How to Champion Digital Accessibility: Key Conversation Starters, by Department

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Summary: You’re passionate about accessibility, and you know there’s room to improve your organization’s digital experiences for people with disabilities. So how do you get the cross-functional buy-in to make it happen across your organization? Learn key strategies and talking points for cross-functional success in your organization, drawn from the advice of a fellow accessibility champion. 

Text reading How to Champion Digital Accessibility accompanied by a picture of accessibility advocate Charmaine Madamba

The organizations that see the most success in their digital accessibility journey are propelled forward by people who are passionate about the project, who find ways to keep accessibility in focus across their organization. Because they rally teams to deliver experiences that work for everyone, we call them accessibility champions.

When it comes to digital accessibility, the old cliché rings true: “It takes a village.” But if your colleagues aren’t talking about, or seeing the value in, digital accessibility, it may seem like an insurmountable challenge to help others understand its importance. The good news is, you aren’t alone—in fact, you might be at the start of a whole new, incredibly rewarding chapter in your career and in your organization’s history. 

Planting the seeds that grow accessibility support

A person doesn’t always choose to become an accessibility champion—more often, the role chooses you! That was the case for accessibility advocate Charmaine Madamba. Charmaine is the Director of Product Management at VF Corporation, the multi-brand enterprise that’s home to North American retail heavy-hitters like Vans, Timberland, and The North Face. More than five years ago, as she was just starting out in the company’s product team, she heard a presentation from the late inclusive design pioneer August de los Reyes that stoked her passion for accessibility. 

“That story pulled me in. It helped me understand that digital accessibility isn’t just something tactical, it impacts, and can improve, people’s daily lives,” said Charmaine.

Charmaine is proof that to grow an accessibility program—whether across one brand, or a whole family of them—accessibility champions need to be community builders. And the first step is to listen to the concerns and goals of teams outside of their own.

“It’s important to look at how accessibility can benefit your colleagues and point toward that compelling reason. Emphasize how accessibility connects to what drives them, and their team as well,” Charmaine says.

Get more tips from Charmaine on how to be an effective accessibility champion by accessing our on-demand webinar: “How to Champion Accessibility in a Multi-Brand Enterprise.”

Conversation starters, by leader / department

If you’re not exactly sure how accessibility might fit into the goals of your cross-functional collaborators, we’ve got you covered. Below, we break down what will resonate with key stakeholder groups to grow your organization’s digital accessibility program.

CFO / Finance

  • Accessibility progress reduces the risk of a potentially costly anti-discrimination lawsuit
  • When implemented correctly, accessibility adoption improves time-to-value and time-to-market. With an accessibility focus, we’ll be working ahead of potential customer complaints, and optimizing product delivery for highest impact.
  • Accessibility integration supports inclusive HR initiatives, reducing staff churn, and therefore, supporting growth targets.

CPO / Product Development

  • Accessibility has become the newest gate to contract renewals and winning RFPs. It’s a sure-fire way in which Product can demonstrate support for growth and maintain an active user base.
  • If integrated early, digital accessibility standards and planning make product development cycles more efficient—eliminating time spent on remediating web barriers when an asset is already live, and therefore, freeing up capacity across your team.

CMO / E-commerce

  • Digital accessibility sparks innovative user experience (UX) design and improves the customer experience (CX), not just for some customers and users, but for all. 
  • When our website(s) or digital products are accessible, we can be sure we are reaching the widest possible audience.
  • A demonstrated commitment to digital accessibility impacts our brand reputation, helping win and retain the loyalty of the growing segment of consumers who consider brand ethics before they buy.

General Counsel / Legal

  • Global accessibility legislation is only getting firmer. Making our organization’s web experiences accessible and usable for everyone is our legal obligation.
  • By working toward digital accessibility goals, and tracking progress toward those targets, we’ll be avoiding legal action from customers, and from our own employees, who also deserve barrier-free experiences in the workplace. Plus, if we’re implementing accessibility correctly, with accurate documentation, we’ll be more prepared to counter web accessibility legal action if it does arise. 

CEO / Executive office

  • Our company’s mission / vision / purpose statement compels us to actively show our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Digital accessibility must be a part of that.
    • For example, Charmaine explains, “At VF Corporation, our purpose statement says we ‘Power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet.’ And, that reference to the betterment of people is not just for some people, but for all.”

For more on securing internal alignment and the competitive advantages that a commitment to digital accessibility brings, download our Digital Accessibility Buyer’s Guide

Celebrate the small wins

Bit by bit, connection by connection: this is how strong, sustainable accessibility programs take shape. It may seem far off now, but this incremental improvement drives results, and helps in keeping accessibility initiatives top-of-mind. Take it from Charmaine: if you stay committed, you’re more likely than not to look up one day and notice that your “solo mission” toward accessibility adoption isn’t so “solo” anymore.

Charmaine says she’s seen major growth from the teams she’s supported over the years. “It’s exciting to see that most of them are now driving accessibility on their own. They have their own processes, and documentation, and they do their own ongoing learning,” she explains. “As an advocate, I feel a part of my role now is really getting those stories together and spreading the word about the various accessibility measures being implemented within the company and the impact that has on the end user.”

In your corner

Whether you’re an experienced accessibility professional or just beginning your journey as an internal advocate, our mission is to help you succeed. Reach out to our team today to determine your organization’s next best step in the digital accessibility journey, or to troubleshoot any roadblocks you’re experiencing. We have the advanced software, experienced expertise, and on-demand learning and training to help you and your team take your accessibility and compliance efforts to the next level.

What to do next

We can help you meet WCAG standards and maintain ADA and AODA compliance:

  1. Connect with us today to learn more about our comprehensive approach to digital accessibility, including our automated and manual auditing capabilities and extensive range of managed services.
  2. Visit our resources section to download free white papers and webinars, and find our newest blogs on industry trends.
  3. Connect with us to continue the conversation on Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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