Winning friends

Increase your impact by winning friends, not battles

What’s happening:

You have an information problem.

One of the first challenges in your journey as the accessibility expert is gathering information. Ground level intelligence on which teams are already struggling with technical, cultural or capacity hurdles is helpful for setting your own expectations.

Allies can help.

For example, if a marketing team has been consistently resisting updating pages for the search engine optimization (SEO) team because their publishing schedule doesn’t allow rework, you know there will be difficulty remediating any accessibility issues.

This kind of ground level information allows you to adjust your strategy: start by addressing the capacity issues with management before beginning accessibility remediation.

Seek alliances with existing experts

Experts and teams with overlapping concerns will naturally gravitate toward and eventually trust each other.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO teams are seeking practically the same structured data as a screen reader user:

  • Page title reflective of the content
  • Logical page structure
  • Meaningful headings (h1, h2, h3, etc)
  • Links with meaningful names/targets
  • Image alt text appropriate for the context

If every Web page in your site was optimized for search engines, it would also be optimal for screen reader content.

Speed, performance and conversion

When developers write valid semantic HTML, they’re almost always relying less on heavy external javascript libraries, which means applications load faster and more reliably. Naturally, site speed directly correlates to conversion.

In addition, the more an experience uses high contrast easy to understand visual design (which helps people with cognitive disabilities), the more quickly all customers will move through the application.

Design system team

The designers and developers responsible for design systems and component libraries tend to be the more experienced contributors. As the accessibility expert you’ll often find many accessibility issues are caused by using a component library in a way it wasn’t intended, or by a design element compromised to meet a product owner’s errant preference.

By helping the design and component library team write and socialize their documentation, you’ll gain an ally and be part of a systemic solution.

Agile coaches & scrum masters

Both agile coaches and scrum masters want to see teams be served by agile methodologies and ceremonies, not the other way around. This requires a thoughtful, collaborative and empathetic mindset to actually be agile, not just do agile.

Likewise, designing and developing with an accessibility first mindset is completely compatible with agile methodology because it encourages a team to collaborate and test early and often, leading to smaller feedback loops in production.

Scrum masters can specifically help you standardize atomic accessibility acceptance criteria being required for definition of ready and having tested them as definition of done.

Collaboration opportunities

Because there are so many overlapping concerns, especially with SEO and performance, collaborating on projects can help both teams increase their impact.

Share existing analytics or reporting

Many automated SEO and performance monitoring tools include accessibility test results. While automated scans are imperfect, they do represent a useful data set for tracking trends. Compare the monitoring tools being used and find out what reports are delivered. It may be you have a rich historical dataset available.

In addition, SEO and performance teams likely have solid numbers on how their work affects revenue. This same data can be applied to the correlative benefits of accessibility.

Deliver joint presentations

Product teams are often shocked to discover accessibility correlates to SEO and performance. Presenting the overlap and benefits can be a power discussion for teams otherwise convinced accessibility is a mere nonfunctional legal requirement.

Participate in office hours

If any collaborative team is running a regular office hours, definitely attend and offer accessibility guidance where requested. Be careful to not hijack another team’s office hours, but do work with the hosts ahead of time to gauge the input expected.

If this doesn’t work

As always, don’t be the police.

If one of these teams sees accessibility as a burden or competing resource, give them time to see the overlap in concerns. You will eventually be able to share intelligence with them, building a better relationship.

For example, if a team has been reticent about accessibility but suddenly has capacity for remediation, ask the SEO team if there are updates they want to piggy-back on the work.

Eventually, a partnership will form.

Coaching process

Follow these steps to win friends

Download KPIs as a CSV
Seek alliances with existing experts
Collaboration opportunities
Download KPIs