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The Ultimate Guide to Strategic Accessibility

Venn diagram showing the overlaps of culture, people and process
Culture, People, Process

"Strategic design is about applying the principles of traditional design to “big picture” systemic challenges such as healthcare, education and climate change. It redefines how problems are approached and aims to deliver more resilient solutions." - Dan Hill -

Strategy plays an important, if not critical role in the success and outcome of accessibility goals and plans. This is true of business, life, career, and it’s foundational training for the military. Here are a few key questions strategic thinkers ask themselves:

  • Where are we now?

  • Where do we want to be?

  • How will we get there?

Executing a successful accessibility strategy requires a strategic thinking mindset—a mindset that affords us the ability to focus more on problem-solving, execution, and better alignment with business goals. Strategic Accessibility also requires that we take a proactive approach, which is rooted in military strategy, often expressed in the phrase “seize, retain and exploit the initiative.” Organizations that use proactive strategies have a better chance of capturing markets, competing with rivals, and leading teams toward objectives.

A proactive approach to accessibility starts with using proven inclusive design research methods by including people with disabilities in any and all Accessibility efforts across your organization. Anything short of that will undermine or fall short in delivering not only a good experience for people with disabilities, but also leaving your organization vulnerable to reputational and legal risks.

Here are 8 steps to creating an effective accessibility strategy and roadmap:

  1. Define your future state: The first step in outlining an accessibility strategy and roadmap is to define why you’re doing it. Ask yourself what would success look like and how does it align with the overall strategic imperitives of your business.

  2. Ditch the risk mitigation and accommodation mentality: People with disabilities are not a risk to be mitigated. Providing bare minimum accommodations simply won’t cut it. We are a valuable market that your organization is attempting to serve.

  3. Know your customers: It is essential to understand the needs of your target audience. Conduct market research with people with disabilities to understand our lived experiences and desired outcomes.

  4. Assess your current state: Evaluate the current state of your organization by conducting an accessibility maturity model evaluation, which will help you identify the areas that need improvement and what your next steps might be.

  5. Create a roadmap: Based on the results of the accessibility maturity model assessment, create a roadmap that outlines the steps necessary to reach the next levels in the maturity model.

  6. Consult with and hire people with disabilities: Consult with and hire people with disabilities to ensure your strategy and roadmap addresses our needs, concerns, and preferences.

  7. Build flexibility into your approach: Strategy and roadmaps need to be flexible with contingencies for possible unexpected things. You will encounter roadblocks along the way and it will seem daunting at times, but it’s important to always remember what it is that you are ultimately trying to achieve.

  8. Measure, learn, and improve: Regularly assess your progress by defining smaller objectives and key results to help you get to the next level.

By following these steps, you will begin to understand year-over-year growth by division and function and power the accessibility maturity of your organization.


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