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 How To Embrace And Enable Digital Accessibility For Your Product

Digital accessibility has become a critical challenge for many companies over the years - and this renewed awareness that people are excluded from using certain features, applications, or products has resulted in more improvements and opportunities than ever before. Users who develop their tech skills are absolutely blind; they have no vision yet, write code that results in a rich visual interface.

Examples like this approve that talent and skill are truly universal - and that we need to carry out the task of providing opportunities for that ability to grow in those with disabilities.

The Road To Creating Accessible Products

The process of making a product accessible needs a lot of time, learning, and the desire to listen. But you shouldn't expect people with disabilities to advocate for change on their own when it comes to accessibility - it's up to each team leader, CIO, and technologist to think about this intuitively and proactively.

To guide you on your accessibility journey, here are some ways you can successfully integrate accessibility into research, design, and development practices - including a checklist of things you can do to make an impact.

1. Study Accessibility

In short, accessibility means making digital and physical products and experiences usable and available to anyone, including a wide range of disabilities, such as visual, hearing, physical, speech, cognitive, learning, language, and neurological disabilities. There are plenty of great resources for understanding what digital accessibility is and how to go about it.

Dequeue is an accessible and comprehensive resource, with both free training materials and paid services. And if you're ready to dig deeper, the Web Content Accessibility Guide (WCAG) is the de facto authority that most companies and governments refer to when evaluating the digital accessibility experience.

Once you’ve figured out the principles and value of accessibility, it's time to see how well your product meets the needs of people with disabilities. This begins with interviewing people with disabilities to know how your product works for them in the actual world.

Elements of action:

  • Read and follow authorized sources about accessibility.
  • Identify appropriate legal methods that work for you and your company to interview users with disabilities.

2. Review The Product - then repeat the process

Even after studying interviews and surveys from customers, it is hard to know exactly how bad or good your product is. This is where auditing comes in.

The value of third-party audits like this is to be able to get someone to "tell you the way it is" and highlight issues you would never find yourself alone - and remind you that it's not impossible to make changes.

Compliance with accessibility standards is similar to cybersecurity. There is a spectrum of how much you have reduced the risk of an occurrence while acknowledging that it is almost impossible to reach zero. The power lies in knowing where you are now, so you can make plans to move forward.

Elements of action:

  • Obtain an audit of your product (automated and/or live)
  • Schedule the next audit (monthly, quarterly, or annually - don't let it be once)

3. Identify Your Champion

One of the key signs that your company is paying close attention to accessibility is hiring or designating a person to be a champion of accessibility - and in many cases, there are so many activities that this role holds that it could justify one's full-time position.

In addition to being the propelling force behind the procedures already mentioned (scheduling audits, interviewing customers, and observing issues to be resolved), your champion will also play a significant role in securing executive support for the inclusion of disabilities as part of diversity policies, inclusion, and programs.

If you don't know where to begin to find your champion, start by searching for someone passionate and a good teacher. These will be essential to inform and inspire team members to design and build accessibility from the beginning.

Elements of action:

  • Find a team member willing to take on the role of champion.
  • Please include them in the inclusion and diversity policy and program discussions
  • Work to make accessibility something everyone thinks about

Commitment to Accessibility

Wherever you are today and your product, take the challenge to take a step further to be a champion and improve everyone's digital experience. There are several ways to support accessibility, so share with your colleagues what you've seen working well as you go and seek information from others.

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