The cornerstone of an accessibility program is its digital accessibility policy or statement of intent. Developing an accessibility policy gives the entire organization a clear and consistent understanding of accessibility and how it fits into the mission, purpose, and business processes.
The accessibility policy must provide overarching governance and is the foundation upon which every other aspect of accessibility is based. Including references to the impact on people with disabilities, accessibility regulations, laws, and standards will enhance the policy’s effectiveness and help employees understand its importance.
Form a team to develop the policy
To develop a meaningful accessibility policy, start by organizing a small but diverse core team that includes the following individuals:
- Person with strong accessibility knowledge at the industry level
- Person who has expertise in governance and compliance within the organization’s business processes and controls
- Someone who has an understanding of technical implementation practices within the organization
Representative from legal
- People with disabilities (if possible, including more than one is advisable)
Engage key stakeholders
It’s wise to engage key stakeholders to gain different perspectives and ideas in addition to building the core policy team. These stakeholders should be representatives from areas affected by the accessibility policy and will be used to suggest ideas, provide input/feedback, review, and approve the policy.
Determine which standards and guidelines apply
Selecting compliance criteria may be simple or complex, depending on the organization and the markets it serves. We recommend that all products minimally meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level A and AA.
If your organization provides its product or services worldwide, your accessibility requirements should also be based on policies, regulations and standards unique to a specific state, country, or region.
Define the policy components
The policy document could include the following components:
- The intent of the policy
- A clearly articulated vision, scope, and commitment of the organization
- A clearly stated scope of the policy and how it applies to different parts of the organization, websites, mobile applications, documents, intranets, and software products, etc.
- Clear and measurable milestones, including dates by which each needs to be met and required evidence. Also identify individual responsibilities and accountability.
- Methods to measure and report results
- Clear direction and operational guidance
- A procedure for policy exceptions
- Definitions of keywords and concepts
- References the specific laws, regulations, and standards by which the organization is bound to comply
Lists supportive implementation information like job aides, checklists, training, etc.
Factors to consider when drafting a policy
- Use language that is inclusive for all demographics
- Include the technical standards that digital accessibility should follow and the level of support required for platforms, browsers, and assistive technology
- Write a policy is easy to understand for both technical and non-technical audiences
- Set a document version number and a change log so it is easy for people to identify the policy’s updates
Communicate the policy and expectations
Communication experts recommend new ideas or concepts be presented in an exciting and engaging manner to boost acceptance and adoption. When communicating the digital accessibility policy and plan, you should consider the following:
- Actively promote the accessibility message through your leaders and champions
- Engage Employee Resource Groups to gain different perspectives and ideas on how to increase your outreach
- Develop an accessibility training module
- Ensure promotion through active internal campaigns
- Sustain the plan by embedding it in the overall organizational branding and communication practice
- Choose communication tools and resources that are accessible and inclusive
- Ensure you have a trusted and confidential feedback process
- Recognize and celebrate successes
Regularly review the policy and progress
Your work is not complete once you have the policy written, communicated, and implemented. It is essential to review the policy regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date. The review should incorporate milestone status and include checking to see if any changes are required due to new or updated regulations or standards.
An accessibility policy is one part of a broader strategic approach to accessibility. For help with measuring your accessibility program’s maturity and advice on how to implement accessibility across your organization, contact TPGi today.