Impact (not control)

Know when it's time to help people vs demanding compliance

Team alignment

When an accessibility team is imbued with any degree of authority combined with zeal for inclusion, it’s easy to mistake controlling a team’s output for having impact.

Don’t be the police

Sometimes strict compliance with best practices is simply not possible. Controlling procedures is out of the question because of complexities or constraints.

Learning when to be a helpful guide vs exerting control will save you from needless frustration (and certainly hours of repetitive fruitless meetings).

Let leadership be the enforcer

Leverage your organization’s management to help lead a team to better outcomes. Leadership has the ability to incentivize results.

Ask questions

When we start by seeking understanding, we’re doing more than gathering data.

How can I make inclusion easier for your team?

Rather than making compliance a goal, another way to measure impact as an accessibility coach is describing how you made compliance easier for a team. This is more than just sending a link to WCAG; find ways to reduce friction for people.


Fully understand team processes

At any sufficiently complex enterprise, you will find some teams necessarily approach design, development and testing differently. The reasons for doing so may be legion.


  • What constraints affect their timelines and capacity?
    • Budget?
    • Access to talent?
    • Broken or cumbersome workflows?
    • Deadlines?
  • Are 3rd party vendors responsible for portions of their product?
    • What requirements communicated to the 3rd party?
      • High level customer road maps?
      • High fidelity UI designs?
      • Precise functional acceptance criteria?
    • How is that relationship working?
  • What expectations do leadership place on the team for results?
  • Do any legal considerations affect the team’s decision making?

Not only will this conversation help you understand why the team has difficulty building inclusive experiences, but it will also help you build relationships and trust because they know you take an interest in seeing the same problems they do.

Allow teams to prioritize their own work

As accessibility coaches, our top of mind priorities will not always be in lock step with the teams we help, even when they agree inclusion matters.

When delivering assessments, it can be tempting to organize defects by severity and priority. Consider instead only defining severity, while letting product teams determine the priority.


  • A severe blocking defect presents on a page with little traffic, while a highly trafficked landing page might have a medium severity defect. The medium severity defect can take priority.
  • Many low severity defects exist in a product due to be phased out in the coming business quarter. Rather than prioritizing the fix, allow the team to place more emphasis on future work.

By collaborating with the product team in sequencing their work you’ll continue building the relationship and trust.

Adapt to their project management processes

Project management can take many forms. Whether it’s a formulaic scrum system with automated workflows, a Kanban board, or a horrific Excel spreadsheet — it’s incredibly helpful to understand and access the intake, prioritization and completion procedures.


  • An agile team cannot add a story to their backlog unless it’s connected to a funding source. Before delivering an assessment full of defects, have an answer for what funds will be used.
  • A small highly motivated team runs projects very loose and fast with an online Kanban board. Instead of dumping an assessment in their board with hundreds of defects, work with their leadership to prioritize a few every sprint cycle so the team doesn’t lose their sense of progress.
  • An enormous platform engineering project is spread out across dozens of teams comprised of internal employees, contractors and software vendors around the world. Work occurs in highly synchronized quarterly sessions. Instead of seeking perfection across each moving part, recognize the impossible complexity and focus on improving the inputs (design and copywriting) and assess the outputs (delivered software) as early as possible.

If this doesn’t work

As always, don’t be the police.

If a team continues to push back on inclusion, follow your team’s escalation procedures and leverage leadership to define priorities.

Coaching process

Follow these steps to lead teams to inclusive thinking.

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Team alignment
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