1.8: How do I know when I have achieved accessibility compliance?


David: So, Sandi as a business owner, how do I know when I have achieved accessibility compliance? 

Sandi: Well, you may never know if you’ve achieved it because it’s a continuum. It is constantly evolving. If you think about a business, you’re always changing your processes or adding new ones, eliminating other ones. And every time you make a change you’re going to have an impact on accessibility. You may have to adjust a process because what you’re thinking of isn’t going to make it accessible. Or, if you are purchasing new software from a vendor, you may not be able to find something that is accessible. So then what do you do about that? Do you do say to the vendor, we’d love to buy your software, but it’s not accessible? What are you going to do to fix it?  

So it’s, every day there’s going to be something that changes, something that shifts. There’s going to be new technology, new devices. There’s going to be something that you haven’t thought about and that is going to make something not accessible and not usable. So, you’re always going to be thinking about it, making it part of your culture, making it part of your processes to consider accessibility. 

So, can you get to full compliance? Probably not. Can you get to really, really good compliance? Absolutely, and that’s probably the best that you will ever hope for, is getting really really good. And if you’ve got a culture that thinks about accessibility, then you’re almost eager to solve the problems. Instead of becoming a nuisance to try and get rid of these accessibility barriers, it becomes a motivator, because if you’ve really bought into accessibility, you want to remove barriers every single time, and everywhere you find one and it’s hard to shift that thinking once it’s embedded in a culture. 

David: So in reality, you never really do achieve 100 percent accessibility compliance as accessibility is really a journey. And as you said, things change daily with new technologies, and you can never satisfy everybody. There’s always somebody out there that has a unique need that you didn’t think about. However, I think that a business can be comfortable with the fact that they have achieved their compliance when they’ve achieved their goal, and if you don’t have a goal, you’ll never know that you achieved compliance. 

So, in other words, you need to establish a baseline. So, once you start thinking about your business goals and values and then you establish your accessibility baseline, then you know that you have achieved your baseline or you’ve exceeded it. So, you may want to think about first of all, what is your legislation compliance level? What are you reaching for? You may be looking at local laws. They may be looking at the Ontario AODA. So, that’s your legal liability. Then you look at your standards. Well, what standard? What level of standard do you want? So, you go to WCAG and you consider A level AA or level AAA. And you set, this is going to be our standard, this is what we’re going to try and achieve. And then you look at your processes and tools and you set a baseline saying procurement will only buy tools that meet a certain specification and thereby our employees have their needs met. And then you need to set the levels of marketing and sales so that the people that are marketing and selling your products understand what their customer base needs. 

So, you have a baseline. And the important part about that is the feedback. How do you know when you’ve met your customer needs, is when they give you good feedback. And if you don’t have a process for customers to feed information back to you, you’ll never know and you’ll never know that you’ve achieved that goal. And so, I think it’s important for the business to establish that baseline and then make it known throughout the company so that everybody understands their role in achieving that baseline.

Sandi: An accessibility statement on your website shows everybody what your baseline is, what your, you know, your standards, what you’re trying to achieve. It also, I think, shows that you care about accessibility, certainly if you’re, if it’s a well written accessibility statement. It shows where you are now. It shows where you’re aware there are gaps, and it shows what you are doing or trying to do to bridge those gaps so that you can become as compliant as possible.

And I think there’s value in having that accessibility statement, almost from a PR or public relations perspective. It shows that you care if you’ve gone to the trouble of doing that. It shows that you know where you are now. You know where you want to get to, and you know how you’re going to get there.