1.3: What is the purpose of an accessibility strategy?


Sandi: So David, tell me, what do you think is the purpose of an accessibility strategy and why, as a business would I need one? 

David: Accessibility strategy is necessary to bridge the digital divide. And you need an accessibility strategy to allow your business to overcome barriers that your employees and customers are experiencing. We can remove barriers if it’s possible, but a lot of times that’s not possible. So, we need to bridge the barriers. 

So, you can think of a bridge that is built for a footpath to allow pedestrians to cross safely over a highway, an expressway, to allow cars and other transportation vehicles to get from one end of the city to the other really quickly. Or you build a bridge so that we can get across a river or a lake without going all the way around. So, an accessibility strategy is the same thing. 

You need to understand the barriers that your employees and customers are experiencing and design your digital technologies to overcome those barriers. And so a bridge joins two points. At one end is accessibility, which is your innovation and technology design strategy that involves the user interface and interaction. At the other end is the usability, which is your design around human behavior. Things like intuitive use, ubiquitous access, and adaptability.

Sandi: So would you say that usability and accessibility go hand in hand, or you can’t have usability without accessibility and that’s why it’s got to be an important part of your strategy? 

David: Usability is all about the user, all about the human interaction. Whereas, accessibility is all about the technology. So, if you want to build technology such as your website or emails or social media, you need to know what technologies you’re using. You need to be able to understand how those technologies are used. Not only the infrastructure, not only what actual hardware and software is used, but what is the skill level of your people.  

And that’s all about technology, so it’s nice to have all that technology, but what good is it? You have an accessible website. You have an accessible social media platform, but what good is it if you don’t have anybody using it? So you gotta join that with the usability and we need to look at your employee and customer needs, as to how they actually use that technology. Are they in an area where they got narrow bandwidth, so they can’t use it because you’ve got too many videos and photos and it takes too long to download? Or are they in a noisy environment like on a manufacturing floor and they can’t hear; they have to use text to communicate? So, those are human interaction behaviours and that’s why we need to connect our technologies with the actual human behavior and make it adaptable. 

Sandi: So one of the interesting things that you said throughout that is, you kept mentioning employees. And I think we often think of an accessibility strategy is, as outward facing. It’s for our customers or our potential customers, and we often forget that we have internal customers as well. People that work for and with us that may need barriers removed so that they can actually do their job. So, an accessibility strategy, it sounds like, works on both sides of that spectrum. We have to make sure that we can interact with our customers and our customers can interact with us, but we also need to make sure that our employees can get their work done and even outside partners. I guess you could put a third piece to that if you’re dealing with consultants or outside parties, vendors, they may need barriers removed in order to support us with whatever services we’re hiring them for. 

So, this accessibility strategy needs to think about just about everybody we interact with on a daily basis. Would you say that’s true? 

David: Absolutely, the whole purpose of interacting with one another is, you know communicating and interacting, whether it’s at work, at school, at play, we interact as humans and the important part is that we are allowed to interact on an equal basis and we are able to interact on a on a comfort level that we’re comfortable with.