When it comes to creating accessible products and services, it can be easy to focus on the work of designers, developers, and content writers.
However, ultimately, the success of an accessible digital media project begins with project managers (PMs).
The ability to produce an accessible project, within scope, timeline, budget, and resources reflects on your skill level and effectiveness as a PM.
In her Yes, Virginia, PMs are Responsible for Accessibility presentation at the axe-con two-day conference, Angela Hooker discussed how PMs can take responsibility for producing accessible projects and provided actionable tips.
Here are my notes from her talk.
Yes, Virginia, PMs are Responsible for Accessibility
- What will set you apart from other PMs is your ability to build in accessibility. Not everyone can translate their accessibility knowledge and experience into building accessible projects.
- Biggest mistake in projects: waiting until the end to think about accessibility. Build in accessibility from the start of your project, or you’re setting it up for failure. Comparison example: you wouldn’t think about adding pipes to your new house after you’ve already laid the foundation, built the frame, and added the walls.
- Manage expectations. From the start of the project, set the expectation to deliver an accessible project.
- Since every team member is expected to produce accessible work, your cost for supporting accessibility in your project will go down (you won’t have to retrofit accessibility after work has been completed).
- Get support from leadership. Convince them of the importance of accessibility. One way to do that: explain the return on investment in providing accessible products to the $8 trillion of disposable income that people with disabilities have.
- Another method that will inspire leadership of the importance of accessibility: ask them to watch people with disabilities trying to use your inaccessible content. When people can’t access your content, you’re no longer a trusted source. People will go elsewhere.
- Know that if an organization prioritizes technology or deadlines over having an accessible project, they won’t prioritize accessibility for your team. It’s up to you as a PM to help leaders understand the impact on your project and your team to produce an accessible project.
- If you’re new to accessibility, work with an accessibility consultant. Learning about accessibility is not a checklist you can learn overnight.
- Plan for accessibility at your first project meeting, when stakeholders are together and you’re considering budget, timeline, team members, resources (including technology) for your project plan.
- Include multiple accessibility reviews in your project timeline. Have team members check their work as they go along. (Be sure to build in time for them to check their work.)
- It takes more than a day to check a site for accessibility. Don’t wait til the day before project launch to check accessibility.
- Identify the accessibility standards and compliance levels for your project. If your project is global, you’ll need to consider a number of laws and documentation. This is where having an accessibility consultant will help
- Working with agencies for your project? Put your accessibility requirements in the contracts.
- Make sure the technologies you use for your project can produce accessible work. If it doesn’t, do you need to use that technology? Or can your team members provide a fix? If not, flag the technology as a risk.
- Get training for your team. And make sure it’s ongoing training. Lots of resources are available on the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative website. Other helpful resources: Knowbility, WebAIM, and Deque University.
- Include leadership in your accessibility training. The more leadership knows about accessibility, the more they’ll support you and your team.
- Tips for content writers on your team to produce accessible work: work with and collaborate with designers,
test writing with people who have disabilities, talk with people who have cognitive impairments, and use plain language
- Tips for designers: collaborate with other team members, design with accessibility in mind, annotate designs for developers.
- Tips for developers: collaboration is crucial, make sure they know how to produce accessible, provide simple solutions (don’t overengineer), check work throughout the process.
- Invest in usability testing for your project, throughout your project.
- At project launch, create general statement about your project’s accessibility status. Include what worked, what didn’t work, accessibility issues discovered, and include roadmap to address those issues
- Good design is accessible design