All I Want For Christmas Is an Accessibility Expert

Twenty-seven percent of design teams plan to hire accessibility experts in the next 12 months. Learn what success in the role requires.

Forrester Blog Network

December 2, 2022

3 Min Read
accessibility key on keyboard
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Christmas came early for me this year! We just got data back from our Q3 2022 State Of Design Teams Survey, and the results are exciting. I’m seeing more organizations commit to accessibility than ever before. Our data reveals that 60% of companies have an executive-mandated commitment to creating accessible products, and work is happening to fulfill that commitment.

But getting accessibility right isn’t easy. In my research, I’ve seen a shift in the top challenges that companies are grappling with. Elevating awareness around accessibility used to be the number one challenge, and it still is for some firms. But most of my conversations with clients now start with the question “How do I establish an accessibility program?” Companies are moving from initiating conversations around accessibility to putting the necessary building blocks in place to get the work done.

Key to a successful program is funding dedicated roles focused on enabling the rest of the organization to create accessible experiences. Our data reveals that more companies are getting this and have an accessibility expert on their Christmas list this year. For design teams that plan to grow in the next 12 months, 27% plan to add accessibility/inclusive design experts. And what’s exciting is that 47% of those firms — almost half — don’t have these roles in place today. They are hiring accessibility experts for the first time.

Related:5 Ways Back-End Developers Can Improve Software Accessibility

My research shows that these dedicated roles are successful when they are enablers, not doers, of the work. For example, often the first hire an organization makes is an accessibility program manager to help stand up and lead the program.

What Does an Accessibility Program Manager Do?

Typically a company’s first dedicated accessibility hire, the common responsibilities of this role include the following:

  • Increase organizational awareness and understanding of why accessibility matters and the needs of customers with disabilities.

  • Provide a forward-thinking strategy to build accessibility into the culture of the organization by establishing an accessibility policy, creating a roadmap, and developing an accessibility center of excellence for the company.

  • Train designers, copywriters, engineers, testers, and product managers in how to integrate accessibility best practices.

  • Work with product design and development to integrate accessibility into the company’s design system.

  • Be a subject-matter expert for product teams seeking answers, direction, or advice on accessibility.

  • Monitor and report on accessibility progress (including the current state of compliance of each digital experience) to senior leadership on a regular basis.

  • Manage the relationship with digital accessibility vendors.

  • Stay ahead of emerging standards and technologies, and work with teams to analyze the impacts to the company’s standards.

Related:5 Tips for Inclusive Product Design

Who’s Hiring These Roles?

The top industries hiring dedicated roles for accessibility within design, according to our survey, are:

  • High-tech products.

  • Financial services.

  • Retail.

  • Telecom.

For example, as I’m writing this blog post, I see job postings on LinkedIn from Airbnb, Atlassian, Edward Jones, Fidelity Investments, Hyatt Hotels, Mastercard, and Northwestern Mutual. I’m also seeing executive-level roles. For example, Frog is hiring an executive director of inclusive design “to establish a point of view on what inclusive design means at Frog.”

Use Our Research To Build Your Job Description

If you’re a Forrester client hiring an accessibility expert, use content from our accessibility program manager role profile research when creating your job description. Or set up an inquiry with me to discuss!

I’m now working on a report outlining what the first 90 days in this role looks like. If you’re leading accessibility at your company and are willing to speak with me for my research, please send me a message on LinkedIn. I’d love to learn from you.

This article originally appeared on Forrester's Featured Blogs.

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