It is not easy to convince a large organization to invest in something that might not explicitly generate additional revenue. A focus on accessibility will not directly lead to a higher click-through rate, more leads, or incremental purchases. However, putting in the effort to include all audience members regardless of their abilities will increase the size of the addressable audience the business can serve. And besides, it is the right thing to do.
With the proper research, relationships, and a compelling presentation, you can be the forcing function that helps your company make progress towards its accessibility goals.
When asking for time, money, or resources, you can expect those in positions of power or authority to have questions. To be prepared to field these, spend time understanding what customers are saying, how the business's competitors are approaching accessibility, and the current company strategy.
These three focus areas are critical to developing a holistic understanding of the problems ahead.
Ultimately, the customers your business serves will be the most severely affected by a lack of accessibility. Start here.
Review the customer comments that have come in over the last year, looking for points of friction that specifically relate to accessibility. The voices of your customers can be among the most potent in convincing decision-makers to act. This GitHub repository contains a helpful list of terms. If a feedback channel like this is not available at your company, build it. Establishing a direct line to customers is essential for a business that wants to enable inclusive participation in its offerings. Your focus shouldn't be designing FOR people with disabilities but designing WITH people with disabilities.
Next, investigate the accessibility efforts of other companies in the industry. If your whole industry is doing a poor job of including people with disabilities, investing in inclusion can be a way to differentiate your company and set them apart in the competitive set. Suppose the industry is relatively accessible, and your company is falling behind its competitors. In that case, there's a compelling reason for an executive to invest in accelerating change in the right direction.
Last but not least, consider the business context. Knowing your business's goals, how it performs, and its history with accessibility initiatives will help determine the right time to ask and the language needed to persuade a successful outcome. I cannot stress enough the importance of finding ways to talk about your accessibility aspirations using words already coming out of the mouths of your decision-makers.
Gathering the Audience
Research is only the first step to a successful pitch for your business to invest in accessible experiences. The next is assembling the right group of people to propel the work forward.
Often, accessibility efforts are a reaction to a complaint rather than a customer need addressed when planning a project.
As a result, it becomes the responsibility of a single department to champion change. In reality, the accountability for ensuring what goes to the market is accessible should be spread among everyone in the business.
Organizing a diverse group of stakeholders will help frame accessibility as a customer need that everyone addresses. This group might consist of:
- Human Resources
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
- Engineering or Development
- Design or UX
- Customer Service
Each of these disciplines plays a vital part in creating a sustainable accessibility program that will have a lasting impact on customers.
Crafting a compelling narrative
You have done the work to deeply understand your customers, the industry, and your company's goals. You have also assembled a diverse group of advocates. Now it is time to craft a compelling narrative to gain support.
Note: The best advice I have found on building an exceptional presentation and reducing complexity comes from some content I read Tom Critchlow and The SEO MBA. My advice below is an adaptation of his strategy.
Your presentation should start with a lead-in that establishes credibility, clearly articulates an understanding of the business's long-term strategy and how the company has approached accessibility historically. This part should be one to two slides.
In the following eight to ten slides, your pitch should follow the formula:
- The problem: a summary of how the current state affects people and the business.
- The solution: the significant steps the business can take to be more inclusive.
- The ask: what the group needs from the stakeholders to make progress.
The folks that are part of the stakeholder group are busy and may not have time to do independent research. This structure, along with a combination of data and customer comments, will help to win both hearts and minds over.
The entirety of the presentation should be ten to twelve slides and take less than 30 minutes to deliver.
The remainder of the slide deck should be an appendix featuring documentation for supporting initiatives. This format demonstrates that you have considered potential audience questions and thought about the tactics required to realize the future vision you are presenting.
After the pitch
Once you have presented to the decision-makers, the next step is to wait for feedback.
Suppose the reception is positive, congratulations! You have achieved a significant milestone on your path to becoming a more inclusive company. The work is not over, but it will be much easier with the business behind your vision.
If the answer is no, that is okay. Not every business will be ready to take this step. Ask for more information on the reason for the unfavorable decision. You can use these insights to craft and present an even better case in the future.
I know the advice above will not work in every situation. Still, I hope you have gained some valuable information from this article to advance accessibility at your company. The work you are doing is vitally important. I believe that all people, regardless of their abilities, deserve to experience all of the great things the world has to offer. Accessibility is not a nice to have feature. It is a human right.
Keep fighting the good fight.