At first, many organizations treat digital accessibility as a box to check. They run a scan of their website, obtain a list of accessibility errors, fix those errors, and consider their work complete. Here’s the problem: new barriers are introduced as experiences evolve, trapping teams in a frustrating and expensive break/fix cycle, in which they’re constantly backtracking to remediate emerging issues. So, how can organizations pave a sustainable path to online inclusion?
To better understand the steps teams can take to implement a manageable, impactful accessibility practice, our Chief Innovation Officer Karl Groves spoke with Meryl Evans, a professional speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who specializes in accessibility and inclusion. When it comes to digital accessibility, Evans champions a “progress over perfection” approach. She encourages organizations to focus on consistent improvement instead of racing toward unrealistic end goals. In our conversation, Evans outlined the key benefits of this approach, and shared actionable guidance to help teams shift their processes and culture for lasting, meaningful change.
Full interview (audio descriptions)
Note: The following portions of the interview have been lightly edited for readability and concision.
Karl Groves: What does a “progress over perfection” approach to digital accessibility mean to you?
Meryl Evans: “Progress over perfection” is about taking that first step toward digital accessibility, no matter how big or small, and recognizing that progress isn’t always a straight line. The key is to keep moving. For digital accessibility professionals, this approach means educating, not berating. It means forgiving mistakes and being flexible. It’s a mindset that makes you more open to civil conversations, and to working to effect change.
Groves: What would you say to organizations that want to reach a specific end-goal?
Evans: Accessibility should not be the end goal, because it never ends. You can have a perfectly accessible website today, but tomorrow the marketing team may ignore all accessibility best practices with their new blog post. So instead of thinking about accessibility as an end goal, organizations should set specific, incremental goals to make progress toward accessibility.
These goals will vary by department. A marketing team’s goals might include implementing accessibility training for employees, and documenting processes for blog publishing and video creation (including steps to make this content accessible). Meanwhile, a human resources (HR) department might work toward ensuring job applications are accessible, establishing a process for candidates to share accessibility requirements prior to interviews, and training interviewers on how to fairly evaluate candidates.
Groves: What are some examples of progress with digital accessibility that make a meaningful impact on users?
Evans: When companies are getting started with digital accessibility, one of the first steps I advise is creating an accessibility statement that contains at least two modern contact options and putting it in the footer of their website. This way, people can easily get in touch if they encounter accessibility barriers. It’s important for organizations to acknowledge these messages quickly and use this feedback to prioritize fixes.
In terms of digital content, simply capitalizing the first letter of each word in hashtags, user IDs, and links makes a big difference in terms of improving readability for everyone—not just screen reader users. Describing images is also important, and don’t worry about getting it perfect. A simple, accurate image description is much better than automatic alt text, which is often meaningless.
Groves: Do you have any advice for accessibility champions who are looking to drive adoption of accessibility across their organizations? How can they use the “progress over perfection” approach to accomplish this?
Evans: It depends on the champion’s role, and the team’s current maturity level with regard to accessibility. But it’s important for individual champions to keep in mind that their colleagues may have a lot on their plates, even in their personal lives outside of work. Being mindful of their teammates’ capacity can help champions make a stronger case: you want to show that accessibility doesn’t require extra time and effort when it’s baked into existing processes. As an example, a developer could demonstrate how they incorporated accessibility checks into their workflows and teach their team how to do the same.
Another powerful way to make the case for accessibility is to share videos of people with different disabilities interacting with a website or digital product. Individual users’ stories have a way of really tugging the heartstrings and building empathy.
Achieve sustainable progress with an agile approach to digital accessibility
Digital accessibility is an ongoing practice, not a one-time project—and committing to consistent learning and improvement, rather than immediate perfection, is key to sustaining momentum. In fact, embracing progress over perfection is one pillar of agile accessibility: an approach in which teams proactively incorporate accessibility into digital experience creation, and continually iterate on their success. Access our five-step guide to getting started with agile accessibility and begin identifying small steps toward your long-term goals for online inclusion.
About Meryl Evans
Meryl Evans, CPACC, is a TEDx and professional speaker, trainer, author, and accessibility consultant who was born profoundly deaf. She is a highly regarded speaker on diversity, equity, and inclusion who focuses on people with disabilities and accessibility. She has spoken at many events including SXSW and TEDx. Meryl has authored, coauthored, and appeared in books and publications including The Dallas Morning News, Morning Brew, AdAge, AdWeek, and The Wall Street Journal. Meryl is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC). Be sure to follow her on LinkedIn as she’s a Top Voice.
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