Precise job titles will change, but a successful team will incorporate all of these roles in some capacity.
Directors lead the accessibility team by fostering trust, building capacity and gathering focusable resources.
Articulate experts with the heart of a teacher must be on call to answer questions for teams.
Whatever their actual job title is this role collects data and tracks the success of the program in meeting strategic goals.
Entrepreneurial / intrapreneurial approach
Your accessibility team must have a startup mentality: the job is to introduce and build a market for good accessibility.
Don’t miss this crucial step
This is done by creating a need for accessibility resources through policy targets and providing training and technical assistance to fulfill that need.
Too many accessibility teams provide technical assistance without creating a market (to predictable and frustrating results)
Consistent relationship building
Like any entrepreneurial effort, you will have to build relationships, sell the benefits of accessibility through a consistent roadshow of presentations and demonstrations, all while studying the reaction.
You’ll need people who can build long-term relationships to effectively build an accessibility team capable of meeting your strategic goals. If it’s a grassroots effort, your success will start with gaining leadership support for a dedicated team.
Win friends, not battles
Don’t bring people into your team who want to be the accessibility police. If your team is seen as an enforcement agency, rather than a helpful support, your mission will be more difficult because everyone will hide their work from you.
It’s common for a new team to have great zeal and want to “fix everything”, but as a team, you must align enthusiasm to documentable ways of working and consistent approaches to problem solving.
Diligently use the project management tool
There is no one right method of project management. Choose one and make it part of the team’s daily or weekly rituals.
Whether it’s an online to-do board, a workflow builder, or a physical kanban board of sticky notes, a single project management tool is central to the team’s sustained work and collaborative efforts.
Clarify requests into actionable projects
The accessibility team will feel urgency and zeal making it difficult to recognize the scope of a request compared to capacity team members can provide.
Patiently defining work requires collaborative conversations within and outside of the accessibility team.
Conversations that must be okay
The team must be able and willing to have conversations around prioritizing work and defining capacity in line with your strategies and tactics.
It has to be okay when a new task won’t start until others are complete or some other project is de-prioritized.
Responding to an “urgent” email conversation
Don’t just react to an urgent request. Start by defining a due date and reminding the sender prioritized work is currently being performed.
For example, you might reply:
“This looks like something we can define and prioritize in the project management system. When do you need a solution in your hands?”
The unexpected project conversation
Often team members receive requests without their capacity being taken into consideration. Re-prioritizing tasks so new work can fit is necessary, especially if their project list is already full.
When a team is at capacity, you might reply:
“You’ve delivered an interesting idea and it sounds like a big project. Will this take priority over what’s already in progress? Is there a definitive deadline for its delivery?”
What can sound simple on the surface might involve dependencies with other organizations, require approvals or budgeting, or generally be quite a bit more involved than it seems.
The unclear objective conversation
Some ideas need more discussion to determine if the work should actually be done. Indicators to look for include a definition of success, a particular audience or a due date.
“This request seems worthy of more definition. When can we discuss recipients, deliverables, schedules and assign responsibility in the system?”
Defining a project in your system, with all of its required tasks, helps surface the true amount of work to be done.
Differentiate between projects and programs
The commitment to projects and programs can be quite different.
Projects are measured by being done
A project has a definitive beginning and end. It will have a defined deliverable for an intended recipient.
For example, a project might be, “Create an automated reporting dashboard for leadership.”
- The deliverable is an accessible dashboard of charts and values.
- The recipient is leadership.
- It will have a process of tasks to complete based on a deadline.
- It will be considered successful upon completion.
Programs are measured by outcomes
A program is a collection of tasks forming a group of work ongoing indefinitely. The recipient is the organization itself.
For example, a program of monitoring best practices across teams will report on compliance and correlate those results, resulting in a reduction of defects.
Some functions are both projects and programs
For example, creating an accessibility champions program will be big project to define:
- Participant expectations
- Curriculum materials
- Levels of participation
- Integration with employee career ladder
- Rewards and certifications
Then for the program to be successfully implemented, team members will be responsible for the actual programmatic portion:
- Continually educating people about its existence
- Enrolling participants
- Tracking champion progress
- Measuring and reporting outcomes per product
Best practices monitoring
This work will make up a large chunk of your program reporting.
Inventory of all applications
If it doesn’t already exist, one of your strategic goals must be an inventory of all applications.
Without a regularly updated inventory of all digital applications, including points of contact for each, the number of products that need to be managed cannot be known.
- Application name
- Audience: Internal or customer facing
- Platform (Web, iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS)
- Update cadence: Daily, weekly, quarterly, etc.
