Building a Core Accessibility Team: The Keys to the Kingdom

Have you noticed that in today’s digital age accessibility is not just a nice-to-have feature but a fundamental requirement for any product or service? Creating an inclusive user experience is not only ethically responsible but also just makes good business sense. Sustainability in this conquest can be successful or a disaster, depending on how you make your approach. Here, we’ll explore how a core accessibility team can be an essential component of creating inclusive digital experiences.

The Kingdom: Understanding the Significance of Digital Accessibility

Digital accessibility refers to designing products and services in a way that makes them usable by as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This includes individuals with visual, auditory, motor, and/or cognitive impairments. An inaccessible digital environment can exclude a significant portion of potential users, resulting in lost opportunities and potential legal issues.

Moreover, accessibility goes beyond compliance with regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This mission is about creating a seamless and enjoyable user experience for everyone!

The Key Holders: The Roles in a Core Accessibility Team

A core accessibility team serves as the driving force behind the integration of accessibility principles into your organization’s design and development processes. So who makes up a core accessibility team?

Accessibility Advocate: The team should have a dedicated advocate who champions accessibility throughout the organization. This person is responsible for creating awareness, securing resources, and ensuring accessibility is a priority.

Accessibility Experts: Having experts in the team, such as accessibility testers and designers, is crucial. They can perform accessibility audits, provide guidance on accessible design, and conduct training for the rest of the team.

User Representatives: Including individuals with disabilities on the team or consulting with them regularly can provide invaluable insights. They can test products and provide feedback from a user’s perspective.

Documentation and Training: The team should create and maintain accessibility documentation, guidelines, and training materials. This ensures that all team members are on the same page and can make informed decisions.

Testing and Quality Assurance: Regular testing of products and services for accessibility issues is essential. The team should establish testing processes and tools, conduct audits, and track issues to resolution.

Build your Accessibility Practice

You know why digital accessibility is important. You understand the roles within a successful core accessibility team. Now what? Below are some great considerations, starters, and methods to build this team and be successful:

  1. Identify Key Stakeholders: Start by identifying individuals within your organization who are passionate about accessibility. They could be developers, designers, or product managers who are eager to champion this cause.
  2. Seek Expertise: If you don’t have in-house accessibility expertise, consider hiring accessibility experts or consultants who can guide your team’s efforts.
  3. Establish Clear Roles: Define the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Ensure that everyone understands their role in promoting accessibility.
  4. Training and Education: Invest in training and education for your team. Accessibility is a dynamic field, and staying updated with the latest guidelines and best practices is crucial.
  5. Collaboration: Foster collaboration between your core accessibility team and other departments like development, design, and quality assurance. Accessibility should be integrated into every stage of your product or service development lifecycle.
  6. Continuous Improvement: Regularly evaluate your team’s effectiveness and make improvements. Solicit feedback from users and team members to identify areas for growth.

Potential Challenges

Building a core accessibility team can indeed present challenges. Some common obstacles you may face include:

Awareness and Buy-In: Some team members or stakeholders may not fully understand the importance of accessibility. To remedy this, conduct awareness sessions and share real-world examples of the impact of accessibility. Highlight the legal, ethical, and business benefits of inclusion.

Resource Constraints: It can be challenging to secure the necessary resources (budget, personnel, tools) for an accessibility team. You will need to build a compelling business case that demonstrates the ROI of accessibility. Emphasize the potential cost savings through reduced legal risks and increased customer reach.

Finding Qualified Experts: Finding individuals with expertise in accessibility can be difficult, but necessary. Consider hiring consultants or training existing team members. Accessibility is a field where ongoing learning is essential, so invest in training and development.

Resistance to Change: Resistance to change is a common obstacle when implementing accessibility practices. Engage with key stakeholders early and involve them in the decision-making process. Show them how accessibility benefits everyone and aligns with your organization’s values. Work from the bottom up and the top down for maximum impact.

Integration into Existing Processes: Integrating accessibility into existing workflows can be complex. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will this kingdom. Start small, gradually incorporating accessibility practices into your existing development and design processes. This allows your team to adapt without overwhelming changes.

Testing and User Feedback: Comprehensive testing and obtaining user feedback can be resource-intensive. You can help scale this by prioritizing testing on critical user journeys and high-impact areas. Consider involving users with disabilities in your testing process to gather valuable insights.

Sustainability: Maintaining long-term commitment to accessibility can be challenging. The core team is all about sustainability. Create clear accessibility policies and guidelines that are regularly updated. Establish a feedback loop to continuously improve accessibility practices.

Communication: Effective communication among team members and with stakeholders is crucial but can be difficult. Implement clear communication channels and workflows and keep at it. Change takes time. Document accessibility standards and processes, and ensure team members are aware of them. And keep reminding them–as many times as it takes.

Measuring Success: Measuring the impact and success of your accessibility efforts can be challenging, but you have to be able to tell your story at the end. Define clear accessibility metrics and regularly track progress. Use user feedback, accessibility audits, and user testing to evaluate your products’ accessibility.

Scaling Accessibility: As your organization grows, scaling accessibility efforts can become complex.  Develop a scalable accessibility strategy from the beginning. Consider building a network of accessibility champions across different teams to spread knowledge.

Final thoughts

Remember that building a core accessibility team is an ongoing process. It requires commitment, patience, and a dedication to making your digital products and services more inclusive. Inclusion and accessibility are not optional but necessary components of designing digital experiences. Building a core accessibility team is a sustainable way to ensure that your products and services are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities. By following these steps and fostering a culture of accessibility within your organization, you can create a more inclusive and successful future for your brand and for your users.

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