ISO 30071-1 – the ‘Toyota Way’ for Digital Accessibility

One question that I hear again and again about accessibility is:

“how do we make this a habit in our organisation rather than an add-on at the end of each project?”

Unfortunately, it has almost become a badge of honour to do an ‘audit’ to check for accessibility at the end of product development.

Back in the 1970’s this was the attitude to British car manufacturing – build the car, and then check it meets the specification afterwards. And you know what? – that approach failed. There are stories of Jaguar cars having a whole repair shed to fix the quality issues as cars rolled off the production line. The cars had a reputation of poor reliability and not really meeting drivers’ needs. Customers went to other manufacturers.

Accessibility, today, has much of that reputation. Software is built, and then companies spend money on an audit to check it meets WCAG compliance. A list of changes are given, but often deadline and budget pressures mean that many of the fixes are too costly to change or fix. The result? Up to 40% of the customer base are left frustrated and irritated with the customer experience.

When British Leyland was at its lowest, the Japanese car companies came in with a different attitude, and better build-quality. This is summed up by Principle 5 of ‘the Toyota Way’:

“Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.”

This meant that staff on the production line could halt the whole of production to get an issue dealt with right at that point. They stopped faults before they snowballed into a costly fix or customer dissatisfaction.

With 40% of your customer base at stake, what if there’s an equivalent to ‘the Toyota Way’ for Digital Accessibility?

For many years, our CEO Jonathan Hassell has wrestled with this challenge – dealing with different users’ needs is not a task to be done at the end. He says the current approach is unsustainable:

“We’ve seen companies who have been challenged legally multiple times because they put a sticking plaster over the first challenge, rather than resolving the underlying accessibility issues of their website. We’ve seen tool vendors, as they hadn’t embedded inclusion right in their teams, actually break all the good work of previous accessibility fixes when they subsequently reversioned the tool’s engine. Accessibility had got into the tool for a while, but not the culture.”

What’s needed is to take accessibility from an accidental add-in to an essential non-negotiable component of digital success – creating the accessibility habit.

On 28 May 2019 the new ISO 30071-1 was launched, which Jonathan led the authoring of, to give people a way of getting that habit. ISO 30071-1 is a code of practice for creating accessible ICT products and services by embedding accessibility in teams’ and organisations’ cultures – not just an audit at the end. It provides guidance on how to build engagement, update policies and processes, involve suppliers and your development team, so accessibility becomes engrained in the business.

On analysing our experience of training and audits, it’s clear that cost of embedding digital accessibility into projects costs the same or lower than trying to fix it at the end, with reduced risk to budgets and launch timelines. It also has the added benefit that the cost of accessibility reduces over time, as the team’s training further proves its worth.

The power of ISO 370071-1 is in the process of implementing it in the business. That’s why we concentrate much of our time at Hassell Inclusion on helping companies become ‘ISO 30071-1 Ready’ – it’s like building a high-quality production line, rather than waiting at the end of production with a clipboard and telling the company they failed.

So how do you move from the ‘repair shed’ to the ‘production line’ approach?

We took the key elements of the ISO 30071-1 Standard and built our Digital Accessibility Maturity Scorecard, so that in 15-20 minutes you can self-assess where you are doing well and where your development areas are. This is based around 9 categories:

  • Motivation
  • Capability
  • Responsibility
  • Policies and Practices
  • Product Development
  • Delivery Quality
  • Measurement & ROI
  • Support
  • Innovation

Once you’ve done this, and have read the report the Scorecard gives you to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are, the first step of moving towards ISO 30071-1 is a full Accessibility Maturity Assessment which is far more rigorous than the Scorecard.

The steps to get ISO 30071-1 Ready are based on research into what you need to embed the right habits. The Hassell Inclusion 5 Keys summarise this…

1. Expand Awareness

By building awareness of the benefits of digital accessibility and the inherent risks of not doing this, the business can become aware of the need to change – to embed Accessibility from the start, and the inherent cost of using audits as an add-on.

Joining movements like Purple Light Up and the Valuable 500 makes a public commitment to diversity and inclusion, so that the business is more prepared to live up to those commitments.

2. Embed Strategy

This is about developing a plan to embed new habits, and getting the budget to do this sensibly. If you are looking at your 2021 plan, then now is the time to get a Scorecard baseline for where you are and decide on how to prioritise filling the gaps.

ISO 30071-1 helps you understand the breath of policies and practice that needs changing (such as procurement policy, to prevent your reputation being let down by someone else’s digital component).

3. Enable Process

By embedding accessibility in your thinking, processes, and governance throughout the development process, thinking about inclusion becomes second nature, and simpler during design, build and test.

Making it easy to get accessibility right first time, makes the habit easier. Things like focusing time on component frameworks, and repeatable code, make passing an audit for ALL your digital sites easier.

4. Measure Effects

Many companies hold back from digital accessibility because it feels like an “ought to”. By measuring the effects of this inhibition on the wellbeing and productivity of your staff how have disabilities (especially non-visible impairments like Dyslexia, Colour Sensitive vision, ADHD and Aspergers), you’ll discover a case for revamping internal systems.

One the other side of the coin, we had one customer who could visibly see the reduction in fixes required post audit when they had undergone a comprehensive training programme, and by training their own staff in audits they reduce external spend and reduced the cost and delay in procurement. Audit and accessibility testing still had a place, but it became a confirmation and feedback loop, rather than the “fix it shed” like Jaguar Cars had in the 1970s.

Measuring your investment in accessibility and the return you get on that is key.

5. Continually Evolve

As staff are promoted, and new joiners fill the team, the knowledge and understanding of accessibility can be diluted or lost. Additionally, new products and technology (such as AI and Voice commands) require new skills in thinking about your customers. Keeping your accessibility capability continually up to date, and looking for opportunities that it can prompt for product innovation, can pay huge dividends.

Where do I start?

We see customers with three main starting points:

  1. The drive to adapt digital products rapidly to new market conditions. In times like these functionality, and speed to market, trumps accessibility. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Getting a short 2 hour Snapshot Audit early in the design process, can raise awareness across the development team, and prevent problems later on. This is a quick win.
  2. The need to set budget for 2021. The first step of getting ISO 30071-1 Ready is an Accessibility Maturity Benchmark which allows you to see the gaps between your current state and meeting ISO 30071-1, together with the potential benefits of implementing a prioritised and estimated maturity plan, so you can place that into your budgets for the new year. We can typically run this in 8-12 weeks.
  3. Implementing a Diversity and Inclusion Programme. This runs the Accessibility Maturity Benchmark for your internal and external facing solutions, and aligns it to diversity policies, and your customer demographics. It sets the ISO 30071-1 Ready steps in the context of a wider organisational change.

Whichever route might be right for you – try out our accessibility Scorecard to give you a quick self-assessment of the gap between where you are and where you want to be, and talk with us on how to tailor becoming ISO 30071-1 Ready to your needs.

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