This lightning talk was presented at Confab Central in May 2014. If you’re reading along with the slides, they track at roughly one paragraph per slide.

If you want to learn more about the business arguments for a11y, check out Karl Groves’ amazing series on the topic.

Full Transcript

I’m here to talk about accessibility. In particular: How to talk your leaderships, your executive team into giving you a budget and a personnel commitment to make your content accessible.

You’re here at Confab, which means you already care about content. You’re paying attention to your content and making it better and more relevant for your users.

Well…most of your users. I feel really comfortable saying that no matter who you work for, not all of your organization’s content is accessible. Does your homepage slideshow work for people who can’t see it?

Do your infographics have meaningful alt tags? How’s the help text on your form fields? Do all your videos and podcasts have full transcripts? Did you know that most PDFs are profoundly inaccessible?

Inaccessible content is not OK. Between 18 and 132% of internet users have some sort of disability. It doesn’t matter what the real number is, because it’s not zero.

Accessibility is almost always talked about as being a technical problem - about semantics and ARIA roles and building good HTML, but the code is relatively easy to fix.

Much harder are governance and workflow issues. Who’s going to transcribe the video? When does that happen in your process? Who’s going to proofread it? Is there a separate field in the CMS for it?

Do those questions sound familiar? Governance, workflow, CMS? Accessibility is a classic content problem. Which means: fixing accessibility is part of your job.

You’ve already started this: The copy work we do - getting rid of jargon, using language that’s clear and straightforward - That’s huge for people using the web with cognitive disabilities. But we need more.

Here’s the deal: Every executive team, and each individual on that team has a pet issue that they love.

You’re going to take their pet issue, and find a way to explain accessibility that enhances their project. I am giving you permission, and a mission, to go back to work next week and manipulate your executive team.

None of of these arguments are overwhelmingly strong on their own. You need to piggyback on something your boss already has an irrational passion for.

Have you heard of this term “SEO”? Do you spend a lot of time talking about the Googles? Structurally & practically: Accessible content improves your rankings.

Does your company target baby boomers? 72 MILLION people, 48% of American families, 2 billion dollars in spending power! Accessibility work keeps your content available to aging populations.

How about mobile? Accessibility improves experience for users with low-bandwidth. That’s rural, that’s developing nations, that is every cell phone in the Western world.

Are you looking for a new market? Disabled users are a huge untapped buying force. If yours is the only site with accessible content, you have an instant competitive advantage.

Do you have a worrywart legal team? The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to private-sector sites as well as gov’t ones. Not having an accessible site puts you at a massive risk for lawsuits.

If you have Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, or if your organization leans on morals or values in any way: Inaccessible content undermines your impact and your reputation.

There’s only real reason to have accessible content: it is the right thing to do. Full stop. End of story.

Start to think through the projects your leadership is really jazzed about, and figure out where you can include accessibility work. It will improve every project; you just need to know how to explain it.