- Product owner
- Product manager
- Account manager (if 3rd party application)
- Development manager
- Testing manager
Monitor commitment by role
You can use this book’s guides as a way to measure commitment to building inclusive products. By comparing adherence to best practices with each guide, you’ll be able to measure and manage the effectiveness of your program.
These commitments can be monitored, sometimes made part of onboarding training, surveyed and reported to leadership as part of accessibility scores. It is not a one and done project.
The precise information, and way it’s presented, should be a collaboration between your team and leadership.
Some leaders may want regular detailed reports, while others may want to simply know trends and times to intercede.
Monitor accessibility compliance
Maintain your connection with leadership by delivering data, reports and trends, while proactively asking them to provide the visible support you need.
Manual testing performed by an accessibility expert
Get a true sense of how accessibility is affecting your customers by having an expert deliver an organized report of defects by severity, type and link to remediation techniques. This isn’t the same as a usability study, but it will illustrate the issues your customers actual experience.
An assessment generally delivers a report with the following described for each issue:
- URL where this occurred
- Summary (Ex: Sign in link is not focusable)
- Type of issue (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robustness)
- Description of element or context causing the problem
- Severity (Blocker, high, medium, low)
- Assistive technology being used (screenreader, keyboard)
- Device (Desktop, tablet, smartphone)
- Browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox)
- Platform (MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android)
- Link to remediation and testing technique
- Tester identification
- Unique ID for the issue
Automated tests from a uniform testing suite
Automated tests can find programmatic errors. For instance, it can pass a checkbox for having a label, but it can’t tell you if the label makes sense. It can flag an image for missing alt text, but it can’t tell you if it’s better that the screen reader ignores that particular icon.
Monitor remediation progress
This is typically an easy metric to understand. An assessment will be translated to individual projects monitored for completion.
It should take the form of defects remediated versus outstanding issues by severity.
A policy setting a deadline for remediation by severity can be tracked in relation to completion rates, generating a burndown chart illustrating the health of the initiative.
How to prioritize remediation efforts
Most full assessments include a manual and automated report organized by severity.
Severity is an objective scale. It’s important that teams agree on a uniform definition so that issues are remediated in a meaningful way.
Any barrier that is impossible to overcome using expected interactions.
Any issue that makes it difficult to perceive, operate or use an application’s core functionality on the first try
Features that are aggravating but can be worked through with some persistence
Issues that can be bypassed with modest effort
Product teams may have difficulty processing and prioritizing the sheer number of defects, especially the automated report which may contain thousands of instances of invalid code.
The accessibility team must be prepared to help teams understand and prioritize the issues identified in the assessments.
Testers will determine the severity of defects, while the product management team will decide how to prioritize the defects for remediation.
Priority is subjective and may be based on several factors. For example, a high severity defect on a rarely trafficked page may take a back seat to a medium severity defect on a home page.
Legal risk and liability objectives also affect priority. A high severity color contrast issue might be remediated behind a medium severity screen reader issue, because there is higher complaint risk.
Focus on core functionality
Focus on your crucial customer flows. For instance, the ability for an online bank to access account information and transfer funds might be the most popular feature. Within that feature, prioritize defects by severity, starting with the manually detected issues.
The automated defects are incredibly helpful and should be corrected as well, but not every defect detected by an automated scan affects the customer experience. For example, an unclosed HTML tag is technically invalid markup, which is a defect, but it may not be affecting the customer experience. It’s simply indicative of sloppy code.
Be practical and reasonable
It’s impractical to expect teams to remediate all defects instantaneously. It will take time to prioritize and assign work to be completed.
Look for opportunities to alleviate remediation responsibility. For instance, if a non-compliant feature is already being rebuilt and will deploy in a reasonable amount of time, allow teams to remediate by replacement.
Monitor new defects introduced
Some product teams will interpret accessibility remediation as a one and done kind of task, then return to business as usual. This is why it’s important to validate remediation efforts with identical QA testing methodology as the first assessment and determine if new defects have been introduced.
Monitor compliance rates with best practices
With best practices established, regular surveys of compliance can now be reported to leadership. This information can be correlated to individual teams and new defects introduced.
The expectation is teams who are complying with best practices will introduce few new defects. If this is not the case, they may be misunderstanding or misrepresenting their compliance.
Monitor strategic goal KPIs
Your strategic goals should have KPIs attached indicating their rate of completion.
If you’re unable to make progress on those metrics, you can leverage the ability of leadership to encourage cooperation or enforce the policies to meet those goals.
As time goes on, you’ll build various programs with measurable outcomes.
- Best practices compliance
- Accessibility champion participation
- Expert guided lunch and learn attendance
- Vendor compliance rates
- Accessibility innovation center participation