The WebAIM Strategic Accessibility Framework
Indicators and Benchmarks for Success
Accessibility requires strategic vision and planning. The purpose of accessibility is to make sure that websites and digital platforms do not present barriers to people with disabilities. For that to happen, everyone that contributes to creating the digital environment also needs to contribute to accessibility. Organizations need to have the right mix of leadership, governance, professional development, communication, planning, evaluation and other scaffolding to make this possible. Accessibility must sit among other key business drivers that shape how organizations engage with their audiences who use technology.
WebAIM has helped hundreds of clients at different stages of their accessibility journey to use strategic thinking and build a sustainable accessibility program. Our comprehensive strategic accessibility training provides a detailed look at components of successful accessibility initiatives. Our customized consulting can help your organization create policies, plans, and processes to support this framework.
This framework is derived from an organizational framework that was originally created by WebAIM staff for the GOALS project - a project administered by WebAIM's partner The National Center on Disability and Access to Education and funded through the U.S. Department of Education (FIPSE).
The framework is comprised of four Indicators each of which have a series of Benchmarks. The Benchmarks define measurable objectives or activities for achieving a specific Indicator.
The Indicators and Benchmarks are:
- Benchmark 1: Commitment by Leadership
- Benchmark 2: Involvement and Input of Relevant Stakeholders
- Benchmark 3: Communicate Vision, Commitment, Direction, and Progress
- Benchmark 4: Establish an Organizational Culture that Values Accessibility and Inclusion
- Benchmark 1: Inclusion of Key Personnel and Stakeholders
- Benchmark 2: A Comprehensive Accessibility Policy
- Benchmark 3: A Comprehensive Implementation Plan
- Benchmark 4: A Comprehensive Communication Plan
- Benchmark 5: Execute the Written Plans
- Benchmark 1: Focus on Personnel
- Benchmark 2: Sufficient Time and Effort Allocated to Personnel
- Benchmark 3: A Budget Sufficient for Organization-Wide Efforts
- Benchmark 4: Training and Technical Support
- Benchmark 5: The Procurement, Development, and Use of Technologies and Content that are Accessible
- Benchmark 1: Evaluation of Implementation
- Benchmark 2: Evaluation of Functional Web and Digital Accessibility Outcomes
- Benchmark 3: Evaluation Results Are Used To Improve Accessibility
Leadership vision and commitment
The organizational leadership team is the keystone of a sustainable accessibility program. Champions and advocates outside of leadership can have a positive impact on accessibility, but leadership establishes and upholds an organization's mission, vision, and values. When leadership actively leads the organization to integrate accessibility, they also commit to establishing every aspect necessary for accessibility to work—from funding streams to the very culture of the organization where accessibility expectations reside.
Planning and Implementation
To succeed at the organizational scale, accessibility often needs a policy. Governance should go beyond citing guidance documents and technical standards. Setting clear expectations, identifying key roles and processes, and formally defining the components of the organization's program builds the foundation needed to succeed with this broad effort. To build the structures needed to abide by this governance, it is vital to create implementation plans that span several years (i.e., the long view). It is also important to plan the actionable steps that are achievable in smaller amounts of time (e.g., attaining single-year milestones). Planning efforts should also focus on a multifaceted communication effort that facilitates constructive communication throughout the organization.
Resources and Supports
Governance and planning will expose a need for investments that uphold this vital work. Investments are likely needed in personnel, training and professional development, and tools. Bolstering the organization's inclusion of accessibility as part of technology procurement decision-making will address third-party technology. Carefully considering the accessibility skills required for most organization staff will help deliver the right professional development content to the right audience. Providing breathing room for people to apply new skills to their day-to-day work keeps things running smoothly and makes professional development more effective.
Evaluation and Assessment
Reviewing progress is critical for an organization to identify progress as well as gaps. This is both an evaluation of technical accessibility outcomes, and more importantly of processes that work or don't work in the organization to promote accessibility long term. Using assessment data in cycles and adopting a continuous improvement mindset is critical to sustainability. Even organizations that have mature accessibility programs must continue to evaluate their work. Accessibility is not something that will ever be “done”, since the technology work within the organization is ongoing. Regular self assessment is vital to supporting a sustainable accessibility program.
There are many factors that go into establishing and improving organizational accessibility programs. This framework provides a flexible structure to support these efforts. If your organization could benefit from WebAIM's guidance and support through these processes, please consider our Strategic Training workshops or contact us to discuss consultation.