What is a Digital Accessibility Maturity Model?

An internet user at work, typing on a keyboard.

A Digital Accessibility Maturity Model (DAMM) enables organisations to measure how mature their accessibility levels are. 

But how can a DAMM be useful to you in your context? 

In this blog post, we’ll offer an overview of what a DAMM is. But we’ll also share how it could be beneficial in determining accessibility levels among your students and staff. 

We’ll also show you how you can sense-check whether you’re running the right software and hardware that ensures inclusivity for students. In particular, this post may be useful for anyone who leads an e-learning department and wants to make sure they’re being as inclusive as possible.

What is a DAMM?

A Digital Accessibility Maturity Model is a maturity measurement tool. Specifically, it measures how mature an organisation is when it comes to digital accessibility. 

To determine levels of maturity in digital accessibility, a DAMM will assess particular aspects and dimensions in an organisation. The W3C model defines these dimensions as:

  • Communications
  • Culture
  • Support
  • Personnel
  • Procurement
  • Knowledge and Skills
  • ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Development Life Cycle

A DAMM can also review the maturity of digital accessibility in terms of both short and long-term strategies.

Why is a DAMM important?

A Digital Accessibility Maturity Model is important for every modern organisation. And that’s because it supports inclusivity for anyone who engages with digital media or IT. And that’s pretty much most organisations today. 

A DAMM can also help organisations to judge how much they’re at the forefront of providing digital services. Because, not only can this help with highlighting potential risks, but it will go a long way towards ensuring universities and colleges remain competitive. When over 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning difficulty, HE and FE institutions must do everything they can to attract applicants from a variety of backgrounds. By showing they can meet all students’ accessibility needs, these institutions can boost applicant numbers and improve their rankings.

The five levels of accessibility maturity

A Digital Accessibility Maturity Model is a framework that uses five levels. Here, we’ll touch on each one and show you what to look out for when assessing your own situation.

Level 1 – Initial 

The initial stage applies to any organisations starting out with assessing their digital accessibility. Or, otherwise, they may be going through organisational change or expansion.

At this level, processes are likely to be ad-hoc, reactive, and in need of formalisation. 

Level 2 – Managed

At this level, an organisation may have some knowledge of digital accessibility. For example, they may have appointed some individuals to lead in this area. Or they may have conducted an evaluation.

Validation is likely to come from assessing how organisational processes are implemented.

Level 3 – Defined

Organisations at level 3 will have established processes, gained internal stakeholder buy-in and even made improvements off the back of their findings.

These organisations will have set the foundations for success but now need support for them to take off in a formal and sustained way. 

Level 4 – Quantitatively Managed

At this level things may be quite mature in digital accessibility, with management engaged and processes in place. But it is possible that things may begin to suffer from stagnation. For example, processes may be being measured but accountability may be missing. 

Due to the results seen at this time, the advancement of digital accessibility may start to decline.

Level 5 – Optimising

The highest level of digital accessibility shows organisations that prioritise digital accessibility in every aspect. They experience an organisation-wide commitment to digital accessibility and validate this using key metrics and ongoing process improvement.

How to do a DAMM assessment

So how can you get assessed to understand your level of maturity when it comes to digital accessibility? 

DAMM assessments or DAMM audits are conducted to help organisations review and evaluate which capability level they sit at in the Digital Accessibility Maturity Model. And, to conduct a DAMM audit, most organisations will need to engage with an internal audit team or external provider. This auditing team may also carry out the following processes: 

  • Benchmark an organisation’s current accessibility programme against quality ratings
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of processes
  • Uncover areas for development
  • Review and rate risks
  • Conduct user testing

Several companies can help with carrying out an audit or assessment. And one that we recommend for HE and FE institutions is Ability Net.

Ability Net

In their recent impact report, Ability Net showed they’d conducted a total of over 1,000 accessibility audits. And during these audits, Ability Net uncovered over 13,000 accessibility issues.  

And as part of their assessments, they use a bespoke accessibility maturity model built around an original concept by education consultant Alistair McNaught. And this is something they’ve been using for several years to great effect. 

To get a flavour of what to expect from Ability Net, have a listen to their podcast with Alistair McNaught on the topic of maturity models.

Ability Net also offers a free template to check how you compare with others. To download it, all you need to do is enter your details online.

Use Caption.Ed to ensure you are providing brilliant digital accessibility for all

Caption.Ed offers an effective digital accessibility tool that can cover off many accessibility requirements.

For example, HE and FE institutions that subscribe to Caption.Ed are ensuring that students and faculty with specific learning differences can easily add closed captioning to all online learning, across all platforms. 

But Caption.Ed is also adaptable and gives students and faculty the chance to make adjustments to the size and style of fonts. Plus, they can even turn on dark mode for anyone who experiences light sensitivities

With the ability to add notes to all transcriptions, Caption.Ed is a dynamic digital accessibility tool that is powering the maturity of digital accessibility in many HE and FE institutions across the UK and beyond. 

Find out how Caption.Ed could support your digital accessibility by following this link and getting a free trial.

Free trial - get full access to Caption.Ed for 30 days for free. Sign up now.