Communicating Your Commitment to Accessibility: Tips for Employers
One of PEAT’s primary goals is to help employers understand how to ensure their information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is accessible to all employees—and to help them understand the strong business case for doing so. For some employers, the most effective way of adopting an accessible technology mindset is establishing a formal effort—a structured initiative focused on buying and implementing accessible technology that can be used by all current and potential employees. You can learn more about starting or enhancing such an effort by using PEAT’s TechCheck tool. But, regardless of whether you adopt a formal initiative or take a more informal approach, once your company commits to increasing the accessibility of its workplace technology, it is smart to communicate that commitment, both internally and externally.
Communicating with Job Seekers
A fundamental goal of your accessibility initiative should be to implement accessible online job applications, prescreening systems, and other human resources (HR) processes to ensure all qualified individuals, including those with disabilities, can apply for openings at your company—and advance once on the job. Once these accessible systems are in place, you’ll want to let people know. Typical strategies include statements on your public-facing website and application systems.
For instance, the recruitment section of your website should include language about your organization’s commitment to equal opportunity for applicants with disabilities—as well as specific strategies for ensuring equal opportunity, one of which is accessible technology. Such a statement goes a long way toward communicating an inclusive workplace culture that seeks the skills and talents of all applicants.
A public expression of commitment to accessible technology would typically follow your company’s standard equal opportunity and non-discrimination statement, and can be short and direct. For example,
As part of our commitment to equal opportunity, we strive to promote an accessible workplace for all employees, not only physically, but digitally, through accessible workplace technologies, including an accessible online application system.
Communicating with New Hires
Your organization’s HR professionals play a significant role in communicating your commitment to accessibility. For instance, during the onboarding and orientation process, new employees should be educated on related policies and procedures. Language about the organization’s commitment to equal opportunity, non-discrimination, and an accessible workplace, should appear in employee handbooks and on company intranets.
Whether through formal training or in informal orientation meetings, you should provide new hires with information on their rights to reasonable accommodations, which might include assistive technology and/or accessible technology, and the process for requesting them. For more information on reasonable accommodations, both in general and specifically related to technology, contact the Job Accommodation Network.
Communicating with Existing Employees
It is critical to institutionalize your commitment to accessible technology at all levels—from your top executive team on down. Internal communication is a key strategy for raising awareness and adopting an accessibility mindset. The key to this is internal education, which often is woven into broader diversity and inclusion efforts.
To assist in this, PEAT advises companies to build an accessibility team that includes staff from HR, information technology (IT), procurement, facilities, and other appropriate divisions. Ideally, this team will have strong support and leadership. (Be sure to read Follow—and Join— the Accessibility Leader for ideas on recruiting leadership.) Some company leaders further amplify the accessibility message by making inclusion part of executives’ performance measures. Similarly, they might assign members of top management to sponsor an Employee Resource Group through which accessibility barriers can be identified and addressed.
Companies can also communicate their commitment at a more practical level, through internal accessibility training. For example, internal IT staff can be trained on how accessibility factors into the product development process, hiring managers and HR staff can be trained on the accessibility features of online talent management platforms, and procurement staff can be trained on ways to build accessibility requirements into requests for proposals.
Just as important, all of a company’s accessibility policies and practices should be communicated internally—through the HR function, through individual managers, and through staff e-mails, employee handbooks, and corporate intranets. In addition, some companies leverage their employee newsletters to educate staff on accessibility issues, involving their leadership and employees to help illustrate the importance.
- Oracle Corporation, for example, publishes a staff newsletter called, Dimensions of Diversity, which has featured articles on “The Challenges of PDF Accessibility,” “Creating Accessible Multimedia,” and other helpful topics.
- Ernst & Young produces a series of “AccessAbilities Minutes.” These 60-second videos share strategies for fostering an inclusive workplace, including the use of accessible technology.
The inclusion of such content helps reinforce, on a regular basis, the company’s commitment to ensuring all employees have access to the tools they need to do their job and deliver for their employer.
Many employers also include a general accessibility statement on their corporate websites to explain how users with disabilities can improve their browsing experience. The W3C offers guidance for drafting an accessibility statement, including a Generator Tool.
Although fairly simple, such statements are an important way of communicating your commitment to inclusiveness, in both the workplace and marketplace. Of course, if your website is compliant with accessibility standards, you also may want to promote that. To do so, some companies choose to include accessibility badges in the footer of their websites. For example, if your site conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 or WCAG 2.0), which is the international set of technical guidelines produced by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WCAG 2.0 includes general guidance, with detailed information about solutions, and 3 levels of compliance.