Getting Beyond the Checklist – Culture Change and Accessibility

Woman looks dubiously at check list with checked boxes

Panel Discussion at CSUN Assistive Technology Conference 2019

Ryan Pugh, Director of Accessibility, will be presenting this year at CSUN on Friday, March 15 at 3:00 PM (PDT), along with Mike Gifford, CEO of Open Concept, and Amy Mason, Access Technology Specialist at the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind. They will be challenging organizations to move beyond technical compliance. This talk will highlight some of the limitations of a checklist-based approach to accessibility and will address practical measures to affect larger systemic changes. The web doesn’t function in isolation and it is rapidly changing. Individually and organizationally we can take measures to improve the accessibility of the system. Culture change is the key to affecting change. 

WCAG and the Checklist

Web Contact Accessibility Guideilnes (WCAG)  is often presented as fifty-ish checkboxes to achieve accessibility. If it’s that easy, why isn’t the world fully accessible? Here’s a better approach.

WCAG provides us with four principles, approximately a dozen guidelines and a great many success criteria that can help act as a roadmap for accessibility on the web. Governments around the world have enacted laws embedding the 2008 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA as the default standard for compliance. It is always going to be a challenge to interpret a philosophical guideline as if it were a technical manual in order to reach the desired standard.

Cultural Changes

The goal of the panel is to highlight ways in which institutions can implement culture changes to see perpetual, incremental improvements in digital accessibility and learn to proactively avoid accessibility barriers instead of fighting fires as they arise. A clearly defined goal of universal usability with a heavy emphasis on user experience is what creates a robust and adaptable foundation for a culture of compliance, regardless of the currently accepted standard. This foundation is also the key to exceeding the limitations of what can be codified into a testable ruleset. This philosophy also ensures that when standards change or technologies evolve, no one is caught having to start over from scratch to meet a new checklist.

Concepts in Accessibility Improvement

Process: Where is the biggest bang for the buck?
People: What role does culture change play? Where are the champions? Who isn’t at the table?
Partnership: Disabled community and open source community
Project: Measurements of success
Path, not Perfection: Not one & done

Common Threads for Success

While each case is different, there are common threads in successful implementation that can provide a roadmap for how to approach the enculturation of accessibility throughout an organization.

  • Measurable Results – distilling what progress looks like and how to avoid creating another checklist.
  • Procurement – What steps can be taken to ensure accessibility in procurement? Evaluating VPATs and the difference between accessible and usable.
  • Who is responsible and who is accountable?
    • Designated roles
    • Executive buy-in and expert consulting
  • Education and Training
    • Assessing “who needs to know what” for an accessibility initiative to succeed and how best to build that knowledge base.
    • Engaging with People with Disabilities (PwD) for education and training
  • Prioritization and knowing the limits.
    • Breaking down the daunting task of becoming compliant into achievable and affordable milestones and addressing both future practices and legacy materials.
  • Inclusive hiring practices and collaboration
    • All organizations are leveraging open source solutions.
    • People with disabilities need to be engaged in both identifying and solving the problems.

You can find the Equidox team in the exhibit hall at booth #719.  We’ll be happy to talk with you further about how to get beyond the checklist and affect culture change. Ask us for a free demo of our PDF remediation software.  It’s so fast and easy you’ll never want to use anything else.


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Tammy Albee

Tammy Albee | Director of Marketing | Equidox Tammy joined Equidox after four years of 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."