Organisations have become more aware of the need for accessibility over a period of many years. The interest in accessibility often starts with a small group of passionate enthusiasts, in many cases disabled themselves, looking to bring about permanent and significant change in their home organisation. The endpoint for many is that accessibility becomes simply ‘business as usual’ - one of many elements that a business sets out to manage effectively. It becomes mainstream rather than an add-on, something extra and difficult, which managers worry about but don't really know how to address.
A key stage in this development is securing management buy-in. Without this, it is impossible for accessibility to become mainstream. This best practice guide sets out some shared experience in how to obtain it building on the experience of members of the Technology Taskforce.
Why is management buy-in important?
The experience of our members is that support at the highest level provides:
Authority: It is unusual to find colleagues who oppose accessibility outright. Most people have no issue with the concept of supporting disabled staff and customers. However many have issues making changes to organisational processes, standards etc without being clear about what the organisation itself wants. Is accessibility a priority or just a nice to have? Is it within their remit to bring about changes? Would they be criticised for working in this area without ‘approval from above’? A clear statement at Board level can provide staff with the cover they need to proceed, and evidence to share with colleagues who query this.
Influence: For many organisations starting to address accessibility, a major task is to raise awareness of the need to improve issues in all relevant parts of the business and to get staff there to incorporate that thinking into their day-to-day work. A clear statement at Board level not only directly conveys the message to all concerned, it gives those staff the impetus to proactively find out more. It also opens up the possibility of using senior managers selectively to reiterate the message whenever needed e.g. with suppliers.
Resources: Moral support and encouragement is one thing but eventually material support will be needed to bring about any permanent change. Sustainable improvement needs resources - both time and money. Senior managers understand this of course and as a general rule adequate resources cannot be obtained without their support. Part of the approach to obtaining management buy-in needs to address this and to quantify the resources required.
Without these, it is highly unlikely that accessibility can become mainstream in an organisation.