Part 2 - Selling Accessibility
Selling Accessibility - The "How?"
Accessibility gets a bad wrap and that's probably one of the biggest reasons people in the digital space are so intimidated by it. As a UX professional, you should take accessibility into everything you do because people with disabilities are likely your users too.
Disclaimer - Writing this article is much easier than actually doing it, but figuring out how to do it was the most difficult part... and now that's solved for you.
Start Small if You Have To
If you are like I was and didn't know what WCAG stood for or which disabilities were recognized by the U.S. government, start small and try to get a basic understanding of disabilities in general. Just by understanding this, you will put yourself leaps and bounds ahead of most IT groups.
- Understand the basics of disabilities - Do a little bit of research. You'll find out the variances in visual and hearing disabilities. If you're like me, you may even find out you have a legal disability of your own.
- Visit a local community group that supports people with disabilities - People with disabilities are hidden in plain sight, but it's rare in our society to openly discuss disabilities with people who have them. Take some time to visit them and talk about the issues that impact them on a daily basis.
- Try using your favorite website using only your keyboard (no mouse) - Empathy is the best way to help others solve a problem. Great accessible websites allow people to complete all tasks with only a keyboard.
Build Up Awareness and Allies
- Talk to your colleagues about Accessibility - You'll either be educating people and finding allies who may be able to help you build a program for the long term.
- Find a Champion for Accessibility - I've spoken with people from Google, Adobe, and Yahoo about managing accessibility and all of them understand the importance of having someone powerful pushing for accessibility from the top. Without that powerful spokesperson, it will always be an uphill battle.
- Start selling it! - You need to give people a reason to care, tell them what they need to hear. You can check out my article on this topic
Building an Accessibility Group
Whether you have funding or just some extra time, you can now start building an accessibility group. Here are a few tips help for long term success.
- Place the Accessibility group in the right department - Politics plays a huge role in everything we do in corporate America whether we like it or not, so being in the most supportive group is key. After speaking with experts, I believe an Accessibility group should role up through the UX group because it is all part of the digital experience. Remember, UX is all about empathy so leaving Accessibility in the hands of those folks is much more beneficial for users with disabilites than HR or Legal who are mostly concerned about not being sued.
- Teach everyone about Accessibility - The easiest way to do this is to get into HR's on-boarding process so every employee has to listen to you talk about accessibility, even if it's just for 5 minutes. Many companies have a "New Hires Day", this is the perfect opportunity for you to get everyone on the same page.
- Create an "Accessibility Lab" to run demonstrations & empathy - Yahoo is known across Silicon Valley as having the best "Accessibility Lab" around. It has stations for every type of disability (6 total) and 4 full time employees dedicated to their Accessibility group. Wait, you don't have millions of dollars for this? Oh, well then do what I did and create a "Mini Accessibility Lab" with a few tools, like drunk goggles and ear muffs to demonstrate low vision and low hearing. The beauty of the "Mini Accessibility Lab" is that you can bring it anywhere with you to create demos, such as the new hire day or even local meetups.
Getting any kind of traction for making accessibility a priority is difficult, but there will be opportunities and you have to take them when you can.
- Start small and educate yourself about accessibility
- Build awareness and allies
- Create a dedicated group
For more information on what can help you persuade your manager or company on prioritizing accessibility, check out my article Part 1 - Selling Accessibility - The "Why?"