At large companies, some of the most challenging aspects of managing an accessibility program relate to enterprise-wide awareness and adoption. Getting thousands of employees to understand accessible technology basics and integrate an accessibility mindset into their day-to-day work is no easy task. This type of systemic change can require an entire cultural shift. During a recent PEAT Talk, Capital One Senior Manager of Accessibility Mark Penicook shared some of their experiences in implementing a range of internal efforts to promote widespread awareness of accessibility standards and best practices.

Taking Accessibility to the Bank

Mark leads Capital One’s Digital Accessibility Team. This team works with the company’s designers, software engineers, managers, and product owners to ensure that all the company’s web, mobile, and messaging applications are usable by everyone, including those with disabilities.

Five years ago, when Mark and his team set out to promote accessibility within Capital One, they faced a key challenge: most colleagues they spoke with simply weren’t aware of accessibility in the first place. Even those familiar with the term often only understood it in the context of making physical spaces accessible. The Digital Accessibility Team knew they had their work cut out for them and ramped up their awareness-building efforts to educate their colleagues about digital accessibility.

Soon they encountered their next challenge: integrating accessibility into the early stages of the product design process. “The right way to accomplish accessibility without it feeling like an overwhelming additional burden,” Mark explained, “is not to bolt this on to the end of the process or try to correct things at the last minute.” Mark and his team promoted the benefits of earlier integration and better partnerships, but they still weren’t always recognized by other teams within Capital One. They encountered pushback from those who viewed accessibility as a difficult, complex task. Meanwhile, other teams expressed feelings that they didn’t have the expertise, time, or capacity to make accessibility fixes.

Creative Messaging Approaches

Mark and his team decided the next step was to educate everyone at Capital One that a dedicated team was available to assist them. They created a logo, stickers, and other branding materials to spread the word among their 40,000 associates across the globe. They also developed a video showcasing the accessibility experiences of three people with disabilities. The end product was highly successful, and this video is now a part almost every presentation that his team does, including their annual computer-based job training.

Mark also saw an opportunity to reach new Capital One employees during their onboarding orientations. Because new hires are given so much information during orientation, Mark’s team focused on making their presentation concise, memorable, and interactive. For example, one Digital Accessibility Team member who plays guitar asked participants what accessibility means to them in one word, and then used those words to make up a song that he sang on the spot.

The Capital One Digital Accessibility Team works hard to foster and maintain partnerships throughout the company, not just because it’s good for business, but also because of their belief that it’s the right thing to do. And as Mark reflected, “if we do well at accessibility, we’re almost guaranteed to have a better product, a better design, a better code base, a more usable interface or interaction for literally everyone.”

Learn more about Capital One’s digital accessibility awareness initiatives by checking out the archived PEAT Talk. And in the comments, please let us know how your business is working to promote the importance of digital accessibility company-wide.