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Creating an Access Culture #AMAconf

Sally McGrath from Supercool gives us 5 top tips in creating an Access culture for your digital marketing team.

So here’s an interesting thing: everybody says they want their arts organisation to be accessible. Venues put a lot of time and money into building ramps and creating wonderful adapted performances. But almost nobody has an equally accessible website.

Digital access takes time, money, and thought. We have to make space in our working day to do new things, and old things in new ways, and this means we have to create a culture that:

  1. Recognises digital access as important
  2. Makes time and space to get it right
  3. Values and rewards progress towards concrete, agreed goals

Here are five tips to getting solid, practical changes made in your organisation, by creating an Access Culture.

1. Advocate for your user

Who is this website for?

When commissioning a website, you’re the client; and if you are adding things to the website every day, you are one kind of user. But you’re the most unusual kind! Most users are not in the room; they’re not part of the conversation when we decide how to spend time and money developing a website. Make it your job to keep asking: who’s missing from our user stories? Notice whose perspective may be lost.

2. Make it visible

Out of sight, out of mind? It’s easy to miss what you’ve never been shown in the first place! We tend to use computers by ourselves, not in groups, so it’s easy to confuse our way of doing things with the way of doing things. Part of building your access culture is experiencing alternative ways of accessing the web yourself. Use these free, simple tools to get a better understanding of web accessibility:

  1. NoCoffee
  2. Chromevox
  3. Audit your page with Lighthouse

3. Connect it to business goals

The more people can use your website and book tickets at your venue, the better, but is it smart to spend so much more time and money on edge cases?

Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no. Some users that may seem challenging to include are actually super solvers: meeting their needs meets the needs of many other users too. It may be a hard problem to deliver full access to a screenreader, but if you can do it, you also get performance, SEO, most keyboarding, and much more, for free.

This is true in many areas: pavement kerb cuts are essential for wheelchair users, but they are also a great help to parents with buggies. Video captions are crucial for D/deaf people, but they are also hugely useful to people with English as a second language, and to the search index (SEO) as transcripts are indexed and scanned for keywords.

Don’t be afraid to look for the business case for web access; you will often find one!

4. Deliver wins

Set small, achievable goals and include everybody who works on the website. Not everybody will be running Lighthouse Audits* or requiring a WCAG conformance level* in their next tender. But we can all:

  1. Describe images with alt text. Can everybody describe ten images a month? Win!
  2. Edit pages using the Simple Wikipedia guidelines or the free Hemingway app. Can all the core pages on your website be written to a lower secondary education level? Win!
  3. Reword link text so it makes sense out of context. Can everybody find one example of “click here” and reword it? Win!
  4. Can your web developers improve your Lighthouse score by 20%? Win!
  5. Support and notice when our coworkers do this well. Who are your access heroes at work?

5. Assume good intent

When people with a clearly inaccessible website say they want their website to be accessible, it’s helpful to believe them! Mainly everyone wants to do better, so part of creating an access culture is creating an environment of positive, productive action, not guilt or blame. Everybody is busy and access can be hard.

  1. Assume good intent
  2. Set out clearly what success looks like
  3. Budget actual time, space, and money to improve

Creating an access culture that runs right through your organisation must include your digital marketing team. It’s worth doing, and you can start today!


Supercool are hosting an AMA Connect Pod at AMA conference 2019 – Rewire: Culture, Audiences and You.

Image: Universal Access to Information symbol.