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Nilofar Ansher


Institutionalization of Accessibility - A Step Towards Inclusion

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We are in an era where accessible solutions are the order of the day. Catering to needs of persons with disabilities, understanding the importance of diversity in corporate strategy, and integrating accessibility within the DNA of the organizations needs to become the norm. However, accessibility goals seldom transition from whiteboards to reality.

What is stopping us from making accessibility a reality? Is it a rocket science? The problem with any new function in a business is deciding how it fits with existing operations. This could be the reason we see Accessibility programs that operate in a sort of silo apart from other outreach-more so as a CSR activity. Each case is individual and problems range from bureaucratic organizations, to absence of in-house champions, skeptical management, limited budgets, etc.

In order to drive accessibility, our first step needs to be to institutionalize accessibility with clear process laid out. This article puts forward a framework for Institutionalizing Accessibility in our organizations—hope it helps answer the burning question of How do we integrate accessibility into our organizations?

Institutionalizing Accessibility Framework

Institutionalizing Accessibility is an evolving, iterative process. The framework proposes four phases for institutionalizing accessibility - Awareness, Implementation, Integration, and Governance.

Accessibility Awareness

is predominantly the first step to raise the profile of accessibility within an organization. Often there is lack of awareness within organizations. For example, when told that physical infrastructure is not accessible, some HR managers say 'but we do not employ disabled people'. If an organization does not have an accessible workplace, people with disabilities cannot enter the front door. Since in most organizations accessibility is not adopted as a culture they are usually unaware that this has serious repercussions with regard to employment and equality.

Accessibility Implementation

via creating an “Accessibility Center for Excellence” (CoE) would help organizations of all sizes to institutionalize accessibility and drive implementation. Within the CoE there can be various groups focusing on facets of accessibility such as IT web/software, employment, physical infrastructure, policy, training, etc. For instance the Web Accessibility group would include representatives from across the web team; designers, developers, etc. The core objective of this group would be to get a buy-in and raise the profile of accessibility. These accessibility champions would be responsible to develop the web accessibility roadmap; adopting accessibility standards, accessibility testing tools & processes, assistive technology, training, etc.

Accessibility Integration

is the most challenging task while institutionalizing accessibility. This phase should include; Identifying existing processes in the web/software development life cycle, identifying accessibility touch points in the existing Project Development Framework, acquire and deploy accessibility testing tools; Integrate accessibility checklists, guidelines, techniques as project artifacts, conduct trainings, embed accessibility subject matter expert resource into key IT projects, etc. The idea is to get accessibility on priority to create an impact.

Accessibility Governance

is essential to measure the success in institutionalizing accessibility. For most organizations accessibility is not a budgeted line item, instead it comes under CSR. Thus it is imperative that accessibility governance is in place to monitor compliance and penalize non-compliance. A governance process does not need to run into hundreds of pages should clear and concise. The more succinct the policy, the easier it is for stakeholders to comply.


Feedback is an important aspect of the whole model as it essentially helps to monitor implementation, get inputs and highlight challenges from the accessibility champions across the organization. This is also an opportunity to review the process. To conclude, institutionalizing accessibility at organizational level requires several pieces that need to fit together to create accessibility strategies.

To conclude, institutionalizing accessibility at organizational level requires several pieces that need to fit together to create accessibility strategies.

Pooja Nahata - Accessibility Practice at Cognizant Pooja is a technology enthusiast with accessibility in mind. Believes a11y is about people & not technology. Leads Accessibility Practice @ Cognizant. Loves backpack travelling and is an avid reader and foodie.