Talking Accessibility Journeys – in conversation with FleishmanHillard, Haleon, HSBC & Togetherall
Accessibility can often seem overwhelming. But a brilliant way of learning about accessibility, and to help find your way through, is to learn from others.
At Hassell Inclusion we share our expert knowledge every month in our free webinars. In December, it was time to do something different. We invited accessibility leaders from 4 of the companies we work with to share their experiences and journeys with our webinar audience.
We welcomed: Mali Fernando from HSBC (banking), Christine Lydon from FleishmanHillard UK (marketing communications), Robin Low from Haleon (healthcare), and Alexander Banner from Togetherall (online support community).
It was a fabulous session, with perspectives from four very different companies, at different stages of their journeys, but all with a common goal – to make accessibility happen.
So what did we learn? Here are some highlights…
1. It’s a journey… and there is no finish line
Yes, accessibility is a journey. Breaking it into stages, with an approach of “constant improvement”, is key. No organisation is going to be able to tackle everything in one go, so ‘bite-size chunks’ is an effective way of moving forwards.
Togetherall, now in year 3 of their journey, have audited and fixed accessibility issues in their online platform, brought their web team in-house, and are now looking at how to fully embed accessibility learning throughout their teams. The work doesn’t stop.
Mali Fernando started the accessibility team at HSBC almost 10 years ago. He highlighted that “There’s no such thing as fully accessible”. It’s all about constant improvement, and for them, that means progressing from meeting accessibility standards and being “functionally accessible”, to focusing on the user experience of people with disabilities to delight all their customers.
2. Getting Buy-In by utilising the groundwork that’s already been done
None of the four leaders claimed getting buy-in is easy or quick, but advocated “be smart and build on what’s already there”.
Any existing DE&I promises your organisation has already made (especially in public) can help make the case for digital accessibility for you.
Build on how your organisation has embedded diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) into its values, talk about how accessibility is core to delivering inclusion in digital products, and speak about how consumer experience is critical.
When you reach to the heart and take an emotive approach to communicate the need for accessibility, it makes it real. Shifting accessibility from being a technical or legal requirement to a human one, was key for all the leaders to drive understanding amongst Board members.
Showing decision makers real examples of what a lack of accessibility means for customers and employees is a powerful tool to driving buy-in. It helps them see the business and commercial risk of not doing this.
3. The Ripple Effect
While digital accessibility can grow by building on the values of inclusion, our leaders also talked about how delivering digital accessibility can have its own ripple effect, having a far greater impact than on just the task at hand. They talked about:
- How it impacts their suppliers and helps discover shared values, which ultimately creates a better product for customers.
- Cultivating ‘ah-ha’ moments when the penny drops with colleagues, who often then become accessibility ambassadors or champions
- How inspiring digital accessibility is – it’s an open door AND the right thing to do.
- How it brings the opportunity to create something that improves lives and changes things for the better. Mali Fernando talked of how his team are working with Zoom to find a way to detect flashing images on screen in a video call, to support people at the risk of triggered seizures. They aim for this to become a standard feature on Zoom for all to use.
4. Biggest Accessibility Challenges: getting people’s time for compelling training
Once accessibility has been demystified, and buy-in achieved, the leaders talked about the biggest challenges they had faced in embedding it throughout their organisation as being around training & sustaining capability of staff.
For Togetherall, sustaining accessibility beyond simply fixing issues found in an audit was essential to maintain and improve accessibility in the organisation and product. Training teams, from product managers through to developers meant that accessibility is embedded.
For the PR agency, FleishmanHillard, making sure this training was “relevant and compelling” in a busy environment was essential to make accessibility happen in their teams.
5. How to start
There was an overwhelming sense of positivity that came out of the hour’s discussion. Done right, accessibility is an opportunity, not a chore.
No accessibility journey is ever simple and taking that first step can be daunting. However, take these 4 things on board when starting and you’ll start well:
- Talk to customers/consumers/employees who have disabilities and hear their stories
- Identify your company’s current accessibility strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities for getting it right
- Take a team approach
- It’s a big topic, don’t fear what you don’t know, and don’t be intimidated – Start!
One good way to start is using our free self-assessment accessibility scorecard. It can help you find how well you’re already doing, and plan where to put your effort next in building organisational maturity in accessibility: ISO 30071-1 Digital Accessibility Scorecard powered by Hassell Inclusion (scoreapp.com)
Note. This blog is written from the insights shared in a webinar held by Hassell Inclusion in December 2022. You can watch the webinar in full and read the transcript here: www.hassellinclusion.com/webinars/guest-panel-discussion-accessibility-journeys/