Providing as much accessibility as possible is the highest goal of most employers and business owners. Many articles and how-to guides exist on setting up accessible features and providing accommodations. Still, there is less information on determining success in your accessibility endeavors. What are the guidelines to decide if the hard work you’ve put into your accessibility best practices has paid off?
S.M.A.R.T. goals are the most well-known standards to identify and measure success. They are popular because they are adaptable to fit specific businesses in various industries. Utilizing these goals, tailored to your needs, can help give you a sense of where you are concerning your accessibility practices.
Step one: specify goals
The first step in S.M.A.R.T. goals and the resultant measuring of your success is to ensure your goals are specific. The more detailed and narrow your definition of your goals, the easier it is to determine if you have been successful, and the more likely it is to have a positive outcome.
The key takeaway from a specific goal is to ask yourself what will be accomplished and what you hope to achieve. These questions help narrow and specify your goal and serve as a foundation for your success metrics. For example, an e-commerce company selling household goods may decide their specific goals include increasing their appeal to customers using wheelchairs.
Focusing on one facet of accessibility – in this example, customers who use wheelchairs – helps narrow down the focus in defining success. Having a more broad goal, such as increasing your customer base to include more people with disabilities, is vague and does not allow for a simple, definable answer to the question of your success. While the broad goal is noble, being more specific is the best way to quantify whether or not you have met your goals.
Step two: measurable action
The ‘M.’ of S.M.A.RT goals stands for ‘measurable.’ Measurable goals and specific goals provide a benchmark for your success. Defining your goals is an excellent start, but knowing how to measure success is important. Creating a plan with measurable goals can help.
This goes hand-in-hand with narrowing your scope in terms of goals. It is much more challenging to graph your successes and failures with a broad goal, like increasing access to people with disabilities. There are a lot of variables in that goal, which makes defining clear success hard.
A good example of a measurable goal is increasing the sales of accessible products by five percent. A plan like this makes it clear what success would look like: a five percent increase in sales. A failure would be not increasing sales by five percent. Having a strong benchmark allows you to adjust your performance and determine what you can do better to reach your goals.
Step three: achievable goals
The most important part of setting goals is to make them achievable and realistic. Realistic goals center you and aid in your ultimate success. Narrow scopes are the biggest achievement factor, like specific and measurable goals. Another factor is setting small goals.
Small goals can include things like I will create a plan to increase accessibility by March, or I will set a date for ADA training by May. These goals may seem tiny and even insignificant, but they are very achievable. They are also less likely to overwhelm you or your employees than things like creating a perfectly accessible environment.
Achievable goals allow for steps to help tackle the completion of the goal. For example, aiming to provide ADA training by May can easily be broken down into steps like finding a training partner, setting a date, creating an email for your employees, and answering any questions. Having steps like this combined with a narrow goal can significantly increase your chances for success and allow for a more simple determination of success – i.e., did you follow the steps and get the desired outcome?
Step four: relevancy
Setting goals with your competition or current trends in mind may be tempting. However, knowing your business, your customers, and your employees is also important. If your company only employs remote workers or exclusively deals in e-commerce, some accessibility goals may not apply. For example, it doesn’t make sense to focus on creating a physical ADA accommodating space if no one will be visiting.
Focusing on relevance can also reduce potential accessibility failures and increase success. It can also improve long-term goals unrelated to accessibility by boosting morale. A relevant goal for a video-hosting company, for example, is to provide closed captioning on every video.
Relevancy does not just refer to content but to the process. A small video hosting site may not have the budget to provide closed captioning but may be able to implement a feature to allow users to input their own closed captioning. This is still a good goal but is more relevant to the company’s ability to achieve a goal.
Step five: time-bound
It’s no secret that deadlines often provide for better work. Giving employees a time frame to do their work allows them to structure their day and, in turn, usually ensures work will be completed. It’s also the last step in your S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Once you have a specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant goal, you must arrange a time frame to complete it. It may be built-in to specific goals, like the goal of creating an ADA training by May. Still, for others, like increasing sales of accessible products by five percent, a time frame can mean the difference between success and failure.
Depending on the context of the goal, a reasonable time frame can be a few months to a year. It’s important to be realistic – you don’t want to create stress by not allowing for a reasonable amount of time. Still, you don’t want to threaten your chances of success by giving too much time and allowing yourself or employees to procrastinate excessively. A reasonable and specific time frame can give you a date to work toward and allow you to break down your goal in timely steps further.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are the best way to determine whether your accessibility aspirations have succeeded. From there, you can develop a continuous improvement plan or return to the drawing board if the goal has yet to be reached.