A team is refusing assistance or input, even though an accessiblity review discovered defects with a their work.
The team will consistently decline accessibility coaching, claiming that they already understand the guidelines.
This message may be coming from the product owner and often originates from their own designers or developers.
Come to these discussions prepared.
Establish a single source of acceptance criteria, present the automated and manual assessments, and explain team accessibility targets.
Build a relationship
First of all, it’s great that the team is aware that accessibility is a requirement, and wants to produce the best possible experience.
It may not be the entire team resisting help, but rather a product manager who fears disruption or delays to project timelines. Egos can also play a part if someone feels like they’ll cede control to an outside coach. Either way, your role as coach means spending the time to understand their motivations and help them put aside any fears.
Understand the resistance
Use this opportunity to start a relationship based on curiosity and trust by asking these open ended questions.
Ask open ended questions
Have you been part of enterprise accessibility compliance discussions before?
It’s possible that the organization’s new focus on accessibility hasn’t been communicated, and this is the first time anyone has approached the team.
Has an agile/dev/accessibility coach already worked with the team?
They may have never worked with a coach of any kind. Perhaps they had a bad experience with a problematic consultant. Either way, this question opens up a conversation about your intentions.
Are you under any immovable deadlines?
Even if your leadership has set targets for accessibility, existing deadlines will heavily influence a team’s priorities. Perhaps they have a significant business reason to stay laser focused on a feature. Adjusting processes or remediation work may need to be negotiated around existing work.
How was the team trained in accessibility?
Perhaps they received a limited exposure and don’t know there’s more to it. It’s very common for a team to receive some basic accessibility guidance on color contrast or alt text without realizing there are more considerations and requirements.
What can you tell me about the team’s process for accessibility testing?
Much of the time, there is no actual documented process. This question leads into a discussion about ways you can help.
Are there obstacles to accessible development or remediation?
If a team has encountered a systemic blocker to change, they may feel like it’s not their responsibility to fix problems.
Be transparent about your intentions
If you haven’t explained why accessibility coaching is being offered, discuss the results of the assessment and where the team’s product needs to improve. They may be misunderstanding this as a voluntary process they can avoid by running out the clock without any follow up or consequences.
Items to clearly explain
- The assessment shows that there is a documented problem.
- Leadership has this same information, and has set targets for compliance.
- The coach is there to help the team meet requirements more easily and stay in continuous compliance.
Show appreciation and build trust
An accessibility coach suddenly turning up with assessments and a pile of issues can seem like a punishment. And, if the enterprise has previously been lacking accessibility requirements, it will certainly feel like an unjust punishment.
- Praise what the team has accomplished and acknowledge what an important product they manage.
- Ensure the accessibility team has capacity to provide any support promised.
- Show that you’ll accept reasonable mistakes and understand that nobody’s perfect.
If this doesn’t work
As always, don’t be the police.
If a team continues to resist, follow your team’s escalation procedures and leverage leadership to define priorities.