3. The Committee and the Champion
Understanding the diversity of skills and knowledge in the company’s workforce, you decide that it will be more effective if each department managed their own digital accessibility efforts. You decide to create an accessibility committee, made up of senior or influential people from each of the major groups in the company. Your goal is to take a proactive approach to accessibility, addressing issues before they become complaints, rather than a reactive approach, where issues are addressed only when a complaint has been received.
By implementing a proactive approach, you are aiming to address potential barriers before they result in lost customers. While the company did receive a complaint, you understand that many people who encounter accessibility barriers do not complain. They just leave, perhaps going to the competition. You are convinced that if they come to your website and have a pleasant, accessible experience, they will likely return and make additional purchases.
You plan to have the accessibility committee initially meet several times over a two month period, to get accessibility efforts underway, then reduce the frequency of meetings to once per quarter, to receive updates from each group and discuss any new issues that arise.
Who Should be on the Committee?
Ideally the Accessibility Committee (AC) should be made up of influential and knowledgeable representatives from different areas of the company, starting with a senior executive who can affect the company’s accessibility policy. In Figure 2.1, the CEO at the top of the organizational structure would be that person, though it does not necessarily need to be the company’s top officer.
Below the senior executive is the person who will oversee the committee, in this case referred to as the “Accessibility Champion.” This person should be in a relatively senior position, or have substantial influence in the company, who has a good understanding of accessibility, disability, and the technical aspects of implementing accessibility. This person should also find accessibility interesting and challenging, and should not be forced into the role. Depending on the size of the company, it may be a person dedicated specifically to overseeing the company’s accessibility efforts, or it could be someone in another role who manages accessibility efforts on a part-time basis.
You debate whether you are the best person to take on the Accessibility Champion role. While you are becoming more familiar with digital accessibility, and you find it very interesting, you are not sure if you have the technical knowledge to fully understand the possibilities or options for developing and implementing digital accessibility. For now, you take on the role yourself, but leave the option open to assign the role to another member of the accessibility committee once it has been established, or even look outside the company for a person with the right balance of technical background and disability/accessibility knowledge to understand the technologies involved.
You decide to approach the CEO, who originally asked you to investigate the complaint, and ask her if she would be a member of the committee. She agrees, but suggests that after initially establishing the committee, she will pass that role to the senior VP. You also approach the director of retail sales, who oversees the retail managers and visits retail stores regularly. You also ask the IT manager to participate, as well as one of the senior web developers who reports to him and who has some web accessibility experience.
Accessibility Committee Members
- CEO (president)
- You (project manager)
- Director of retail sales
- IT manager
- HR manager
- Senior web developer
- The senior VP (oversees operations at head office)
- Director of marketing (oversees the video editors and graphic artists)
Other members of the accessibility committee are strategically selected from throughout the company, with the aim of including representatives across all areas of the company where digital accessibility is a concern, as well as those known to be knowledgeable on the subject of digital accessibility, which may include people within the company who have disabilities.
Accessibility Committee Goals and Responsibilities
Clear goals for the accessibility committee should be defined and promoted throughout an organization so that everyone understands the committee’s function.
The accessibility committee should be responsible for:
- Raising accessibility awareness
- Encouraging feedback to share problems and solutions
- Implementing quality assurance procedures
- Consulting on legal matters related to accessibility
- Providing web and digital accessibility support
- Developing internal accessibility standards
- Representing the organization in accessibility-related public affairs
Source: Implementing Accessibility in the Enterprise, pp. 73-74
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