Whether you are new to digital accessibility or have been working on it for years, it can feel complicated. Understanding what success looks like can be difficult and nebulous at times. Where do you start? How do you know you are on the right path? How do you maintain progress? Have you considered all the areas or dimensions across your organization that are impacted by accessibility? Using a maturity model to understand what makes an exemplary digital accessibility program and how to measure your success over time will help you make confident progress along your accessibility journey.
Figure 1: Visual representation of the five escalating levels of digital accessibility maturity.
To guide organizations grappling with these questions, and provide clarity, we created the Level Access Digital Accessibility Maturity Model™ (DAMM™). In this article, we’ll explain what the model provides, and how it can be helpful to organizations of all sizes and with all levels of digital accessibility experience.
What is DAMM?
The Level Access Digital Accessibility Maturity Model (DAMM) is a clear and concise method for measuring the maturity of digital accessibility programs. Based on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), DAMM™ defines a working model to measure the degree of maturity a program has attained in implementing accessibility, using five levels of maturity to rate the current state of a program along 11 dimensions.
The 11 Dimensions referred to in DAMM are like the threads that weave together into a successful, sustainable accessibility program. Digital accessibility intersects with many facets of an organization and encompasses more than just meeting technical standards. DAMM’s 11 dimensions or aspects of maturity are:
- Governance, risk management, and compliance – Are there organizational owners of accessibility managing and monitoring compliance risk?
- Communications — How effective are your internal and external communications about accessibility initiatives?
- Policy and standards – Are your internal commitments, scope, standards, and responsibilities well-documented?
- Legal – What are your methods for engaging with legal agencies, completing regulatory filings and VPATs, and responding to and resolving disputes?
- Fiscal management – Do you have a mature accessibility budget with dedicated resources and a long-term investment strategy?
- Development lifecycle – How well-defined and distributed is accessibility in your digital product development lifecycle?
- Testing and validation – How comprehensive and structured is your testing approach, including assistive technology and testing by users with disabilities?
- Support and documentation – To what extent do your customer assistance channels, product guidance, and issue reporting process support users with disabilities?
- Procurement – Is accessibility a requirement in vendor selection, purchasing, and contracts?
- Training – Does your organization provide all impacted roles with effective and ongoing accessibility training?
- Human Resources – How mature are your Human Resources recruitment, hiring, accommodations, and evaluation processes for applicants and employees with disabilities?
Levels of maturity
DAMM describes what organizational accessibility maturity looks like and is a different measurement than accessibility conformance testing on specific digital properties. Our maturity model is a more holistic, program-based view that goes beyond just the development lifecycle and addresses all the operational aspects necessary to support accessibility across the organization. With five defined levels of increasing maturity, DAMM can be used as an assessment tool to determine where an organization is implementing digital accessibility well and where process or policy gaps remain. An organization will likely have different scores across various dimensions that they are working on in parallel.
Level 1 – Initial
Accessibility processes at level 1 are generally undocumented and may be in a state of dynamic change. Processes, if they exist, are ad-hoc, uncontrolled, and inconsistent. An organization may be rated this way on a particular dimension if the organization is new to digital accessibility, or if the program pillar, such as training, is being newly introduced to the organization’s program. Initial attempts at a particular dimension are often reactive and driven by users or events.
Level 2 – Repeatable
This level is often represented by a limited number of repeatable processes that are producing consistent results. The organization recognizes the need for standard operating procedures in a given dimension to establish repeatability and improve performance.
Level 3 – Defined
At level 3, accessibility processes are well-defined and repeatable with demonstrated adoption across the organization. The focus is on implementing tools, systems, and procedures as documented to maintain performance in this dimension with increasingly consistent results.
Level 4 – Managed
When a dimension is rated at a level 4, the organization is actively managing standard accessibility processes and monitoring metrics for performance throughout the organization related to the dimension in question. At this level, “shifting left” by considering accessibility early in the planning and design process, reviewing standard procedures through the lens of inclusivity, and sustaining inclusive best practices are becoming part of organizational priorities.
Level 5 – Optimizing
At this level, the organization is focused on continually optimizing accessibility processes through progress monitoring and innovative improvements in a given dimension. Level 5 ratings across multiple dimensions often contribute to an inclusive culture, where accessibility becomes part of organization-wide ideals. Organizations with level 5 ratings across multiple dimensions usually also prioritize external activism to drive change toward digital accessibility in their industry.
Figure 2: Example of a completed DAMM Assessment Scorecard with a score marked for each of the 11 dimensions at different levels, 1-5.
Level Access DAMM Assessment
Wherever you are on your journey, using a maturity model such as DAMM™ can help your organization determine your ability to produce accessible results over the long term. Consider the maturity level of your organization’s accessibility efforts within this context and contact us or your Customer Success Manager for more information. Our Level Access Strategic Consulting team offers DAMM Assessment services to guide you through an interactive process of discovery, gap analysis, creating your accessibility scorecard, and recommendations for practical growth.
Want more insight into building your digital accessibility roadmap? Access our free, on-demand webinar hosted by Level Access CEO and digital accessibility pioneer, Tim Springer. Get an in-depth description of this model, plus a glimpse at the ideal accessibility journey for organizations of all sizes. Discover the immediate next steps your organization should consider for establishing a sustainable digital accessibility program.
Supporting smart growth
While many accessibility programs share the same goals, there are various pathways to success. Understanding your organization’s priorities and current digital accessibility maturity can help you identify next steps. Trust Level Access as your expert accessibility partner to support your current program and help guide you to achievable digital accessibility growth at a pace you can sustain. Reach out to our team today.
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