Operationalizing Accessibility: Insights from Our Year with the Accessible BC Act
In the past year, Untapped Accessibility has supported nearly 120 organizations to address the requirements in the Accessible BC Act. Reflecting on the past year of these partnerships, it becomes clear that the journey towards accessibility isn’t just about compliance. It requires a cultural shift in how organizations perceive and address disability.
In this blog post, we draw on our experience to share key lessons learned and valuable insights on how organizations can effectively embrace accessibility.
Lesson 1: Expand awareness beyond accommodation
Many organizations only know disability in terms of accommodations. Organizations need a strong, user-friendly accommodations process, but the Accessible BC Act requires a more systemic approach. It invites organizations to explore how to prevent and remove barriers for the broadest group of stakeholders possible. It’s an upstream and proactive approach that requires education and practice.
Embracing a systemic approach to accessibility is key, helping organizations to see the whole picture and understand how different parts of disability inclusion are interconnected. This approach is useful in identifying less apparent barriers like attitudes and misconceptions. Accessibility awareness training can effectively support a cultural shift toward inclusion within the organization.
Lesson 2: Build a cohesive accessibility committee
Forming an accessibility committee is a requirement under the Accessible BC Act. Our experience emphasizes the importance of giving the committee time to gel as a group. It can also be an emotional process for committee members.
Organizations should recognize this emotional investment and make time for the group to become comfortable with each other.
We recommend forming accessibility committees early as a strong strategic approach. It helps ensure that members of the committee have time to build trust with each other and the organization. A strong facilitator can help hold space that feels respectful and productive for all members.
Lesson 3: Establish a leadership working group
To complement your accessibility committee, we help our clients establish a working group of organizational leaders who understand the organization’s timelines, budget cycles, and operational constraints.
Some organizations don’t plan for this parallel body, and as a result they are unclear how to advance the work and respond to accessibility feedback. These organizations have worked hard to publish their accessibility plans, but they lack internal accountability to keep moving forward.
The leadership working group assumes a pivotal role in the practical and realistic removal and prevention of accessibility barriers. Representing every functional area or department, these leaders can align accessibility goals with broader organizational initiatives. This builds the internal accountability needed to keep up with the momentum of your accessibility plan.
Lesson 4: Address flexibility and next steps
The Accessible BC Act gives organizations flexibility in shaping their accessibility plans, allowing them to choose content, focus, and timelines. While beneficial at first, the current challenge is guiding organizations to move beyond basic compliance and consider the next steps.
To leverage the Act’s flexibility effectively, we recommend an incremental approach. This allows organizations to build on their existing strengths and expand their accessibility initiatives gradually to create a strong foundation.
For example, if you have internal momentum and have already been talking about improving workplace accessibility, your organization may choose to focus year one actions on employee experience. For year two actions, you can start addressing accessibility for your external audiences, like customers or community.
Or the other way around. You might have a strong practice of community engagement, so year one actions in your accessibility plan may focus on improving accessibility for your customers or clients. Then in years two and three, your actions can focus on applying your learnings to support your employees in-house.
The Accessible BC Act allows this flexibility, and you do not have to do everything at once. Organizations have the flexibility to scale or approach things differently. Use this to your advantage to build realistic and accountable accessibility plans.
Proven approaches in navigating the Accessible BC Act
Our journey with the Accessible BC Act has revealed profound lessons and insights for organizations committed to accessibility. By adopting a systems mindset, nurturing collaborative committees, and expanding accessibility awareness, organizations can not only meet legislation but also pave the way for more inclusive communities with accessibility at the centre.
Untapped Accessibility is the leading expert in operationalizing the Accessible BC Act—we’ve helped nearly 120 organizations reach beyond compliance! This first year of provincial legislation has revealed important lessons for organizations like yours who are committed to going beyond compliance. We’re here to help. Contact us today.