How everyone in your organization contributes to accessibility
Creating a culture of workplace accessibility starts in the parking lot and doesn’t end until every visitor, client, and employee can independently navigate, communicate, and contribute to your business Many people assume that making a company accessible falls to the human resources team While it might start with HR, it certainly doesn’t end there. It is the responsibility of all employees, from intern to C-suite, to create a culture where everyone is successful and valued for their contributions. Accessibility is everyone’s job.
Human resources (HR)
The job of human resources is to recruit and retain the best talent for the company. That means casting a wide net to ensure candidates from every possible applicant pool are selected. Job postings must be accessible to people using assistive technology, internally and externally. Consider posting openings on job boards for people with disabilities and other diversity-focused platforms.
Remember to ensure resume submission, pre-employment screening, skills tests, and the entire interview process is accessible. All components of employee interviewing and on-boarding must be accessible. Phone interviews should provide alternatives for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Any digital conferencing platforms must be accessible to those with visual or motor disabilities. Any in-person interview locations must be fully wheelchair accessible and easily navigable by applicants using a cane, service animal, or other mobility aid.
All physical and digital internal company spaces, from intranet sites to meeting rooms, should be accessible for all employees. This includes websites where employees access benefits such as time off, insurance information, training videos, and timekeeping. HR must also be sure to make and document accommodations for all employees who need them. This can include flexible work schedules and locations, enlarged keyboards, specialized software or modified workspaces.
Provide training sessions to raise awareness of disabilities and other diverse groups and how employees can contribute to inclusive workplace culture. Demonstrate your company’s intolerance for discrimination by coaching employees to stand up for diverse members of the workforce. Accessibility is everyone’s job, and it starts with human resources.
Managers and supervisors
As workplace leaders, it’s imperative that managers and supervisors set the tone for inclusive culture by modeling inclusive behavior. By setting the same high expectations for everyone, leaders demonstrate their trust that all employees can complete their jobs successfully when properly accommodated. They must also make those accommodations available. Managers should make it clear that their employees are free to request any accommodations they need to do their best work.
Leaders should show their commitment to inclusivity in concrete ways. This includes making sure meetings are accessible to everyone. This can be done by using places that have ample space for wheelchairs, providing a sign language interpreter, and sending out assistive-technology-compatible presentations ahead of time. Managers should be aware of employees’ needs and take them into consideration when planning meetings and other events.
If a manager is involved in an interview, it’s important that the hiring manager educates them regarding questions to ask the candidate, particularly regarding disabilities. Questions to the candidate should focus on what relevant skills or experiences they bring to the position. Questions should not address how a person is able to accomplish those things or what accommodations they need. A discussion about necessary accommodations can take place once the candidate is hired.
Performance reviews must equally and fairly assess all employees so that everyone is expected to perform to the same clearly defined standards. Communicate where and how employees can improve, focusing on specific tasks that can be improved, not the disability.
Accessibility is everyone’s job, and it cannot happen without leadership support.
Ensure all messaging is accessible to everyone to convey your message to the widest possible audience. A company website is the first stop for potential customers and employees and has the ability to reach the largest number of people. As such, it is important to ensure all web content is accessible. Important accessibility features include providing alt text for images, tagging PDFs, captioning video and audio content, and allowing keyboard navigation capabilities. Use WCAG guidelines to make sure all digital resources are ADA compliant and accessible. Other digital marketing pieces like e-newsletters, emails, social media posts and apps should also be accessible.
Printed documents such as brochures, conference flyers, and mailers should feature high-contrast colors, large fonts, and language that is easy to understand. Make those documents available digitally after (or during) any events at which they are provided. In this way, those with visual disabilities can access them using assistive technology. The digital documents will need to be accessible as well. People with visual disabilities will sometimes request Braille copies of printed material, but most would prefer an accessible digital copy since Braille can be bulky to carry.
Accessibility is everyone’s job, and marketing must set an example with the highest visibility in any organization.
