may also be responsible for tracking and auditing the accessibility of content and materials such as legal documents, website content, and other materials within the organization on the website, social media, and other digital platforms.  This tiered accountability can underline that accessibility is everyone’s job. 

Planning, training, responsibility, and commitment

There is no one single correct way to handle the integration of accessibility culture into your organization, just as there is no single right way to make content and materials accessible.  The key is to create a plan that has the end goal of making all employees responsible for accessibility. To make them understand that accessibility is everyone’s job. This plan should include training, assigning of responsibility, maintenance, and prompt and complete response to accessibility issues as they arise. Commitment to the process, the accessibility policy of your organization, and the needs of end-users who require accessible content and platforms will lead to success. 

Not sure where to begin building an accessibility roadmap or how to include your staff?  Equidox can help

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Tammy Albee

Tammy Albee | Content Marketer | Onix Tammy joined Onix after four years experience working at the National Federation of the Blind. She firmly maintains that accessibility is about reaching everyone, regardless of ability, and boosting your market share in the process. "Nobody should be barred from accessing information. It's what drives our modern society."