Accessibility management is the practice and process of implementing federal, state, and local disability legislation to ensure people with disabilities will have the equal opportunity to participate and benefit in all of your programs, services and activities. Whenever possible, accessibility management promotes the concept of going above and beyond minimum compliance with accessibility regulations and standards, striving to achieve universal design best practices that meet the unique needs of the widest spectrum of users.
Accessibility management starts with commitment from the top. In order for an accessibility management program to be successful, leaders within the organization must make the commitment to the shared value of inclusion. They must advocate a business practice where people with disabilities are valued as important members of the community and the customer base.
Accessibility management is centrally coordinated. For an accessibility management program to be successful, it also must be centrally coordinated. An accessibility coordinator, ADA coordinator, or 504 coordinator serve as the point of contact for compliance with legislative mandates. They work to stay informed of standards development, regulatory updates, litigation, trends and best practices in the field. They analyze this data, translate it for their organization, disseminate information, and initiate calls to action where processes and systems can be improved to better serve people with disabilities.
Accessibility management is everyone’s responsibility. Just like risk management where you have a safety coordinator, safety is really everyone’s responsibility. If a staff person, other than the safety coordinator, sees a ruffled area rug that people might trip on, the staff should take the initiative to smooth out the rug and minimize the hazard. It isn’t necessary to deflect the issue to the safety coordinator. The staff should seize on the time and opportunity to make the environment safe. The same approach holds true for accessibility management. If customer service staff see the assistive listening system is not working, they should take the initiative to change the batteries and troubleshoot the situation. Maintenance checks of this equipment should be part of their daily operating procedures. If the non-working assistive listening system gets thrown in a drawer with the mindset, “we’ll tell the accessibility coordinator and they can deal with it later,” it is essentially the same as the staff ignoring the ruffled rug and waiting for the safety coordinator to, quite literally, stumble upon it. When everyone assumes responsibility for an organization’s accessibility management program, the needs of customers with disabilities are much more likely to be met in an effective and efficient manner.
Accessibility management requires planning. There is no way to know where you are going if you don’t know where you are, where you’ve been or the route to get to where you want to be. Accessibility management requires an understanding of where your programmatic and physical deficiencies exist. Then it requires the development of a dynamic working plan to remove barriers and improve access for visitors with all different types of disabilities, mobility, hearing, visual, sensory, environmental, and intellectual.
We want to hear from you. What does your accessibility management program look like? What tips can you share with your colleagues in the field?