Young African Americal man working on a laptop at a desk near a window.

Everyone sits somewhere on the accessibility maturity model

iSoftStone can help your organization improve its accessibility maturity by incorporating some simple steps into your existing processes.

Take the accessibility maturity survey

Maturity is important.

Recognizing the importance of establishing and following a maturity model will drive success throughout your organization and result in an overall effectiveness in your accessibility practices. Establishing accessibility milestones will generate transparency across teams and increase accessibility understanding and knowledge across practice. Plus, it’s a great communication tool for both internal teams and external customers.

Man in a wheelchair outside on a sunny day in a downtown market.

Level 1: Low

An organization at this level of accessibility maturity either lacks awareness of accessibility or believes it is unnecessary. The need for accessibility compliance and making experiences for all users is not part of how it operates its business.

At this level, accessibility is not considered and not incorporated into the organization’s vision. While there may be people scattered throughout the organization that understand the need of accessibility, their recommendations are likely deprioritized or dismissed.

Obstacles to overcome in this maturity level

The primary obstacle is a lack of education:

  • An understanding of what accessibility is
  • How accessibility benefits an organization, its employees, and its customers
  • How to begin considering accessibility in the workplace

To progress from the Low accessibility maturity level, organizations should focus on building accessibility awareness.

Level 2: Limited

An organization at the limited level approaches accessibility unintentionally or with very little purpose or strategy. Small efforts around accessibility may be pursued, but usually for one of three reasons:

  • Response to a legal action resulting from a demand letter or other event
  • Someone in the organization that is aware of accessibility and takes initiative to raise it as an opportunity
  • A customer requirement stating accessibility compliance as a need

While organizations at this level may show some accessibility awareness or engage in an occasional accessibility activity, it is not part of its operations or processes, nor is it incorporated into strategy and planning. Accessibility falls low on the list of organizational priorities, is not recognized as a core discipline, and there are no roles, processes, or budget.
In the event budget is allocated for accessibility in an organization with Limited Accessibility Maturity, it is typically a reaction stemming from an external requirement.

Obstacles to overcome in this maturity level

Challenges at this level are often related to process:

  • Learning and creating methodologies to support accessibility
  • Organizing a team of people with accessibility experience or knowledge
  • Establishing new routines and resources

To progress from the Limited accessibility maturity level, organizations should focus building relationships with accessibility champions, engaging in accessibility work (internal or external) and showcasing small movement in accessibility through positive case studies.

Level 3: Growing

When accessibility maturity is growing, work around accessibility is seen across more teams, there may be some accessibility-related planning, and groups may even have some budget allocated to accessibility. However, accessibility efforts may be small and based on individual manager initiatives rather than organizational policies. Teams engaged in accessibility compliance methodologies may begin to see the benefits and results of their efforts.

In growing organizations, there are people in accessibility roles, but those numbers are minimal and resources may be lacking certain skills. Some, but not all, resources in accessibility-related roles have achieved some level of industry-standard certification. Organizations are still working on proving the value and impact of accessibility, but there is no widespread accessibility strategy or investment in place. Some leaders have bought in and advocate for accessibility, but when tradeoffs are necessary, accessibility will be deprioritized. At this level, accessibility is not prioritized as an essential strategy.

Obstacles to overcome in this maturity level

It is common to see organizations remain at the Growing maturity level because they are stuck in the idea that, “We do accessibility now.” The assumption is that this level is good enough.
To progress from the Growing accessibility maturity level, organizations must focus on building a culture of accessibility across all levels. Additionally, accessibility priorities should be given due consideration when tradeoffs must be made.

Level 4: Structured

Structured accessibility maturity means an organization recognizes the value of accessibility and has established an accessibility team with multiple disciplines and skills. Leadership typically supports accessibility efforts and sometimes incorporates it into high-level organizational strategy. Accessibility is included in roadmaps or methodologies, but there may be varying degrees of adoption or execution. There is a commonly recognized accessibility program, and accessibility requirements are followed throughout product lifecycles. It is common process for all engineering resources, and some non-engineering roles, to hold some form of accessibility industry-standard certification.
Organizations at this maturity level function acceptably, but it is as far as many will ever arrive in their journey of accessibility maturity.

Obstacles to overcome in this maturity level

Even though teams within an organization follow accessibility guidelines and see the benefits at the growth maturity level, they can still face obstacles which can usually be traced back to strategy:

  • Unsupportive leaders
  • Divisions over responsibilities and ownership as teams scale
  • Development processes that lack accessibility usability testing or other necessary research during product or feature development
  • An unbalanced focus on catering to the needs of primary clients rather than adhering to a fuller accessibility strategy

Level 5: Industry-Leading

When organizations achieve this level of accessibility maturity, thinking around accessibility compliance is the norm. Accessibility work is comprehensive and pervasive across all teams and departments, leading to deep insights and exceptional accessibility practices and competencies. Leadership has full buy-in on the benefits and needs to pursue excellence in accessibility compliance. There is often thought leadership and the organization is seeking to share its knowledge to help influence external organizations around the need for accessibility awareness. Success metrics include accessibility for both internal and external initiatives.

This maturity level is the target organizations should seek to achieve. Accessibility compliance has become effective at serving internal business goals while also serving external customer needs even when they don’t understand the full impact and benefit of accessibility compliance.

Obstacles to overcome in this maturity level

With success, it is easy to rest in achievements and inadvertently become apathetic. Focus must remain on keeping momentum around accessibility programs and growth. A continued emphasis should be given to championing accessibility values and educating new teams within the organization to prevent the possibility of regressing back to a previous maturity level.

Co-workers around a table in front of their computers working together. One of the people around the table is in a wheelchair.

There is always room for growth.

We can work with your organization to evaluate its current maturity level and help you develop a plan to move forward in accessibility.

Talk to an accessibility SME