If your senior accessibility consultant sits below middle management, your org doesn’t (yet) care about accessibility
It takes a great deal of effort and commitment to embed and sustain accessibility in organisations. I know every organisation has to start somewhere, but if you’re going to start with a single junior staff member then you really are taking the long-way-round. And, to be frank, you’re probably never going to get there.
Why? Because it’s a huge org design challenge, not a bolt-on role.
You should be trying to get to a point where accessibility is just part of how you do things. How everyone does things.
When you get there, you’ll have been giving accessibility the proactive and early consideration it deserves — so you’ll find refactoring and remedial work is minimal. And your products and services will be consistently meeting accessibility standards — which is great for your users and so great for business.
Still think a single junior staffer leading on accessibility is enough?
The change needed to embed and sustain accessibility is the work of a multidisciplinary team because of the diversity of activities needed to drive what is essentially org/business design.
A generalist staffer might be able to write a clear and effective accessibility policy, or change governance processes to make sure accessibility features on the bill — but the same person is unlikely to have the technical knowledge and experience needed to design and run training for designers, developers and testers looking to create accessible products and services.
A junior developer might be able to run audits, and build and document accessible design systems or component libraries (don’t let them — it takes a village to build and sustain a used and useful design system) — but will they be able to recruit across professions to increase in-house accessibility capability? Do they know how to measure and maintain accessibility competency across teams?
It takes expertise and influence across an organisation to embed accessibility. To establish a network of change agents — accessibility champions — who will support the organisation on its journey. To persuade the organisation to change (and abandon some) existing processes whilst introducing new ones. To win budget and sponsorship to make big changes — perhaps to create a new team, or to adjust governance to that inaccessible products never get shipped.
Rarely do organisational power dynamics put junior staff in a position where they feel they can safely talk truth to power. Where they can be bold and name inaccessible live services, where they can make sure that senior leaders recognise their responsibility for putting things right.
Still think a single junior staffer leading on accessibility is the right starting point?