One fish jumping away from group into a new bowl with an accessibility icon in it (part 1)

Change Management for Accessibility: Part 1

“Accessibility is hard. Getting others to adopt it is hard! How do I get this done?!”

Have you felt this way and asked yourself this? Does it feel overwhelming that you have been tasked with implementing accessibility practices within your team or organization? Is this something you want to champion yourself but cannot find where to begin? You are one of many embarking on this journey and there are best practices, tools, and support to help you!

Practicing accessibility, in the proper manner is about embedding it into your organization’s development lifecycle, so it is not a reactive and costly fix for the team. To efficiently implement accessibility, it is often a question of how to build a culture of accessibility throughout an organization, as it touches many types of roles. For this reason, change management principles and practices are great ways to help implement accessibility successfully.

Change management is a vital activity in all companies. Even though change is constant, effective implementation is not always assured. Organizations have many challenges in successfully implementing changes and achieving the desired goals.

The term “change management” may seem vague and you might ask yourself where you even begin. You are already an agent of change! You are doing change management, both in your professional and personal life, and you may not even realize it. Organizational change management is just bringing a framework to things you already know.

Change management becomes so much more achievable when you have a plan. Remember how we mentioned there are best practices, tools, and support to help you? Read on to learn more! We discuss the importance of change management and the factors that lead to successful change management in this article and in the following series of related blog posts.

We are going to look at four different change management philosophies and how these apply to accessibility:

  1. Lewin’s Three-Stage Model
  2. Plan Do Check Act Model (PDCA)
  3. ADKAR Model
  4. INVEST Model

First, let us discuss what change management is, the foundational elements of the practice, and how it applies to risk management and accessibility.

There is nothing permanent except change

You have heard this one before; the only thing that is permanent in life is change. Nothing in our surroundings stays the same for long. Our feelings, thoughts, and perspectives shift as our surroundings do. As a collective people, we, too, are always developing and that enables us to grow and learn. Change is difficult and scary, but it is also necessary. We should welcome change, but that is rarely the case!

On average, organizations have gone through five major firm-wide changes in the past three years and nearly 75% expect to increase the major change initiatives they will undertake in the next three years (Gartner, 2020). This underlines how important it will be to get comfortable with change management and think about the strategies that will work within your organization.

While businesses are often undergoing substantial changes these days, about half of change initiatives fail, while only 34% report success and 16% of change initiatives report mixed results (Gartner, 2020).

Three Foundational Elements to Change Transformation

Research has found the three most essential elements of a successful change transformation are:

  1. Fun engaging communication
  2. Executive sponsorship
  3. Innovation councils to sustain the change

Let us begin with effective communication. A successful change management program requires communications that share what is going on, when it is happening, why it is important, and how it is affecting individuals. Also, everyone involved in the change should be kept informed about its development. Make sure everyone knows they have a voice. Communication must be open and honest, as well as two-way so that stakeholders can provide feedback on ideas and concerns.

To successfully make the change, you must build trust and create a bridge for acceptance as you engage individuals in change. The more you engage the teams affected and executive leadership, the percentages for successful change implementation increases! Be mindful of who you are communicating with, their feelings, and be responsive. You do not have to agree with everything being said or shared, but you can effectively mitigate concerns, identify rumors that need to be addressed, and gain support for the change simply by listening!

Be the conduit of (appropriate) information between employees and leadership. The organization’s leaders must support and actively take part in the changes that are being implemented to additionally provide unity within the company. We all must work toward the same goal! Everyone will need to be an active participant in the rollout and adoption of the change. This means that the CEO and senior leadership must be totally committed to the change and supporting its successful rollout of it.

Employees must understand why the change is being implemented and what the organization expects of them. Individuals in the organization can provide feedback, support, and involvement by taking part in innovation councils. Employee engagement refers to getting employees emotionally invested in and buying into a change endeavor.

This entails giving people a sense of ownership and participation in the change process, as well as talking with them openly and often about what is going on. Employees must feel that they are part of a team, and that leadership recognizes their contributions.

Change Management and Risk Management

Change management and risk management are two critical parts of every company’s operation. Risk management aids in the assessment and prevention of risks, while change management aids in the successful implementation of changes. Both change and risk management are necessary and can be complicated. Businesses that lack the resources or skills needed to manage change or risk may find it difficult to succeed.

Change and risk management go hand in hand. The goal of change management is to ensure that changes result in the desired outcomes and that it minimizes any negative consequences. Change management includes taking steps to safeguard the organization against risks, such as losing key customers and managing the change process so that it is smooth and efficient. Many organizations have found by implementing change management, it also helps to lower risk and increase tolerance.

The introduction and adoption of anything new holds a risk naturally, and some of the risk-averse organizations we have worked with smartly managed these changes with the support and collaboration of their risk department.

We propose collaborating with risk management teams as you develop your accessibility plans and implement them. Organizations must deal with risk acceptance and environmental limits. We must factor these elements into the change management plan.

High-velocity accessibility, which is the concept of addressing accessibility as early as possible in the software development life cycle, is a big organizational transformation that can be handled by relying on other internal processes and teams. These are all excellent points to consider when thinking about change management and the various techniques for implementing it.


In our next blog post, we will begin our exploration into some change management strategies to consider for implementing your accessibility organizational changes, starting with Lewin’s basic three-stage model, before expanding further into more complicated models. According to Lewin, any individual’s conduct in reaction to a suggested change is a function of group behavior. And any interaction or force affecting the group’s structure influences an individual’s behavior and ability to change.

Until then, stay accessible aware!

Photo of Michael Harshbarger and Heidi Kelly-Gibson

About Michael Harshbarger and Heidi Kelly-Gibson

Michael Harshbarger - Michael is an Accessibility Instructor and a Project Manager for Deque’s Training team. He worked for 20+ years in IT for a Fortune 40 company as a Developer, Project Manager, and Program Manager.

Michael has experienced Accessibility in the software development life cycle. For Michael Accessibility is both a professional and personal passion. He has seen Accessibility work through the experience of his brother and two of his children.

Heidi Kelly-Gibson - Heidi joined Deque in 2018, bringing with her two decades of experience in project management, customer success, and service. Most recently she is focused on her customer’s accessibility journeys and supporting them through the development and execution of their accessibility programs.

Heidi is an avid blood donor, loves being the mother of three great young adults, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. Heidi is seldom without her faithful furry companions: her beloved English Bulldog, Louie, and her sweet Labradoodle Rottweiler Mix, Luna.
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Comments 2 responses

  1. Hi. Great blog. I wonder though if you could point me to the research you mention which says change comes from engagement, exec sponsorship and inovation councils. Would be great to know if it’s in one place or from different sources. Thanks again for your work in this area.

  2. Hi Johny!
    Thanks for the comment! We are so glad you enjoyed the blog. A lot of what we covered in these blog posts was pulled from lived experience, but here are some great articles that support the same. Let us know if you have any other questions!

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