Businesses that will thrive in the economy of tomorrow recognize that meeting the needs of diverse populations is key to their business model today. But an often-under-recognized group is those with disabilities. In fact, providing increased access to technologies that meet the needs of persons with disabilities lays the foundation for inclusive work cultures that enable these employees to thrive—presenting a tremendous opportunity.
Accenture believes that enterprises have a powerful role to play in ensuring technology helps bridge the divide for people with disabilities. Our Global IT Accessibility practice is designing a work experience to help all employees feel that they belong, personally and professionally, and contribute to a culture of equality. A major component of this effort is creating accessibility in the workplace that removes barriers for persons with disabilities—both hidden and visible, so they can succeed.
To address accessibility company-wide, a team within our Global IT organization in collaboration with other Accenture teams is carrying out a program to have all of Accenture people’s interactions with software, devices and services be compliant with globally defined accessibility standards. The approach is holistic—spanning environmental, technological, and behavioral aspects in the workplace to address any permanent, temporary and situational circumstance.
Accenture formalized a Global IT Accessibility practice and defined an accessibility program charter, created a virtual Accessibility Center of Excellence and mapped out a multi-year plan of initiatives.
Where we started
Initially, our IT program team faced the challenge of determining how to drive technology adjustments to make all interactions with Accenture’s technology accessible (according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines1 [WCAG] 2.1 AA) and generally striving to improve each employee’s digital user experience. We started with gaining an understanding of the scope of the technology involved. We also conducted a survey among Accenture’s disability champions to help uncover technology usage pain points.
From there, our team defined an accessibility program charter, established a virtual accessibility center of excellence and mapped out a multi-year plan defining key initiatives to remediate our technology to be more inclusive. We prioritized high-use, high-impact applications. To better enable behavioral change, our team collaborated with Accenture Interactive and its Fjord arm to leverage their inclusive, human-centered design capabilities in shaping solutions. The knowledge and range of disciplines we gained and continue to gain are captured in our Accessibility Center of Excellence that is expanding in people, activities, services and idea generation.
1A series of guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet.
"We are removing barriers in technology to make all of our employees, regardless of their ability, more productive."
— Melissa Summers, Managing Director – Global IT, Corporate Technology, Accenture
Where we are
We proactively infuse accessibility up front in the technology development and design journey. We’re doing this by establishing accessibility steps among software developers and applying the same disciplines as for code issues, security or other performance standards. This required us to provide training courses to educate developers on what they need to understand, test and evaluate as they work with UI developers and develop code. Agile design reviews are conducted to identify problem areas before development.
We continue to transition legacy applications and tools to more accessible design and functionality. As software, web pages and systems are made accessible, we use ongoing automated monitoring scans and mandated checks to keep them that way.
We’re also working across the ecosystem, with partners and vendors, to increase accessibility inside and outside the company. A key partner relationship is with Microsoft. Accenture runs on Office 365 productivity services that include a wealth of built-in accessibility features. Our collaboration with Microsoft involves providing ideas to increase accessibility of Microsoft products, implementing early versions of accessibility features and sending feedback on the implementations.
As part of this partner relationship, team members from both our organizations are exploring the development of new ways to create content with little or no effort using the Microsoft artificial intelligence platform so that Microsoft Office 365 content is accessible by default. We are also piloting a document accessibility scanner for Accenture’s extensive Knowledge Exchange repository, pre-release testing for accessibility functionalities and involvement on the Microsoft Inclusive Workplace Council. This council meets quarterly and focuses on how to move assistive technology capabilities, such as voice input, forward.
In terms of content, Accenture is also addressing web-based and audio media in the form of videos, webcasts and live broadcasts. A great deal of this media includes learning assets. For new video and broadcast media content created, Accenture has implemented closed captioning by default and real-time closed captioning for live events. Our team is now working backward to make high-usage previously recorded content captioned.
With vendors, Accenture has incorporated accessibility requirements into master service agreements, request for proposals and contracts. We are also working with vendors to uplift their accessibility capabilities. This collaboration can take the form of testing and recommending product accessibility refinement. Through our partner relationship with Microsoft, we are increasing supplier awareness through a joint training platform.
Enabling technology accessibility at Accenture
A passionate, dedicated team comprised of a diverse group of approximately 30 individuals Accenture-wide, including a high number of employees with disabilities, make up Accenture’s Accessibility Center of Excellence. Individuals on the team collaborate on design concepts, partner with Accenture application teams and vendors, and test for inclusive user experience, among other activities. They also join around 100 of our employees to represent Accenture in the Microsoft Insider Office program to serve as providers of feedback on new functionalities.
Meet Sergio, Beatriz and Jonathan. They are change makers opening doors and shedding light on what it feels like to work in an inclusive, accessible and barrier-free environment. And they are part of Accenture's Accessibility Center of Excellence team, ensuring that people with all abilities have equal opportunities. Read the blog.
Where we are headed
Going forward, we want to embed accessibility forethought into everyday technology and content design. We plan to use artificial intelligence and advanced technologies to enable seamless navigation for employees.
Main focus areas of Accenture’s accessibility journey:
IT accessibility requirements
Accessibility training courses
Agile design reviews
Established accessibility checkpoints
Online monitoring service
Content creation and consumption
Addressing new content on Microsoft Office 365
Piloted Microsoft AI products with Accenture employees
Procuring for accessibility
Vendors must meet accessibility guidelines
Partner with providers, like Microsoft, to promote accessibility of software products
A valuable difference
As a company applying the “New” now, Accenture is convinced accessibility benefits everyone in the organization—not only those with disabilities. With our Global IT accessibility program, we are making progress in making all of Accenture people’s interactions with software, devices and services compliant with globally defined accessibility standards. We are also making progress in educating of our Global IT organization to build accessibility into interactions from the start—for both application and content development.
Accenture’s aspirations are to become the industry role model for accessibility and the leading company in the accessibility ecosystem, drawing on our own achievements. Companies and organizations look to us to learn from our success and follow our example, learn how to start their own accessibility journeys and make use of our best practices.
Highlights of our accessibility program achievements include:
Number of internal websites expected to be WCAG 2.1 AA compliant by completion of year 3.
Approximate number of Accenture developers trained on accessibility over three years.
New Accenture video and broadcast content automatically captioned.
A virtual Accessibility Center of Excellence established, consisting of people, knowledge, disciplines, services and idea generation.
Received Disability Equality Index (US) perfect 100 out of 100 score for 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Meet the team
Managing Director – Global IT, Corporate Technology