29 January 2020

How Accessibility impacts Service Management

Accessibility in the workplace is increasingly important. But what is it exactly? How does it impact service management? And what does TOPdesk do in this respect?

What is accessibility?

Accessibility, closely related to Inclusive design or Universal design, is about opening the world for all, regardless of obstacles. There are many people who find themselves at a distance from services or job opportunities due to a disability. While the word disability focusses on what people can't do, accessibility is about making the most of what people can do.

Rules and regulations: WCAG 2.1

Perhaps you came across this topic through a government requirement, like Section 508, Accessibility Regulations 2018 or the European Accessibility Act. These often build on non-discrimination laws, linking the subject to constitutional principles. But while the laws are varied, the eventual product requirements for software all come down one comprehensive standard: WCAG2.1.

In short, this standard is an extensive list of requirements for developing software and content that caters to as many people as possible. People with poor eyesight or who can't see at all, people who are dyslexic or struggle with understanding complex texts, but also people with a temporary disability like a broken arm or only having access to a mobile phone while on a plane.

Complying with these requirements can be done in three levels: A, AA and AAA, where the last one often serves to optimize for a specific group of people. Regulations typically aim for level AA, as does TOPdesk.

WCAG requirements are often very practical. Text should have contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between back- and foreground. Zooming should work up to 400% without getting both vertical and horizontal scrollbars. HTML elements should be used appropriately, so assistive tooling can understand the structure of a page. Things like that.

How does accessibility impact service management?

For service management, accessibility means offering your services, so anyone has access to them. Here, we split it up in tooling, content and the workplace.

Tooling: What does TOPdesk do?

Accessibility has been on our agenda for a while now. In developing our software, we strive to improve the user experience for everyone and apply the relevant accessibility standards. This determines for instance how we design our user interface and navigation, and we take into account browser compatibility concerning assistive technology.

For a full overview of what accessibility means to TOPdesk, check out our accessibility page.

For the Self-service portal, which is how you support how you support your customers, accessibility is extra important. The Self-Service Portal needs to be accessible and be able to accommodate everyone. To be WCAG compliant, the portal should work without a mouse, without a screen, on any device, and content needs to be understandable.

Content: What you can you do?

But accessibility goes beyond tooling. When you create content, for instance for knowledge items or a form on your self-service portal, you have a big role to play, too. If you use images in a supportive manner, always include a text alternative. Interactive elements need to be descriptive, avoiding hyperlinks with ambiguous labelling like 'click here' for example. Your content needs to be easy to read, avoiding complex words and long sentences if possible.

I personally like that last guideline as an example why digital accessibility is a good idea for everyone; who likes reading long texts written by lawyers, with sentences that go on forever? Understandable language helps me too! We know of some service organizations who got their text writers trained in accessibility, to ensure knowledge items and service pages meet standards.

Workplace: What can the organization do?

Looking at service management in a broader perspective, we should look at the services themselves. If your company hires someone with a disability, could your service organization cope and offer a suitable workplace?

One way to go about it is having accessible workplaces as the norm, not the exception. Here at TOPdesk, every desk is adjustable in height, which means people in a wheelchair can use flexible workspaces like any other. A recent hire with a disability got in expecting to have to ask for adjustments, as that’s her reality, but her workplace didn’t require any. This is a good start, but we’ve got plenty to learn still. If a blind developer would start tomorrow, we’d have to get a crash course in what that means in practice.

But we shouldn’t avoid hiring people with obstacles. In fact, aside from the moral arguments, there’s the very practical; every person is unique and some talent can be hard to come by, so limiting the size of the talent pool you can hire from doesn't make good business sense either.

Start now

In short, there are two great reasons to start addressing this subject at your organization.

  • You must abide by law, if not now, then soon.
  • Excluding people is bad, but hiring new talent and reaching more customers is good.

Using TOPdesk for managing your services is a good start, but there is more to it. Start the conversation in your organization: what does accessibility mean for you? There’s a learning curve and broad awareness can take time, so get the conversation started early.

Want to get in touch about this subject? TOPdesk is making big steps on the subject, and we have an accessibility team in place to ensure we do the right things. However, there is a lot left to learn for all of us. So feel free to contact us!