Know the Way, Go the Way and Show the Way
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way,” says John C Maxwell, author of How Successful People Lead. Accessibility culture, like diversity culture, requires leadership. It requires support at the highest levels of any organization. It requires accountability that flows from the top down to every employee. Most experts would agree that leadership is the key to the success of any organizational strategy, and accessibility is no different.
The Power of “Yes”
A guide from the Accessibility Switchboard, developed by the National Federation of the Blind’s Jernigan Institute, says, “The actual decision-making power to do something about an unmet need resides at the upper level of the organizational chart. Staff lower down the ranks may find it easy to say ‘no’ to requests for change, those at the upper level are empowered to say ‘yes’… Organizational change doesn’t happen unless people are made responsible for it to happen and accountable when things go wrong or need improving.” The empowerment to make the changes is vital to the success of those changes.
Leadership must spearhead accountability for accessibility. This means they must support the development of a clear accessibility policy. Leadership must appoint team members to carry the authority to enforce the accessibility policy. Having a policy that no one follows (or worse, is unknown) cannot improve the accessibility culture within an organization.
Accountability is the glue
“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” Once management has made the commitment to accessibility, the next step is choosing staff to enforce accountability. Accessibility is everyone’s job. Appointing key staff members to facilitate training and hold the team accountable further underlines this idea.
Creating an accessibility committee can be useful to develop the accessibility policy and to coordinate initiatives. It should include leadership, any staff tasked with overseeing accessibility issues (such as the accessibility coordinator) and a representative from all relevant organization departments. They should meet regularly. Regular meetings ensure that the staff is implementing best accessibility practices. They also ensure that accessibility issues are addressed in a timely manner.
For most organizations, it makes sense to appoint an accessibility coordinator. Having the coordinator report directly to leadership is key to empowering that person to enforce the accessibility policy. The accessibility coordinator should be responsible for enforcing the accessibility policy. Firstly, they should be monitoring digital content (especially the website and any forward-facing content) at regular intervals. This way they can address issues as they arise. They can also resolve any issues with individuals or departments who are not complying with accessibility guidelines set by the accessibility policy. The accessibility coordinator should also be responsible for employee accessibility training, the procurement of accessible tools, and ensuring that necessary accommodations are available for employees.
Tap the Potential
Implementing accountability for accessibility from leadership down to every employee builds accessibility culture within your organization. “Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential,” says Deborah Ruh. Accessibility culture creates an inclusive environment. It is an environment where all people’s needs are met, and all voices are heard, and where your organization can reach everyone. Accessibility culture becomes the norm in organizations that support accessibility through leadership and accountability, and no person is excluded.
Contact us to tap into the potential of your team and learn more about building accessibility culture through accountability and leadership.