Stop general staff sabotaging accessibility

Great: you upgraded your CMS so that software and existing content now complies with WCAG 2.0 AA. Problem: accessible technology does not guarantee accessible content. Your staff continue to sabotage accessibility by uploading content that breaks all the rules.

How general staff sabotage accessibility
Accessibility is not a trivial issue. Accessibility is central to participation, democracy, human rights, public health, and communication.

However, most staff don't understand (or care about) the need for accessible content. Even in MS Word, very few use templates and Styles correctly, or complete Properties. They can't even create an accessible document, let alone an accessible PDF. They misuse your CMS. They lack the most basic digital writing skills.

General staff don't deliberately sabotage your web site: they need help.

They aren't trained in the necessary skills, because:

  • The accessibility budget was spent on technology and training a few specialist staff.
  • WCAG 2.0 is far too big and complicated for general staff.
  • Most accessibility training is too expensive for all your content authors. (Contented training is the exception!)

Why staff need to know how to create accessible content
Surely the answer is obvious: untrained general staff create and publish most of the content for your web sites and intranets. So the mountain of inaccessible web pages, intranet pages and PDFs grows daily. Specialist staff do not have time to fix the problems—nor should they.

Reducing staff sabotage
Training all desk staff to create accessible, searchable content is a huge commitment. With no budget and little support, how can you possibly cope?

I suggest you take a cue from my mother. People used to ask her, “You had six daughters in eight years? How on earth did you cope?”

She would answer serenely, “I only had one at a time.”

So start small and pace yourself—and just do one thing at a time!

For example, here are some simple, free ways you can raise capability in your organisation.

  • Make new CMS and Word templates that are user-friendly as well as accessible: just one at a time!
  • Provide a tiny guide to their use that explains the benefits.
  • Start a writing community on your intranet. Publish tips and checklists (one at a time), encourage discussion, praise success, and publicise before-and-after examples of accessible content (one at a time).
  • Identify the most-used 5-20% of PDFs on your web sites and make them accessible. Archive most of the remainder.
  • Start small, see what works and do it again.

To crank up progress, find some training budget. You know you can: it's lurking somewhere in your organisation, tagged for accessibility projects, other IT projects, professional development, community consultation, communications, HR, health and safety—whatever.

Compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level A is required for all Australian government web sites and intranets by 31 December 2012. If 1% of the budget of every IT project were tagged for general staff training, staff sabotage of accessibility would decrease dramatically, and ROI would rocket.

Originally posted on



Jul 30, 2012 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

They like an outing every now and then!

Jul 27, 2012 • Posted by Suraya Casey

Nice to see the periwinkles in uniform again.

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