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How to Create a Case for Accessibility

How to Create a Case for Accessibility

Developing a case for accessibility entails measured steps that satisfy a host of concerns.
Alexander Hauerslev Jensen
Alexander Hauerslev Jensen
CCO
A group of people in a business meeting.
A group of people in a business meeting.

Accessibility is a crucial step in making good technology, but sometimes you have to make a case for it at your organization.

Steps To Creating A Case For Accessibility

Spearheading organizational change—whether that’s to company culture, internal processes, technology or approach to customer service—can be a challenge with long-term benefits too great to ignore. 

The thing about accessibility is, if explained correctly, it shouldn’t be that difficult to convince modern-day management to implement. However, anecdotally stating legal ramifications, market-share benefits, and moral implications only gets you so far—you’ll need to be armed and ready to meet the challenge directly. 

Here are five steps to creating a case for accessibility. 

Customize The Case To Meet Specific Needs

An effective business case focuses on the organization's objectives and motivations. Certain aspects of the value and outcomes of accessibility are more important to one organization than another, based on its particular situation. For example, one organization's motivation might be to demonstrate social responsibility by being inclusive of people with disabilities, while another organization's rationale might be technical quality and meeting international standards.

A smart approach is to customize a business case to align with your company’s overarching goals and objects. Rather than be etched in stone, the business case should be considered a living document that should be updated on a regular basis to reflect changes in the organization. While some elements of your business case may need to be quantified with facts and figures, others can be communicated with a well thought out argument. 

Some effective arguments that could help develop your case include:

  • Improves Productivity. Accessible technology helps to optimize performance for everyone, not just users with a disability. 
  • Leads To Profit. It makes good business sense to create universally designed products and services that benefit all types of users.
  • Saves On Future Cost. Adding accessibility features into the early stages of development means you won’t have to retrofit your services later.
  • Meets Customer Expectations. Increased awareness of accessibility and the rights of those who need it means that more customers come to expect such features. 
  • Mitigates Legal Risk. Offering accessible technology and services helps your organization comply with laws and regulations. 

Identify Stakeholders

Once you develop your case, brainstorm who your main stakeholders actually are, as these individuals will ultimately decide whether or not accessibility is feasible. Consider those who have influence over the direction of your organization and who would have an interest in the success of your initiative. 

But when we talk about stakeholders, we’re not merely referring to senior management, project leaders or team members. A stakeholder can be any individual or group that’s impacted directly by the outcome of a project—meaning they can come from inside or outside of your organization. 

Here are some examples of project stakeholders:

  • Senior Management
  • Team Members
  • Customers
  • Product Testers
  • Consultants
  • User Groups
  • Subcontractors
  • Resource Managers
  • Project Leaders
  • Line Managers

When the time comes to “woo” your stakeholders, you’ll need to build a positive relationship with them, and you can accomplish this through proactive communication. A savvy tactic is to interview the most important stakeholders and really get a sense of their thoughts and concerns. 

And this brings us directly to our next section...

Anticipate Questions & Objections

Few ideas are fast-tracked through the implementation process without hitting a few speed bumps along the way. There are always going to be questions and objections levied by stakeholders when discussing any new initiative, and accessibility is no exception. It’s important that you’re prepared to address concerns and are able to provide tangible solutions. 

Objections come up regardless of the project and can give you critical insight into the pain points of stakeholders. When you anticipate objections, it’s an opportunity to tailor your pitch and pinpoint the exact obstacles that could stand in your way. 

Here are some of the most common objections that project managers might face:

  • Price. This doesn’t have to be an immediate dealbreaker. There’s a good chance the stakeholder doesn’t believe there’s room in the budget for accessibility simply because they aren’t aware of its profit potential. Communicate this with reliable facts and figures about the purchasing habits of disabled individuals. 
  • Competition. There’s always going to be concern as to what the competition is doing in the realm of accessibility. This is a golden opportunity because you should always move forward with accessibility regardless of what your competition is doing. If your closest competitors are ahead of the curve, you need to catch up. And if the competition is lagging behind, now’s the time to leave them in your wake. 
  • Change. A reluctance to change is omnipresent and comes from both internal and external forces. Inevitably, those resisting new efforts express the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s your responsibility to effectively communicate that something actually is quite broken. When millions of people—potential customers or employees—are shut out of your services or job opportunities because of a lack of accessibility, that’s something that needs to be corrected.  
  • Need. The argument that there’s simply no need for accessibility initiatives is one you can attack from a few angles: There’s the market conversation, which appeals to the need for robust profits; the question of legality, which shows that adding accessibility can mitigate expensive legal action; and finally morality, which helps stakeholders understand that there’s value in “doing the right thing.”

Once you’ve outlined the possible questions and objections, you can begin to plan your actual business case for accessibility—and map out the best possible way to present it to stakeholders.

Finger pressing an orange key on a computer keyboard saying “make a change”.

Tell A Compelling Story

No matter how well-conceived your plan, it won’t get any traction without a winning delivery. Your presentation to stakeholders needs to transcend simple “numbers on a page” and take the form of a tangible business opportunity or a problem worth solving. 

One of the best ways to accomplish this is by crafting an emotional story. Leveraging relevant data is great, but to truly hook an audience—in this case, stakeholders—you’ll want to outline the need for accessibility through a story with human connection, emotional impact, and a clear arc. You could convey your accessibility case through testimonials from people who are directly affected by technology and services that are conceived with disabled individuals in mind. 

You also want to make sure you don’t lose sight of the overarching point of the presentation. In this regard, you want to lead with the need that you are aiming to solve. Not only does this immediately grab the attention of your stakeholders, but clearly articulates exactly why you believe accessibility is such a vital component of any business’ path forward. 

You’ve got your stakeholders in a room and you’re delivering an emotional story while stating the precise need—don’t forget to address the concerns that might have come up in any preliminary interviews or brainstorming sessions. This goes a long way in your idea gaining traction with decision makers. If there was a concern about allocating budget for accessibility initiatives, address that question with a fully fleshed-out presentation regarding the return on investment. 

And instead of only talking about accessibility, find the medium that best supports your message. Here, you must think carefully about your message and the best way to convey it. This could be anything from pre-circulated documentation, graphs, tables or something more uniquely entertaining, like animation or voiceover videos. 

Devise A Roadmap

It’s finally time to develop a roadmap to rolling out your accessibility solution. Roadmaps can take many different formats and styles, and can be broad overviews or meticulously detailed strategies. Any well-designed roadmap defines a vision for transformation by articulating an understanding of where your organization is today and where you want it to be tomorrow—purposefully demonstrating how you’ll make the transition. 

A roadmap to accessibility visualizes the service into a picture depicting current state and future objectives, all while taking into account values, limitations, and opportunities. 

Here are some components that should be woven into your roadmap:

  • Design. Paint a clear picture of what accessibility looks like for your organization. Think about what types of services it entails and how it will be presented. 
  • Research. Determine the user experience of your accessibility efforts with analysis, market research, and even studying the competition.
  • Management. Develop a timeline while also hammering out a budget and locating valuable resources that will help your efforts materialize. 

A strategic roadmap combines research, visuals, and performance goals to tell the story of how you’ll achieve accessibility in your organization. Such an asset keeps everyone on the team fully aligned and moving in the same direction.