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This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing on Accessibility Policy.  Before examining the details of the most common types of accessibility policies, it is important to understand why these types of policies are needed.  There are many valid reasons for strong accessibility policies, and this post will discuss some of those.

Most current DOJ and commercial consent decrees / settlement agreements are requiring the implementation of effective Accessibility Policies.

The DOJ has included the development/implementation of Accessibility Policies in every one of its recent consent decrees and settlement agreements.  Most court rulings and private settlement agreements also include the development/implementation of Accessibility Policies.  Therefore, the DOJ must think that Accessibility Policies are important, and not having them, or having them and not following them, can get organizations into trouble.

Accessibility Policies provide an objective reference.

Accessibility policies provide an objective reference to refer to when trying to determine if an organization’s ICT development and acquisition actions meet minimum standards and documentation requirements. One frequent measure of an organization’s Accessibility Policy’s success is how often these standards have been met.

Accessibility policies strengthen organizational capacity.

“Organizational capacity” is the skill set, staffing, leadership, organizational structure, systems, finances, and strategic planning of an organization. Implementing strong Accessibility Policies strengthens the development of these core capacities.  Without strong Accessibility Policies, figuring out and obtaining the resources needed to implement accessibility will be difficult at best.

Accessibility policies strengthen internal organizational alliances.

Alliances among internal departments (i.e. development and HR, finance and training) vary in levels of coordination, collaboration, and mission alignment. Alliances bring about structural changes in organizational relationships and are essential to presenting common messages, pursuing common goals, enforcing policy changes, and protecting policy “wins.” Because effective Accessibility Policies require internal organizational alliances to be effective, stronger internal organizational alliances are a natural outcome of implementing strong Accessibility Policies.

Accessibility policies cause shifts in internal organizational norms.

Organizational norms are the knowledge, attitudes, values, and behaviors that comprise the normative structure of a given organization. When a strong Accessibility Policy is effectively implemented, the organizational norms will adapt to include accessibility into all applicable workplace processes.

Accessibility policies create impact.

Changes in impact are ultimate, long-term accessibility improvements. Changes in impact are influenced by adoption of the Accessibility Policy but may involve players outside the organization such as community advocacy organizations and regulators.

Accessibility policies are the first step to permanent cultural change.

To be completely successful, accessibility must be integrated into corporate culture.  Corporate cultural change efforts frequently fail due to lack of definition and direction.  Accessibility policies provide those missing components.