As individuals, I think it’s fair to say we want to see ourselves grow and mature in our relationships, our careers, and our interests. I do not know many people who are not interested – at least to some degree – in learning from past experiences and developing themselves to be better and more knowledgeable in those areas that are important to them. There is an innate desire in each of us to grow and be more mature, developed people.
Just as we want to grow and mature individually, development and maturity in business is critical too. Maturity in business is important for several reasons:
- Recognizing the importance of establishing and following a maturity model will drive success throughout your organization
- Following a maturity model increases efficiency across teams resulting in an overall effectiveness in practice discipline
- It increases productivity by establishing qualitative and quantitative milestones that will increase productivity
- It generates transparency across teams and increases knowledge across practice disciplines
- It’s a great communication tool for both internal teams and external customers
Unfortunately for many businesses, accessibility is still an area that is relatively immature and often overlooked. For instance, on average there are almost sixty-one accessibility errors on any given home page. I have run quick assessments on many home pages of very well-known brands and every page has errors. In one case there were 99 errors on a single page, and every one of the errors was classified as either critical or serious.
Immaturity around accessibility is not limited to a single industry. Poor accessibility can be seen across digital content for Higher Education, Finance, Retail, and IT. So, what can you do to help increase the accessibility maturity level of your business? Here are a couple simple things you can do to help your company get started on the road to accessibility maturity.
Does your company have a level of awareness around accessibility? Does it understand how accessibility impacts its customers and employees? How you answer these questions can give you an idea of how mature you are in accessibility:
- Do you give any attention to accessibility?
- Have you ever run an accessibility assessment against your company’s home page?
- Do you run an accessibility checker against files and documents before sending them out to customers or potential clients?
- Do you develop and design with accessibility in mind?
Being able to answer “Yes” to these questions has you on the right track to becoming accessibly mature. However, a sure sign of immaturity in this practice is not giving any attention or thought to accessibility and how poor accessibility practices can create a negative experience for your customers. Having accessibility awareness is the first step in the right direction.
Start with small steps
It may seem daunting to take on accessibility compliance for your company. It’s not an individual endeavor; it’s an all-in effort to become mature. But there are a few low-barrier activities you can do and invite others to join with you.
First, join an accessibility meet up or two. These can be low-pressure events – either virtual or face-to-face – that affords you the opportunity ask questions, listen in on conversations, and meet other people that are taking steps to develop their accessibility practices. Check out the Eastside Accessibility Meetup. It’s a low-key group that wants to foster awareness and facilitate conversations to help people with accessibility compliance.
Second, encourage your teams to get certified in accessibility. It’s probably a lot easier than you think. The Department of Homeland Security offers a couple certification tracks that are free and can be completed at your own pace. You can get started by going to the DHS Section 508 Trusted Tester site. Having your engineering teams get Trusted Tester certifications will not only raise awareness to accessibility, but also add an additional layer of scrutiny when developing and testing products. And this is a good thing because we all want to produce a better more inclusive product, right?
The journey to accessibility maturity isn’t necessarily quick, and it’s not without its hiccups. But it’s the right direction to be moving. To learn more about maturing your accessibility practice download this Maturity Model for Accessibility. It’s a document that’s free to download and doesn’t require you to provide any personal information. But it will give you some practical steps on things your business can do to move your practice from poor to good, and from good to better.
According to WebAIM’s site, accessibility errors present on web pages are increasing, not decreasing. If your company is leaning more immature around accessibility, be the person to raise awareness. Start making sure your documents and presentations are accessibly compliant. Start asking questions about accessibility compliance as it relates to your site. Develop yourself in this area and lead others toward accessibility maturity.