Before we get into how to build accessibility practice into enterprise-level companies, let’s briefly talk about accessibility itself.
Accessibility is all about making products usable to all users including those with disabilities. Accessibility is not just about infrastructure such as buildings but also to information, services, communication etc., Accessibility is often noted as a checklist item with an assumption that accessibility is for people with disabilities alone. That’s not the case. Accessibility improves user experience, products become more optimized for search engines and becomes more mobile friendly. So it’s a win-win for everyone.
Implementing accessibility for B2C vs B2B
It’s rather easy to enforce accessibility in companies who build products for consumers than businesses. That’s because of the volume of users seen. Whereas though there would be users for business products but fetching those user statistics have never been easy.
Why should B2B industry care about accessibility?
Firstly, it’s a right thing to do. Though statistics of those benefit from accessibility implementation are not really seen, there would be definitely users for business products too.
Often business products are sold to government organizations. As of now, many countries including US, EU, India, the Middle East have passed policies to procure only those products that are accessible.
Although today some countries the US only requires only disclosure about the level of compliance, soon there would be a situation where organizations are required to meet the full level of compliance.
Accessibility approach at Informatica
Though accessibility practice exists at Informatica for a long time, we have formally chartered this in 2012. Our first step was to analyze the current situation of accessibility of our products and create Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT). Next is to raise awareness about accessibility. We have hosted a series of awareness sessions across the organization. Importantly, we have held sessions with Product Managers and then separate conversations with designers, developers, and QA.
Phase wise approach
While accessibility is important, it would not be practically possible for a developer to just focus on accessibility. Especially for legacy products, those exist for a long time. So we have taken a phase-wise approach.
- If a product is in the maintenance mode, we consider not doing anything. We would look into aspects when there is a request from the customer on a specific requirement.
- When a product is although old but may live for a few years, we pick the priority areas and fix for accessibility.
- For on-going and new products, we encourage teams to include accessibility right from the beginning.
- In addition, we embed accessibility into development frameworks so that effort by the product teams is minimized.
Though we would love the accessibility to be practiced as any other function such as security, internationalization etc., accessibility is still an untouched area. It can only be addressed either as a requirement of law or as a social obligation. An accessibility practice can be built within an organization by spreading awareness and friendly messaging. It’s important that we recognize efforts of accessibility. At Informatica, we have an initiative called AX Champs through which we recognize developers and QA on a quarterly basis.
Training and documentation
Developers get encouraged to fix accessibility issues when they are equipped with additional resources than just a bug report. When fixing techniques are provided to them, chances are more, that the issue gets fixed faster. At Informatica, we have compiled accessibility resources for developers, designers, and QA. We have also put together specific training material for each segment of people. In addition, we make sure to include fixing techniques and additional resources to the bugs we file.
To conclude, collaborating with teams across the organization is the way forward to achieve accessibility success.