In order for the order management process to run smoothly, everyone involved must be able to read and understand invoices and bills. Make sure invoices are in accessible formats so customers can understand and pay them, including assistive technology users. Spreadsheets, graphs, charts, and other non-text documents should include detailed descriptions so those using assistive technology can understand and use them.
Company boards of directors and shareholders should be provided with earnings statements in accessible formats and should include simplified summary paragraphs to explain complicated terminology or jargon.
Accessibility is everyone’s job and finance is no different.
Information technology (IT)
When developing internal or external websites or evaluating new technology, be sure to consider the needs of all users and employees, including those who use alternative methods or assistive technology. It’s best to reference WCAG for guidelines on inclusive design and best practices for making technology accessible to everyone, as well as maintaining ADA compliance. Referencing VPATs for software and other tools can help inform decisions about the accessibility of technology.
If employees have asked IT for accommodations in order to complete their work, those accommodations should be the first priority so productivity is not interrupted. This also ensures ADA compliance.
As buyers set criteria for identifying and selecting the best products and services for the company, every person in the company and their abilities must be considered. If a company doesn’t currently employ people who need accommodations it should prepare for a time when it does. Choose inclusive products and services such as software that includes accessibility features, equipment that can be used by people using mobility aids, and labels and signs that include braille.
Purchasers should be familiar with VPATs and request them for all products they consider purchasing. Demonstrate a commitment to accessibility by choosing to support other companies who value inclusivity when possible.
Accessibility is everyone’s job. IT and Purchasing need to ensure it applies to your organization’s software and platforms to include everyone.
Recognize that potential clients may have varying communication needs. When reaching out to new leads, ask what communication methods work best for them. Keep notes on clients who prefer one method of communication over another, or if they require any other accommodations.
Use accessible online meeting tools when planning a virtual meeting. Send out any presentations ahead of time to give the other participants time to review.
Work with marketing to ensure sales materials are accessible before sending them out to clients, including emails. Be prepared to answer questions about how products or services are accessible to everyone or can be modified to accommodate all users. Be familiar with the VPAT(s) for your organization’s products, which describe a product’s accessibility features.
When sending out Statements of Work (SOW) be sure they’re accessible so that everyone knows exactly what will be involved in a transaction.
Accessibility is everyone’s job, especially those who interact with customers.
All customers must be supported so that products or services can be used effectively and efficiently by everyone. That includes being able to answer questions and address concerns by whatever method works best for the customer. Be reachable by a variety of communication methods, such as phone, email, accessible chatbot, video conferencing with a sign language interpreter, or relay service. Be flexible – not all accommodations work for everyone, not even people with the same disabilities. Accessibility is everyone’s job, and support is one of the most forward-facing of any organization’s moving parts. Be sure you can accommodate every customer.
It is especially important that documents be readable by anyone who will need to sign them. Make sure documents are available to all parties involved in a variety of formats. Consider making the language as simplified as possible, and include descriptive headings so the document is easy to search and navigate. Accessibility is everyone’s job, and legal must protect the organization by ensuring documents are usable by everyone.
Inclusive Culture is Everyone’s Responsibility
Creating a truly inclusive company culture is everyone’s job. Every department can contribute to accessible culture by considering the unique needs and abilities of every employee. Accessibility should be a consideration for every aspect of a company. That includes work and meeting spaces, to phone and digital communications, to physical and digital workplace tools. Accessibility is everyone’s job, and adopting accessibility culture allows your organization to include everyone, and reach everyone.
Need help creating a workplace where diversity is celebrated? Contact us to learn more about creating accessibility culture in your organization.
Nina comes to Onix with years of sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries, and holds a BS in Language Arts Education. Nina has a passion for words, storytelling, and information, which she believes everyone should have access to regardless of ability. After spending time as a teacher with a blind student, she became much more aware of the limitations and abilities of web accessibility, and how essential it is to those experiencing disabilities. “Being able to access information equally ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity for education, employment, and success in life.”