Accessible Technology Part 4 – Top 10 Things CIO’s Should Know About Accessibility

by | Mar 13, 2013 | Government IT, Government Solutions | 2 comments

1. Adopt a Social Responsibility Perspective for Accessibility

Private Sector businesses unintentionally erect barriers to participation and inclusion for people with disabilities; however, a shift in perspective can fundamentally change their approach to accessibility (i.e., the staircase creates the barrier, not the wheelchair). Agencies that adopt a proactive position—actively seeking to prevent access barriers—will do much better than those who address accessibility as an accommodation “they have to do.”

2. Manage Accessibility

The Section 508 manager for your office must be visible, backed by policies that lend it authority, and have access to IT decision-makers. There are many accessibility stakeholders within an agency, and to establish and maintain relationships with those components, organizational placement and structure are primary concerns for management.

3. Treat Accessibility like Security

Much like security, businesses dedicate resources to accessibility and Section 508 reluctantly. They see it as a legal obligation while overlooking the benefits—improved usability for all users, increased productivity for employees with disabilities, and ability to provide government services. Under resourcing accessibility underestimates the consequences—slipping project schedules, cost overruns to retrofit projects whose design did not include accessibility, and the consequences of legal action that can include judges making your business’s IT decisions.

4. Design and Plan for Accessibility

Designing for accessibility starts at the concept phase, and thus requires formal inclusion in multiple phases of an organization’s development and procurement life cycles. Having a single process approval gate at the end of a project is not sufficient, because by then it is too late. Large and important project approval will likely trump retrofitting for accessibility, and adopting an inaccessible project exposes your business to avoidable legal risk. Retrofitting applications and remediating accessibility issues is more costly, difficult, and time consuming than addressing accessibility at a project’s design phase, so take a proactive approach and place accessibility requirements into the life cycle early and often.

5. Impose Targeted Standards

Ensure Section 508 standards are included in your business policies, development life cycle processes.  Describe how your business will interpret the Section 508 standards and how they integrate with other agency specific accessibility requirements. Specify how your business will evaluate accessibility requirements.

6. Test and Validate

Your business must evaluate and test products, applications, and electronic content if it wants positive and measurable accessibility outcomes. Vendor claims and, for that matter, agency development group claims are meaningless without scrutiny and a method to measure accessibility progress. As you prioritize what is tested, understand that validation is fundamental to improving accessibility.

7. Study and Use Best Practices

Successful accessibility programs have many practices in common. Benefit from the best practices applicable to your business, continue to evaluate and mature your accessibility program by learning from others, and participate in communities of practice.

8. Participate in and Join Communities of Practice

Communities of practice are important for sharing ideas, expertise, and creating a uniform marketplace for E&IT. Participate in Section 508 Coordinator workshops, interagency ad hoc committees, and comment on Notices of Public Rule Making. Consider participating in communities of practice beyond US Federal agencies. Section 508 spotlights the federal sector, but outside communities of practice are eager for agency participation. Take advantage of their wealth of expertise, creativity, technical guidance, process approaches, and policy examples.

9. Develop a ROI Strategy Around Inclusivity

All things considered, a business outside-in view of performance benchmarks (Earnings Per Share, Shareholder Value, stake-holder value) is not fundamentally different from an inside-out (Topline, Bottom-line, Growth, internal value creation) perspective. All of these are different manifestations of Return on Investment, the improvement of which is a top priority of every businesses executive management.

The implication for technology companies is that their solutions must add teeth to ROI improvement by aligning with their customer’s value creation objectives and alleviating their pain points. In other words, they must think of themselves as providers of outstanding business solutions and not merely brilliant technology.

Since cost reduction is the cornerstone of ROI management, businesses are constantly looking out for ways to improve efficiency and productivity to bring down the per unit cost of “doing business”. However, there is a limit to how far costs can be cut. For instance, fixed costs towards hardware, networking, physical infrastructure et al can be reduced under innovative leasing, outsourcing and hosting arrangements, but still make for heavy expenditure.

Hence, since total costs can never be brought down to zero, the solution must lie elsewhere. The automobile sector, and more recently, the telecom industry are great examples of how to push up ROI by lowering per unit cost, with volume acting as the game changer.

A parallel can be drawn in the banking industry, where cost can be expressed per transaction, customer, unit of revenue, unit of capital deployed, channel and so on. Quite simply, an increase in any of the aforementioned at the same total cost shows up as a healthier bottom-line and ROI. This builds a strong case for replacement of legacy core systems with a modern alternative that can support a continuous increase in the scale of business for years, at the cost of a one-time investment. Businesses, which typically view core transformation as a burden on expenditure, need to adjust their perspective accordingly.

Apart from increasing the volume, customer base or transaction “denominator” to cut per unit cost, ROI may be enhanced by a cross-sales “multiplier”, which is explained as follows. Each time a customer interaction succeeds in selling an additional product, it not only doubles the productivity of that event, but also saves the cost of resources needed to make a similar sale at a future date and therefore “multiplies” the impact on ROI.

So, the magic formula for ROI improvement prescribes stretching an investment as far as possible to serve an expanding business, for instance, scaling up transactions by adding new channels, acquiring more customer accounts through right-selling and enlarging the customer base through inclusivity. While the prioritization of these actions will depend upon the  business objectives, the core platform is a common facilitator in all.

10. Market your Accessibility Position

Actively market your new stance on accessibility and watch your customer base grow.


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  1. Bertie Soucier

    Thank you for lots of interesting guidelines. Linking to you can I use link text Accessible Technology Part 4 &?

    • Allison Cotney

      Yes Bertie, thanks for the link!


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