Edited by Hardik Bhatt, Chief Information Officer, Department of Innovation and Technology; Karen Tamley, Commissioner, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, City of Chicago. Contributors: Danielle DuMerer and Matthew Guilford, Department of Innovation & Technology; Laurie Dittman and Joseph Russo, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, City of Chicago
Local governments should build an organizational culture where technologists, civil servants, and the public hold themselves accountable to the spirit of inclusion. Local governments seeking to implement accessibility standards and processes should also win the "hearts and minds" of municipal employees, from frontline staff to program managers.
Efforts to raise awareness of the importance of inclusive technology practices should begin before standards are formally adopted. This could take the form of a short workshop for IT managers and technology liaisons in other business units. The workshop should include an introduction to accessible design principles and should highlight best practices and resources available in the enterprise to support development of accessible technologies. Workshop leaders should also communicate to attendees that the event is part of a broader inclusive technology initiative, and that more detailed guidelines are forthcoming.
Relevant stakeholders from the enterprise's technology community should be allowed to review and provide feedback on final drafts of policies or standards before they are enacted. This ensures buy-in and may also raise red flags regarding projects that may need to receive exemption from the rules. Once policies are enacted, senior local government executives should require all technology staff to attend detailed technical training on the standards. Many standards apply to offerings not typically within the purview of IT staff, such as online content or freestanding kiosks. Accordingly, separate, specialized training sessions may need to be held for web content authors, equipment managers and others. Trainings should be repeated at least annually to account for staff turnover.
As new technology systems are deployed, local governments should also incorporate accessibility components into training sessions. In addition to group training sessions, it is critical that employees have somewhere to go for more personalized, project-specific guidance when they encounter issues that aren't addressed in guidelines or policies. Local governments should designate a handful of individuals (and, in the long term, job positions) to serve as accessible technology liaisons to others in the enterprise. These individuals need not have the answers to all questions, but should be able to escalate issues to experts. Liaisons' work may be complemented by online resources and links that are placed in a central location on the organization's intranet or Internet site.
Lastly, showcasing internal case studies and best practices can be an important tool in encouraging employees to consider accessibility when designing technology solutions. Examples of instances where staff have taken particular initiative to be inclusive may easily be incorporated into training sessions and workshops. Success stories can also be shared through internal newsletters or awards programs.