WCAG Compliance: A Digital Transformation Strategy?

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As years of digital growth have been pushed in to overdrive due the COVID-19 Pandemic, I am wondering if an organizational leader has or will use WCAG Compliance as means to an end of ensuring their online experience is impeccable for everyone. In other words, will a leader use a WCAG Compliance mantra as the Trojan Horse to get the digital transformation they need?

You might ask yourself, isn’t WCAG Compliance an end unto itself? It is, but, unfortunately in the business conscious of today, only strictly in a legal and compliance sense. The only question asked is, “how do we stay out of trouble?” Might it be useful as a means, a hammer, to forge an organization’s digital presence in a way that the market demands? As I pondered this, I thought about Paul O’Neil.  

If you are unfamiliar, Paul O’Neil was the CEO of Alcoa, one of the world’s largest producers of aluminum, who oversaw an enormous and, at first, bizarre transformation of a business that was in the dumps. Alcoa under Paul O’Neil is a popular case study in business transformation and habit formation. Under his leadership the company went from $3 Billion in market value to $27 Billion. And he did it by religiously and tenaciously increasing the safety record of the company. He made it the bottom line in everything they did with no exceptions. His major initiative wasn’t based in financial engineering or operational improvement for its own sake but in safety. This made investors nervous and confused employees.

Aluminum Plant

At the time O’Neil took over the safety record was good for a company that involved machines and 1500-degree heat, which could and did cause death and horrendous injury. His zeal for safety and zero injuries improved the communications and operational processes and infrastructure that translated into revenue and success. As an example, the communications system and culture built for safety was then also used for other business-related matters.    

Could WCAG Compliance be used in the same way safety was by Paul O’Neil? Absolutely. What if a CEO or President decided to impose WCAG religiously in every digital media project undertaken? The product and usability for all users would be extraordinary. The result, an all-inclusive digital footprint, should certainly compel an organization’s legal, corporate social and marketing operations to action as it keeps lawsuits at bay, engages the largest minority population and opens up the funnel fully to millions more potential users for online conversions. There are enormous benefits beyond avoiding lawsuits.  

Here at User1st where we work with some big organizations on implementing web accessibility, we run across inefficiencies that need to be fixed prior to constructing and implementing a web accessibility program. At a start of a project, as an example, some of our customers don’t have a fully organized and easily categorized inventory of all of their digital assets so we start there. We need this inventory as a baseline to build a holistic web accessibility program. Then, over the course of the project, we discover all sorts of non-WCAG Compliance issues that go against best digital practices, which we then hand over to the customer to address. As well, and as a last example, when we actually implement WCAG, we get into very fruitful discussions about user experience improvements and options that benefit all users, not only those with disabilities.  

Like safety was for Paul O’Neil and Alcoa, a mantra of WCAG Compliance and strict enforcement by a determined leader would yield a remarkable and efficient digital user experience and quite a story to boot. Perhaps a clever leader like Paul O’Neil is out there already taking the initiative.  

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