|Bridging a barrier|
I've spent a lot of my work life and free thinking time this year teaching myself (and others, one coworker at a time) the principles and skills of web accessibility, to be applied first on a simple low-risk pilot project, and then so I can be positioned to make a difference when my company finally commits to it whole-heartedly.
Making web content easily available to people with disabilities will take institutional will and know-how.
But mainly will.
Don't tell me it doesn't fit in with the mission, target audience or business needs. I design and manage web projects for the main website of a major financial institution whose mission is to take a stand for their clients, to treat them fairly, and give them the best chance for success. But for all it's altruism, it has yet to get on board fully with coding, design and writing practices that would make it's content available to all people regardless of their technology or disability.
Don't tell me there isn't time or money in the budget. I've just rolled off a 5-year multi-million dollar infrastructure and user interface project where commitment to one internal goal was paramount, but little thought or support was given to complying with basic accessibility guidelines for users.
So I find myself wondering about how large institutions become motivated to take on change.
Where is the will?
I found this excellent WebAIM article, Hierarchy for Motivating for Accessibility Change, which made me wonder if any of these approaches would work at my company.
- Guilt: See above. It is so perfect with our mission, and we've had the opportunities that we've passed up, so why not make it a priority like other projects we've done recently.
- Punish: We could be sued. Others in our industry have recently and the Department of Justice has become increasingly involved.
- Require: The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act "places of public accommodation" phrase could be interpreted to mean websites, which would require companies who do business on the web to make their websites accessible to those with disabilities. Or, maybe we should just declare that we are making this a company standard and it will become a part of job expectations tied to yearly performance evaluations.
- Reward: Being accessible will give us a competitive marketing advantage...we'll be able to earn/tout industry certification. Or, we'll strengthen loyalty to the brand and our net promoter score will go up. Or, we'll broaden our client base and that means more money coming in.
- Enlighten: Cleaner simpler code is better for SEO and gets us better Google rankings. Or, it makes for better future readiness as new technologies come along. Accessibility is a side effect of technical excellence.
- Inspire: It is about taking a stand for people, treating them fairly and giving them the best chance to succeed. So let's see it make a difference in the life of an individual. I'll bet you know someone with a disability who could benefit from our great company philosophy. And, 50% of our clients are over age 50, but they own the lion's share of our assets. Let's make it easier for older eyes and improve their experience. Let's make it more accessible to both clients and prospects. It's just plain the right thing to do.