Building a core accessibility team is often a major difference in the success or failure of many accessibility initiatives. I've seen accessibility champions break under the pressure of attacking this alone. Building a core accessibility team won't be without its challenges, but focusing on the design of your core accessibility team it will help you break down the accessibility challenge into digestible pieces and it will be very rewarding.
Step One: Learn the Basics of Accessibility
If you are managing an accessibility program, it is mission critical that you understand the basics of accessibility. If you have a business or managerial background, take the time to learn some basic accessible coding and design techniques. If you have a development background, learn about policy and design. Accessibility is such a large and fast-moving field, it is very important to understand the basics in multiple disciplines before you jump into the nuances of accessibility practices.
Step Two: Secure Executive Support
The next and most important step is to secure executive support for your new accessibility program. This is vital for the accessibility program to have a viable future. Be sure to schedule regular meetings with the executive(s) so that you have buy-in at every step of the way.
Remember, accessibility is not only important, but it will save your organization money in the long run: don't be afraid to ask for support. If your position requires budgeting, this is the time to ask the tough questions so that you have the necessary resources for success.
Step Three: Create a Core Accessibility Team
Once you have executive buy-in, it is time to create a core accessibility team. It's best to provide a point-person for the most important disciplines, ideally, it is someone who has expertise in that area.
This is especially important for design, development, and quality assurance (more disciplines are listed below). Strive to acquire team members who represent diversity in ability, culture, gender, and age. Below are the roles that each point-person will champion in your core accessibility team:
- Executives: support the program
- Product and Project managers: run the program
- Content authors and contributors: provide accessible content
- Design (visual, interaction, user experience): provide accessible interaction and visual design
- Usability testing: provide user testing
- Development: provide code to support accessibility
- Quality Assurance: provide accessibility testing
- Legal: provide legal support (and leverage)
- Human Resources: hiring and training
Step Four: Create a Set of Accessibility Guidelines
Next, your organization must collectively decide on a set of accessibility guidelines to be followed. Possible guidelines and laws include:
- WCAG 2.0 AA (guideline)
- Section 508 (U.S.) (law)
- The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) (U.S.) (law)
- The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) (Ontario, Canada) (law)
It is common practice to customize and build your own guideline within your organization, this will help point-persons specialize their roles. It is important to note that the more the documentation deviates from the guidelines, the more maintenance and explanation may be involved down the road, including for legal support.
Step Five: Do an Accessibility Assessment of Your Company
The final step is to assess the current state of accessibility for your product, public-facing web pages, and internal web pages. This can be a large project, depending on the amount of content there is to assess. There are a variety of ways to perform an assessment, such as manually (for small amounts of content) or by using automated tools to get a high-level overview (for large amounts of content). To help you with an accessibility assessment, consider Deque Systems' products and services.
Once your core accessibility team is chosen and your team is assessing your organization's product and web pages, be sure that each member is 100% committed to accessibility at every step. Team members may be prepared and have the necessary experience, but if that team member is not fully invested in the core values of accessibility then they will not bring value to your mission. Good luck in creating your core accessibility team and making your organization more accessible!