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With the rapid acceleration towards digital resulting from the shift to remote work during the pandemic, the need for strong digital accessibility support for people with disabilities became clearer in all sectors. While this shift to remote work has created a positive impact for many people, including some with disabilities, it has also raised awareness of more accessible option opportunities to serve a diverse audience. In a recent Adobe survey, we found that more than three-quarters of respondents living with a disability say their job has done a better job supporting them since the start of the pandemic.
While this is positive news, we are still seeing some parts of the Internet still inaccessible to many people with disabilities.
It is important that we all see how to make an impact and create accessible experiences to further improve productivity in totally remote and hybrid environments while supporting the customers who are in those environments. We want to share some of our learnings over the years that help ensure that companies prioritize digital accessibility and inclusion to cope with the rapid pace of digital transformation.
Adapting to a flexible working life and making sure that accessibility is the starting point is no longer an option: it is a necessity. Teams need to work with their executive bank to help ensure digital accessibility: instilling an inclusive culture is critical to your business and your employees.
Related: Inclusion and Accessibility in the Digital Space
Adopt digital accessibility
At the onset of the pandemic, companies made concerted efforts to adapt to the digital transformation as soon as possible. Companies quickly learned that in-person work allowed for a certain level of support for employees to help compensate for systems and processes that were not fully accessible; when employees went the distance, the total impact of accessibility was even more frequent.
Whether company-wide platforms were upgraded to make video calls and collaboration easier to manage and how teams communicate with each other, some teams have easily adapted, while others may have had issues due to certain limitations, one of these is accessibility. Remote work also revealed when key services, often including access to general websites or productivity tools in the workplace, were not as accessible to employees with disabilities as they should be.
Today we are seeing that sites and services that offer accessibility features to their frameworks help people around the world, providing more access and opening up more opportunities for education and the workplace.
Related: How to hire people with disabilities will make your business stronger
Tips for improving inclusion tools
Whether you’ve already transformed your products or services to keep up with the pace of remote work needs, or whether you plan to do so in the future, there are several key things to keep in mind when improving tools for inclusion.
- Create an open dialogue and listening to employees and / or customers with disabilities. This can help ensure that needs can be met or addressed, opening the door to more accessible and inclusive experiences.
- Keep conversations transparent with managers to highlight how investments in accessibility to the workplace and in products and / or services of the company can benefit both the business and users. Similarly, develop metrics to track progress in a transparent manner that ensures that knowledge of the current state is widely understood.
- Train and train design staff and engineers on how to plan accessibility on websites and products. Ensuring that content is created and tested by engineers with an understanding of accessibility is critical to creating an accessibility engineering that positively affects the end user experience. Content and applications that are neither designed nor tested will likely present barriers for end users.
- Work to map your process and plans to industry accessibility standards and regulations, including WCAG 2.1, Section 508, the Disability Act, and others.
- Perform tests with end users with disabilities during and after development.
Related: How to talk about the diversity of disability in the workplace
Collaboration with executive allies
To help ensure that digital accessibility and inclusion efforts are prioritized, accessibility teams need to be empowered to partner with executive allies to promote awareness of accessibility to their business and products. . These partnerships can help other influential leaders understand the scope of accessibility needs so that it is the starting point for the entire company.
At Adobe, we continue to work actively to instill an inclusive culture that helps meet the needs of each individual. We actively collaborate with our executives to ensure that we provide more accessible and inclusive tools to our employees and users. Here are some of the key strategies we use to raise accessibility to the list of priorities:
- Educate on the impact on users. People may choose not to prioritize accessibility when they don’t understand how others might be affected, but when they are aware of the impact they are more likely to look for opportunities to help.
- Online customer demands and revenue. This can help advance accessibility needs. Collecting data on the impact on current revenue and potential market expansion helps product executives better understand accessibility.
- Make it easier to say yes. At Adobe, we integrate accessibility support into our UI component design systems and libraries to reduce the effort required to implement accessibility. These efforts allow product teams to streamline their focus and have a greater impact.
Related: 3 ways to elevate the narrative about disabilities lead to business success
Inclusion drives the future of work
Using the last two years as a learning experience to better understand and listen to peers and communities helps us better understand what tools can be used to further enhance success in the workplace and in daily life. I’ve shared a few initial steps to help get you started, but there’s always more to do.
As we continue to move forward to make the world more inclusive, we need to work collectively with our teams and executives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. We can all do our part to help empower people with disabilities and make the future more diverse and accessible to all.