How to bake accessibility into your company culture

We're sharing our 3 key ingredients so that you can create a culture of accessibility at your workplace, too.

Picture of ecentricarts Accessibility Team

By ecentricarts Accessibility Team, a11y gurus

September 27, 2017

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What started a couple of years ago with a few passionate individuals has since evolved into the ecentricarts Accessibility Team (EAT), a cross-disciplinary and cross-project team that represents roughly a third of the company.  Our regular discussions and knowledge sharing has lead to more accessible solutions, billable work, and happy coworkers.  We're a group of allies who work hard to build beautiful, accessible sites, and to learn something new every day.

Here are the three key ingredients you'll need to create a culture of accessibility in your organization, agency, or studio:
 

1. Find/attract passionate people

  • Look for prospective employees who are already champions of accessibility, but don’t shy away from those with less experience, either:
    • Our level of expertise may vary, (our job titles vary, too) but we all share the same willingness to learn
      • We're also motivated by the belief that everyone should be able to access information online (other motivations include snacks and a good sense of humour)
  • Give the champions who are already in your organization the proper time and tools to help educate others:
    • Invest in great people so that they can help recruit more champions
Members of the accessibility team laugh while viewing a presentation in a bright meeting room

 

2. Start a working group

  • Allot non-billable time for employees to get together and discuss accessibility-related things each week:
    • The agenda should be up to the attendees – some people may have a design or code question to present to the team, while other sessions may focus on specific WCAG standards or accessibility legislation
      • (We suggest that the members prepare a loose agenda ahead of each meeting, but the main goal should be that everyone leaves the room having learnt something new)​
    • Try to give the group some autonomy – if they're as motivated as our team is, they'll self-organize, learn a lot, and have fun in the process
​​The ecentricarts accessibility team meets in the same room each week to share and learn accessible solutions

 

  • Encourage anyone to attend – back-end developers, content strategists, project managers, you name it! Accessibility isn’t just for designers and front-end developers
  • Allow other communication channels for ad-hoc questions, or notable accessibility news:
    • Encourage everyone in the studio to reach out to members any time they have a question or concern
      • EAT has an open slack channel where useful links, news and questions are shared​
      • Common questions vary from "How can I make an accessible version of this feature?" to "One of my clients is interested in an inaccessible feature; how can I suggest a better solution?"
        • Some questions are addressed over slack or in person, while others (if time allows) can be tackled during our weekly meeting
  • Document your resources and give everyone access:
    • Try to store working group notes on your company server or a shared Google Drive folder
    • Record good (and terrible) examples of accessibility during each meeting – you can learn a lot from both!
 

3. Become advocates in and out of the office

  • As the working group's collective skills increase, start compiling notes and teach others:
    • Hold a series of accessibility Lunch & Learns in the office
      • Distill key lessons or quick wins into short presentations for the entire studio
      • Lunch & Learns are great opportunities to recruit/remind other coworkers that they're welcome to join the working group
    • Organize your own events or purchase tickets to local accessibility meet-ups:
      • Events are a great way to put your company on the map and show your expertise
      • We recently went to a11yTOConf (a11yTO’s first conference), and last August, we hosted a successful day of accessibility talks with fellow North American Kentico CMS partners

  • Connect on social media:
    • Twitter is still alive and well in the tech sphere – a lot of developers, designers, agencies, and accessibility leaders are frequent users
      • Track the hashtag #a11y for the latest web accessibility articles and use it to take part in the discussion or promote your own accessible work
      • We recently created an #a11y all stars Twitter list featuring our favourite accessibility mentors
    • Sharing accessibility-related content on your social channels is also a great way to keep accessibility top of mind within the company and for your followers

Now, combine ingredients & bake until ready

Like most good food, it might take time for your work's culture to develop, and you might have to tweak your recipe once in a while.  However, if you stick to it (find the right people, keep learning, and start sharing) you could end up with a solid batch of engaged web accessibility advocates... Just like these fine folks, below!


Friendly members of the ecentricarts team standing in front of a white wall in a sunlit studio
 


If you're in need of an accessibility overhaul or a bit of guidance to get started, we'd love to hear from you!  Fill out our contact form and let's get in touch.