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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 address these real or perceived barriers.


Whether we think of our organization as open or resistant to accessibility, we have all encountered barriers to promoting accessibility within our organization. While the type of organization in which we work may vary considerably from other organizations, many of the accessibility barriers that we face are the same across all organizations. Some of these barriers are real, while others are perceived (but create real barriers for promoting accessibility nonetheless). The session will begin with a discussion of these common accessibility barriers.

After we identify the problems, we will then discuss a variety of approaches to overcoming these barriers. Each of these approaches has inherent benefits and drawbacks. A description and analysis of each of these approaches will be discussed:

  1. Logical arguments: Most introductory presentations 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.

  2. 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. Examples of general and specific accessibility stories will be shared during this section.

  3. Develop relationships across your organization: The departments in many organizations exist in silos. An impenetrable silo/department can negatively impact your company’s ability to deliver accessible products and services. As an accessibility advocate, it is necessary to break down these silos, and begin discussions on accessibility improvements that impact every department across your organization. We will discuss several strategies that accessibility advocates can utilize in an effort to break down these silos as it relates to developing accessible products or services.

  4. 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 Quality Assurance (QA) assistance, create VPAT/ACRs, and assist departments in tracking and remediating accessibility issues identified in the accessibility QA reviews.

  5. 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 by adding value to their routine job and issues. Secondly conduct voluntary presentations to improve the technical knowledge of the product teams.

  6. We will conclude our session by providing resources and 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:

  • Identify common barriers for promoting accessibility in various organizations.
  • Understand arguments for promoting accessibility
  • including the benefits and drawbacks of each argument.
  • Learn strategies and techniques for building relationships across your organization in an effort to promote accessibility.