The Digital Accessibility Journey: Exploring Priorities and Investments in Aus and NZ organisations
Building a Digital Accessibility roadmap
The more advanced an organisation is on its digital access journey, the more importance they place on formal policies. This indicates that the single biggest step an organisation can take may simply be to build a Digital Accessibility roadmap. Along with our respondents and advisors, we’ve put the following three step process to help businesses plan their way forward:
Step 1: Assess current maturity before making a plan
Our advisors suggest that assessing your organisation’s current state of play is essential before a solid plan can be built. Once you have tested all assets, it’s time to put a roadmap in writing. According to respondents in this report, a written plan needs to include “what needs to be done, how it will be achieved and how to maintain compliance over time.” And it needs to be easy to understand and implement. Here are some ways to get started:
- Audit your current accessibility confidence: Organisations can start the journey by undertaking a free 10-question analysis of Disability Confidence across their organisation via the Access and Inclusion Index (by the Australian Network on Disability). This is helpful to understand where improvement is most needed.
- Test your digital assets and services for accessibility: Internal teams and external consultants can help with auditing your employee and customer-facing digital assets and services. There are numerous tools that can be leveraged, such as: WAVE, Accessibility Insights (from Microsoft), Lighthouse (from Google), among others.
- Budget for it: Many respondents flag that better financial resources are required to progress Digital Accessibility in their organisations. As with any business initiative, provisioning budget for accessibility initiatives will better position an organisation to make digital access improvements.
- Make accessibility a KPI: It is clear in this research that sponsorship from leadership has an important role to play in facilitating progress. Making Digital Accessibility improvements part of the leadership’s KPIs will make sure it’s taken seriously and done well.
- Align with legislation: 59% of businesses believe that Digital Accessibility will only become widespread when it’s legislated. While regulations in Australia and NZ are being updated, there may be opportunities for businesses to create their own best practice guidelines, following in the footsteps of more advanced organisations or countries. For example, in the EU and Canada, digital inclusion policy deadlines are catalysed by COVID-19 and in many places are now legislated across all businesses with 20+ employees.
“It can’t all be fixed in one go. Commit to starting and move forward.”
“Significant planning and consultation at the beginning saves a lot of time and cost.”
“Make sure that all staff at all levels are considered.”
Step 2: Accelerate progress.
With only 3% of organisations categorised as “Trailblazers”, it is clear that more can be done in Australia and New Zealand. The good news is that various practices and tools are available for businesses to improve the effectiveness of their Digital Accessibility journeys:
- Appoint an internal champion: 67% of respondents believe it takes passionate individuals to drive organisational commitment or prioritisation. While many businesses choose to take this in-house, others suggest “employing someone with the necessary experience to implement a Digital Accessibility strategy, making sure all procedural changes are delivered.”
- Do your own research: There are myriad resources available to guide you along your digital accessibility journey, helping understand the barriers faced by people with disability and the benefits of improving Digital Accessibility. Here are some to start with, among others:
- Involve end users: According to businesses on the journey, “lived experience is important” when it comes to designing successful solutions. Respondents suggest consulting people with disability throughout your journey, whether through direct consultation, end user testing or by hiring a third-party expert. Purple Space’s Five Trust Test is a great tool for understanding when it’s okay to ask someone about their personal experiences, and how to go about collaborating respectfully.
- Consider formal training: Sometimes the most efficient way to gain total workplace confidence and open up lines of communication is through formal education across all levels of staff. There are various agencies that offer structured courses on disability awareness, inclusion and Digital Accessibility specifically.
- Make it a priority: 63% of businesses in Australia and New Zealand believe Digital Accessibility only happens when it is embedded into culture. To make a significant impact, attitudes and awareness must be addressed through research, collaboration and discussion. Below are the key attributes our respondents cited to making Digital Accessibility a priority:
“Everyone is very busy. Make it as easy for them as possible. Templates and clear procedures are the way to go.”
Step 3: Create an inclusive culture
Digital Accessibility is an ongoing journey. As digital technology evolves, digital assets and services need to be improved to address accessibility needs. Making enhancements on an ongoing basis is easier if accessibility is embedded into the organisation’s culture. Our respondents and advisors provided some ways to create this inclusive environment, including everything from training employees to incorporating feedback from end users on an ongoing basis.
- Incorporate feedback: Engaging end users in the design phase is paramount. Building digital assets and services to be accessible by design is ideal rather than adding it on at the end.
- Embrace inclusive design: Improving CX or UX doesn’t mean much if people can’t access your platforms. Consider training development and design employees in building accessible digital assets from the start, including only licensing software that includes capabilities for those with disability.
- Become a Disability Confident Recruiter: Leading Australian organisations understand the benefits of a diverse workforce and are committed to ensuring their recruitment and selection processes are accessible to people with disability. To do this effectively, it is important to assess and enable all recruitment processes to be more inclusive – including those of any recruitment agencies that might have been engaged to support the talent search.
- Build a culture that normalises accessibility: Removing barriers for employees or customers with disability involves bringing in a cultural shift. This may include training managers and HR on how to effectively work with people with disability, designing for digital accessibility for every digital asset or service, participating in programs that help understand the benefits of accessibility or continuing to embed general accessibility practices into the organisation.
Leave no one behind
One respondent in this report predicts that “in future, every organisation will have a dedicated team for Digital Accessibility.” Ideally, Digital Accessibility should be business as usual, naturally included in everything they do. But while this level of dedication and responsibility would certainly be desirable, most businesses are not yet at this point.
Digital Accessibility is a whole-of-business exercise, and should not just sit with the IT team. We all have a role to play, whether in raising awareness, improving our own understanding, or taking the lead with embedding Digital Accessibility within our specialties. Making the commitment is the first step to realising this important and powerful human right.