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Robert Pearson

Accessible Media

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Making the Commitment to Universal Inclusion

If universal inclusion is to find traction and establish itself within an organization, support for it must come from the highest levels, writes Robert Pearson.
commitment to universal inclusion

Image: Commitment to Universal Inclusion
Too many times there have been stories as to how organizations see accessibility as a one-off initiative. Over the course of my career I have seen it happen numerous times. I have, on occasion, been in the position of the accessibility advocate who's been instructed to drop the ball on accessibility and move on to the next project because it had become a higher priority. I have seen it happen more than once at the same organization.
There are several reasons for this neglect. First, it could be a lack of understanding that accessibility is not to be seen as an addition to current processes, but rather that it should be the process itself. Second, it is a lack of stringent regulations and means by which to enforce them. Third, perhaps, it is simply that organizations cannot make the commitment to move away from the standard way of doing things and understand that the way in which we do business can be improved. We can strive to meet the needs of the widest possible audience and we can aim to achieve universal inclusion.
Today, I have the benefit of practicing my work at an organization that stringently defends the glass house in which we sit, with every aspect of our media business conducted in an accessible manner. It's in our name - Accessible Media Inc.
Not Setting Accessibility as a Priority
However, the previous organization that I reference in this article, never came anywhere near to such a realization. At first it was in response to a business consumer request. That business consumer understood accessibility and the need for it and asked their business partners to follow similar practices. In the first round, it was a nine month project, do the work, move along. Towards the conclusion of the project, the business request was fulfilled, yet no consideration had been given to the wider audience that could benefit from such enhanced business practices on an ongoing basis.
The second round came about as a result of a few initiatives, including support from an executive champion, but also a realization that more work could be accomplished. However, the initiative floundered over the years due to a lack of a clear mandate and organizational wide support, and eventually, it was deemed to be less of a priority and essentially shelved.
The third round came about as a result of the implementation of new semi-stringent regulations and the realization that what was literally collecting dust on a shelf in a back room, was in fact the key to the solution of meeting the requirements set forth by the new regulations. However, it became inevitable that the efforts of the third round would eventually become a duplication of the first round, in that it was time to just do the work and move along. The regulations that brought about the third round also lacked enforcement and as a result, along with the absence of executive sponsorship to the extent at which it was given in previous rounds, the third round concluded unfinished with support for the initiative waning.
Lessons Learnt 
As can be seen from the experiences of this organization, when accessibility becomes a one-off initiative it becomes doomed to repeat itself as work is revisited and then forgotten, but only when the need arises. The commitment to universal inclusion is simply that, it's a commitment. Similar to any other that we encounter in our lives. If universal inclusion is to find traction and establish itself within an organization, support for it must come from the highest levels accompanied by an understanding of meeting the needs of the widest possible audience.

Related Resources

Blog: Customizing Accessibility in the Digital Age | Read Robert Pearson's Article.
Publication: AT&T's Corporate Accessibility Technology Office: An Industry Model | Download Free PDF.
Event: International Summit on Accessibility - July 12-15, 2014, Ottawa, Canada | View Event Details.


Related Items:

• The Archimedes Project


• Digital Inclusion for a Better EU Society

• The Disability Inclusion Initiative Employment Sector (July 2009)

• UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Address

• Inclusion International 16th World Congress, Nairobi, Kenya

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