A Disclaimer: I Believe That Humans Are Inherently Good
Doing the right thing may not be as easy to influence as one would think. When it comes to creating that business case to support a change towards a more accessible workplace, it is essential to understand not only the colleague’s perspective but also the business impact and risk.
Over the years, I have been sharing the importance of access for all and advocating for accessible digital technologies in the learning & development and HR space. Most of the time, people would react to me like I’m Charlie Brown’s teacher – WaWaWa. I found I was speaking in a language many people were not familiar with. As the years went on, I felt like I was moving a boulder up the mountain by myself concerning the programs I wanted to put into place. Why isn’t anyone taking notice? Why don’t they hear what I am saying? A disclaimer: I believe humans are inherently good.
Did you hear the one about …?
Fast forward, I realized most people respond to a story of real-life experiences. So, when I speak to others, I share the story of the tow-truck driver or the blind individual who can’t complete training, or so many others I’ve heard over the years.
I have found that relating to someone on that personal level can make more of an impact than statistics of risk and how to prevent lawsuits to how other companies are doing X, Y, or Z. Influencing on topics that aren’t well understood is hard. You won’t get it right the first, second, or third time. It’s okay to keep advocating and trying. So, you ask, how did you end up influencing accessibility conformance in your workplace. I’ll give you some tips that I learned the hard way.
Is There A Mauraders Map for Influencing Accessibility?
You know how it works, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good!” – except, of course, we are – because we are talking about making a more accessible workplace, so while there is no Mauraders Map, we can give you some places start.
Let’s first talk about today, and in our environment right now, we are relying mostly on technologies to communicate and build relationships. Do you know if your digital platforms and content are accessible? What level of conformance do they adhere to? How do you know?
Where do you start? Here are a few tips that will help you begin those discussions to start your business case:
Learn what you know or don’t know.
Become educated on the various levels of accessibility conformance i.e., WCAG AA.
Read the latest news articles where accessibility has been highlighted.
Join some groups on LinkedIn that specifically share an interest in accessibility to learn more.
Take an inventory of where you stand.
Analyze your people platforms. This includes your HRIS, Learning Management System, talent portals, recognition platforms, company website, and other communication tools.
Request a VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) from each of your vendors. A VPAT is a reporting of what functionality in their platform conforms to accessibility standards and to what level.
Ask questions with your vendor about their product roadmap for accessible features and conformance.
Review data such as surveys (engagement, exit, etc.) analyzing what are the trends in relation to how individuals wish to work and their needs. Do you see people are leaving because of a lack of inclusion? Are you finding employee relation claims are on the rise commenting lack of accessible tools and environments?
Create a quick-wins list
What can you do today or next month?
Identify what it will take and, if applicable, cost?
Who needs to be influenced to realize it?
Experiment by trying to do one thing on your quick wins list this year.
Create a strategy and roadmap
What do you want your culture to be in 2 years, 5 years, etc.? How do you want colleagues to engage, and how does access for all fit into that?
Understand what you can accomplish over time. Create a business plan and case to acquire any resources or budget to do so.
Gain stakeholder buy-in.
Talk about the need to anyone and everyone – most people I know are clear that when there is an opportunity for me to advocate for accessibility, I am sure-fire to do so. It takes individuals to speak up, share their stories and those of others for all of us to understand how to build an inclusive community.
What is it that they say about assumptions?
A few other things that may sink your ship before you even get to the table:
Assumptions that everyone knows what accessibility is. Part of how you influence is through educating those stakeholders who will help you path your way to an accessible workplace. Speak in a language that everyone can understand (don’t be Charlie Brown’s teacher) Relate through stories and impacts.
Don’t go it alone. Find others who can help you advocate. Don’t be a lone ranger, collaborate, and find a team of champions to help promote the need. Do your homework and see how other businesses are advocating for accessibility and learn best practices from them.
Start with one thing, trial it, and show to others how one thing can make a difference. Then take that one thing and add a few more until you have in place an inclusive workplace with access for all.
If you would like to chat more about my story, as an advocate of accessibility or any other learning topic, feel free to reach out, because as we say around here, together we learn.