4 Steps to Build an Accessibility Strategy From Scratch

Updated: December 10, 2019

Are you an accessibility advocate at a company that’s lacking in the realm of accessibility? Perhaps your organization has nary a word to say about accessibility, and you’re determined to change things. But with zero initiatives in place, how do you begin to build an accessibility strategy?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

There are many things you can do to start developing an accessibility strategy at your company. The following steps are the most sustainable approach to reaching an effective accessibility strategy.

Get Started

First of all, don’t rush into things. As they say, “Great things take time.” Creating an accessibility strategy (one that works and lasts) doesn’t happen overnight. Especially when you’re starting from scratch.

But you have to start somewhere, right?

Since you’re starting from zero, aiming for 100 percent accessibility right away may seem a little ambitious, overwhelming, and unrealistic. For now, we’ll help get you halfway there. This way, you’ll set yourself up for success when it comes time to implement an accessibility strategy and to make your organization fully accessible.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Get halfway to accessibility at your organization by taking these first steps: Do your research on what role accessibility plays at your company, build accessibility awareness among those around you, start an accessibility team with like-minded people, and write an accessibility policy.


Step One: Do Your Research

The first step is to determine what role accessibility will play at your company. This requires research.

You’ll want to analyze what your organization is already doing for accessibility if anything at all. For this step, you may consider bringing in a third-party auditing team to look at your current processes if your budget permits.
If you don’t have access to accessibility auditors, find out as much information as you can on your own. Determine where accessibility belongs in your organization’s current processes. The most common areas where accessibility falls short are products, web and content design, and procurement. You may find looking at those areas will give you the most insight.

Now is the time to take a good look at your organization and ask as many questions as possible. For instance, ask yourself if your company shares a ton of video content. If you determine that the answer is yes, then you must take a look at your current video publication processes and work video guidelines into the accessibility strategy.



Step Two: Build Awareness

Awareness is a critical step in gaining buy-in for accessibility. Consider one particular study which showed that a lack of general awareness of accessibility was the number one reason why organizations are not captioning videos. Without awareness, you’ll be hard-pressed to find supporters and advocates for accessibility within your company. It will also be challenging to gain any level of buy-in from higher-ups.

When it comes to awareness among coworkers and decision-makers, communication and conversation are key.

Start by getting a general consensus of accessibility awareness within your organization. You may find that many people already support web accessibility. It’s possible to recruit some of those people to form an accessibility task force.

On the other hand, more people may be just slightly familiar with web accessibility or only know of accessibility in terms of physical spaces. In the latter case, you’ll have some work to do.

How to Build Awareness

There are several ways to raise accessibility awareness in your organization. The key is to get creative with communication and position yourself as a resource.

When it comes to awareness among coworkers and decision-makers, communication and conversation are key.

  • Host meetings or a “lunch n’ learn” about accessibility best practices.
  • Send out a monthly newsletter focused on accessibility information.
  • Invite colleagues to attend accessibility-focused events with you.

How to Instill Empathy and Gain Buy-In

In addition to driving accessibility awareness, you must instill empathy and gain buy-in from others.

Even though people may be aware of web accessibility, that doesn’t mean that they will
automatically support an accessibility initiative. Incorporating accessible practices into your company’s processes will likely affect many people across different departments. People must understand that accessibility is a collective effort. Your task is to show the value of accessibility for your organization. You must convince others that accessibility is a necessity.

  • Hold hands-on accessibility workshops where people can learn practical accessibility skills that can be applied to their individual jobs.
  • Work with individual teams to build effective and sustainable accessible practices into their current processes.
  • Create accessibility resources and materials that can be incorporated into yearly trainings, for new hire orientations, etc.

Step Three: Start a Team

It’s vital to create a reliable team that drives accessibility initiatives within your company. A team effort can have a more significant impact, but how do you form a digital accessibility team?

The key is to be patient and to keep and an open mind. The more diverse your team is, the better.

Just look at Capital One’s accessibility team. It all started with one person and, over time, grew to be an 11 person team. Each person on the team is from a different background: software engineers, web developers, those in risk management roles, and individuals with disabilities. The team has taken immense initiative at Capital One working with the design team, engineers, and legal and compliance groups to create an accessible environment within the company.

You can take this same scrappy mindset and form a driven, efficient, and passionate team within your own organization. This may happen organically amidst your efforts to drive awareness, or you may have to seek people out.

The key is to be patient and to keep and an open mind. The more diverse your team is, the better.

Here are some ways to reach out to your colleagues:

  • Gauge interest from attendees at accessibility events, training, or discussions that you host.
  • Include a call-to-action in any accessibility newsletters or materials that you send out to your colleagues.
  • Go old-school and post flyers with contact information on bulletin boards around the office.

Step Four: Write an Accessibility Policy

By now, you’ve researched accessibility’s role in your company, you’ve raised awareness, and you’ve put together an accessibility committee.

There’s one more step in getting halfway to your accessible destination. It’s time to create a foundation for accessibility by implementing policy. It worked for McGraw-Hill, and it can work for your organization, too.

The benefits of having an accessibility policy are that it’s a tangible document that spells out your company’s stance on accessibility. It will also make it easier to centralize your accessibility strategy down the line.

How to Write a Great Accessibility Policy

There’s a particular formula for writing an excellent accessibility policy. It’s not just something you can throw together, it takes planning and research. Since you’ve already completed the research part, let’s start planning.

These are the components of a great accessibility policy according to the National Center on Disability and Access to Education:

1. Summary Statement of the Policy

This section should specify the rationale for the policy, the expected outcomes, when key steps are to be completed, and how these steps are to be achieved.

2. Effective Dates

The date the policy comes into effect should be stated in this section. If you plan to phase in the implementation of policy, be sure to include multiple dates, deadlines, or interim dates for each aspect of the plan.

3. Policy Scope

Which web content that falls under the scope of this policy? It’s essential to define this information in this section of the policy. If there are any exceptions to the policy, identify those who can authorize exceptions, and describe the process for obtaining exemptions.

4. Technical Standard

A technical standard, such as WCAG 2.0 or 2.1, provides the institutional criterion for accessibility.

5. Procurement Provisions

Guidelines are specified for accessibility as a factor in all purchases, licensing agreements, requests for proposals, or other contracts.

6. Mechanisms for Ongoing Review

Changes over time may require that the institution’s accessibility policy be periodically reviewed to assess the appropriateness of current measures and make adjustments as necessary. This section should specify how to conduct an ongoing review of accessibility processes.

7. Contact Information and Resources

Providing accessibility resources helps policy and processes to remain effective. A point of contact for all inquiries relating to accessibility processes and policy should be provided.

Next Steps

Congratulations! At this point, you’re well on your way to implementing an accessibility strategy at your company. You’ve come so far, but you still have a ways to go.

Stay tuned for more steps that will take you to 100 percent accessibility.



What steps have you taken to implement accessibility initiatives within your own organization? Let us know in the comments below.

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