The level of detail of the Section 508 screening questionnaire criteria certainly came as a surprise to many of us. However, we quickly learned how it would help us understand the maturity of our program and make recommendations to program managers about areas they can improve. To make it easier to digest, we grouped the criteria into four areas:
- Culture change: Questions that drive changes in the way work is done.
- Leadership: Questions that measure the success of our leadership’s accessibility efforts.
- Empowered Program Managers: Questions about the role of the agency’s Section 508 Program Manager and the role’s ability to influence IT accessibility policies and operations.
- Limited scope: Questions that need input from other groups to answer.
We determined that a trained program director can influence approximately 45% of the questionnaire. That means more than 55% of our success and maturity depends on cross-functional workforce leadership and collaboration. Since we will report on the assessment annually, we will focus on improving the 45% that we can control.
As Elvis Presley once said, “When things go bad, don’t go on with them.” In my experience, things often don’t go as planned. This means we need a resilient and flexible solution, which can be a challenge for the government. To continue moving forward, we first updated our policy. This gave us the power to make decisions that helped ensure access to information and, naturally, this would reflect improvements in our performance metrics. This solid foundation helps us continue to be successful as we work with our leadership to change workplace culture.
Former US Secretary of State and Army General Colin Powell said: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” When we ask for things from leadership, we start with our ideal goal and then break it down. We plan for different levels, so if we get a “no,” we have backup plans. For example, one goal is to require training in business digital accessibility. To achieve this goal, we have developed a 3-level training plan:
- Level 1 Solution: A company policy that makes digital accessibility training mandatory for all employees.
- Funding objective: Include the cost of training in our annual budget.
- Level 2 Solution: Each component has its own policy requiring digital accessibility training for all employees.
- Funding objective: Increase funding for each component.
- Scalability: Award a contract that can scale to support the business.
- Level 3 Solution: Component-level policy requiring digital accessibility training for a category of staff such as content developers.
- Funding objectives: Re-prioritize our current budget to pay for some licenses.
- Scalability: Award a contract that can be expanded to the component and enterprise level.
To prepare for a “no” from leadership, we collected data for all three levels during our research. We find out what we can afford with our current budget while looking for the best solution. We are also looking at other sources of funding, such as inter-institutional agreements (IAAs). Having different ways to get money allows us to be flexible and help other groups who want to progress.
R. Buckminster Fuller said: “You can’t change the way people think; all you can do is give them a tool the use of which will change the way they think.” In this case, evaluation is the tool. By measuring the quality of our digital products and what goes into manufacturing them, we can make data-driven decisions regarding the effectiveness of policies and procedures, workforce training and performance, and procurement, development and operations. product operations.
Through metrics, such as those from annual reviews, we can continually work to improve the quality of the products we buy, build and use, ensuring that employees and the public with disabilities have access to information comparable to the access available to others.