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Creating a Culture of Accessibility: Overcoming Obstacles

taught by: Matt Robinson

co-presented by: Anthony Fernando

Session Summary:

This session will look at a variety of factors that cause difficulties in promoting accessibility in organizations and will offer several approaches, tools, techniques and strategies to overcoming these real or perceived barriers.


The session will begin with a discussion about factors that present barriers for promoting a culture of accessibility in organizations. This discussion will address the question, “What factors make it difficult to promote accessibility in an organization?” Some of these factors are real, while others are perceived (but create real barriers for promoting accessibility nonetheless). Whether we think of our organization as “difficult” or open to accessibility, we will all have encountered some barriers to promoting accessibility within our organization.

We will then discuss a variety of approaches to overcoming these barriers. Each of these approaches have inherent benefits and drawbacks. A description and analysis of each of these approaches will be discussed:

Logical arguments: Most introductory presentation to promote accessibility will involve three arguments: Legal, Financial, and the Myths of Accessibility. Since this is a beginning level session, these three arguments will be summarized. A discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of each argument will be analyzed. A fourth, and arguably more powerful, argument will be discussed: The Quality Argument. Regardless of the level of difficulty one faces within their organization in relation to accessibility, organizations that plan on staying in business over time must focus on quality. Quality, usability, and accessibility are closely related and will be discussed during this session.

Develop relationships across your organization: The departments in many organizations exist in silos, as an accessibility advocate, it is necessary to break down these silos, and begin discussions on accessibility improvements that impact every department. Depending on the structure of your organization, an impenetrable silo/department can negatively impact your company’s ability to deliver accessible products and services.

Develop and promote accessibility stories: Accessibility stories work best when they are specific to your organization (e.g., a discussion of how an individual benefited from accessibility improvements at your company); however, general accessibility stories that everyone can relate to can be helpful in promoting accessibility within your organization. An example provided by Todd Rose in his book “The End of Average” will be summarized in this session.

Leveraging relationships to solve organizational problems: As accessibility advocates build relationships across organizations, we should use these relationships to identify accessibility issues within each of the departments and assist the various teams in solving these problems. Potential solutions could include: providing accessibility QA assistance, create VPAT/ACR, and assist departments in tracking and remediating accessibility issues identified in the accessibility QA reviews.

Changing the organizational culture in development: We will look at two steps to change the culture of accessibility within your development departments: First offer help to developers and QA, show that you are adding value to their routine job and issues. Secondly conduct Voluntary presentations to improve the technical knowledge of the product teams.

We will conclude our session with providing resources other suggestions for accessibility advocates as they work to build a culture of accessibility in their organizations.

All the approaches, strategies, and advice offered in this session are provided in an effort to build ownership of accessibility throughout your organization. Our concluding remarks will focus on the fact that an accessibility advocate is constantly attempting to work themselves out of a job.

Practical Skills:

Are you frustrated by roadblocks within your organization to increase the accessibility of the products and services that you deliver? Are those roadblocks seemingly insurmountable? Then you likely work in a difficult organization. Don’t worry, though. You are not alone. There are many other accessibility advocates like you embedded in difficult organizations. There are many factors that can create problems for promoting accessibility in a business or educational institution. Join Matt and Anthony as we discuss different approaches and techniques for creating a culture of accessibility in difficult organizations.

Presentation Materials: