Why Accessibility Is A CIO’s New Responsibility

CIOs need to start to consider the needs of disabled workers
CIOs need to start to consider the needs of disabled workers
Image Credit: Leo Reynolds

CIOs need to understand that the environment in which their company operates is changing. Two important things are happening at the same time. The first is that a lot of us are becoming older. As we age, things like mobility and vision start to degrade and this means that we are starting to become more and more like disabled users and coworkers. At the same time, the millennials are entering the workplace and they are very socially conscious so mainstreaming people with different abilities is very important to them. As the person with the CIO job, because of the importance of information technology you are going to have to make sure that your IT solutions are going to be accessible.

Why Should CIOs Care About Accessibility?

One of the challenges of being a successful CIO is that we always need to be aware of what is going on around us. A significant change that is currently occurring is that the makeup of the workforce is changing. In addition to more older people being in the workplace, there are additional disabled workers. All of these people bring fantastic skills and problem solving abilities to work, it’s the job of the CIO to make sure that the company is going to be able to tap into what they can offer.

In addition, the regulatory environment is changing. Here where I live in the U.S., the government has just enacted a set of new regulations that govern firms that contract with the government. The government is trying to get these firms to have up to 7% of their workforce be disabled. Clearly this is going to have a ripple effect and CIOs are going to have to be ready when the fallout reaches them.

What Can A CIO Do To Increase Accessibility?

Knowing that you need to do something is only the start. Once you know, you then have to set about doing it. The first thing that the person in the CIO job needs to do is to start to work accessibility into the design work that is done by the IT department. What this is going to mean is that you are going to have to start to embed accessibility into the training that you provide to your department’s developers. No longer can you test for accessibility, rather it’s going to have to be baked in from the start.

As a CIO you are going to have to develop an understanding of just exactly what accessibility is all about. What we’re going to have to start to understand is that accessibility is really a very user-experence-based-concept. As the company’s CIO you are going to have to help the company to recognize the market demand for products and services that are more accessible. This is going to require you to become more sensitive to what your disabled workers are going to be needing from the IT department.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Once again we are starting to discover that CIOs have yet another new job – implementing accessibility. The makeup of the workers at your company is changing as workers get older and more and more disabled workers start to show up. This means that as the CIO you are going to have to take action to make sure that the work environment is going to be able to support them.

The first thing that you are going to have to do is to change the way that design happens in your IT department. Accessibility is going to have to become a core part of how design is done, not something that is tested for later on. As the CIO you are going to have to jump in and experience what the need for accessibility is all about. This means remaining sensitive to what your users are telling you and making sure that the IT department reacts quickly to it.

The great thing about creating an IT department that treats accessibility as a high priority is that you’ll be able to create the products that everyone wants to have. Your products will be easy to use by everyone – including those people who are disabled. The result of making accessibility a key driver of your IT designs will make your IT department a place where more people want to work and will make your products and services more desirable.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to measure how accessible your IT products and services are?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

During my career, I’ve been fired twice. I can tell you from personal experience, it’s never a good feeling. As CIO, you have a highly visible position within the company and there is a lot riding on you. If you are not able to deliver what the company needs from you, there is a very good chance they are going to end up getting rid of you and replacing you with someone who can do what they need to have done. What you need right now is some advice on how to not get fired!