10 steps to a digitally inclusive workplace for staff with disabilities

Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace are critical for staff with physical and cognitive disabilities. The digital accessibility of staff tools and content plays a key part in that inclusion.

We’ve summarised 10 essential points in the employment journey of a staff member who has a disability where digital accessibility is key to enabling them to thrive.

The videos are from our monthly Digital Accessibility Experts Live webinar. If any language used in the videos is new to you, see our Jargon Buster below.

Once you’ve watched them, find out how well your organisation is doing at embedding accessibility by taking our free Scorecard.

We’ve also created a poster to summarise the insights that you can share with your colleagues.

Download the poster

  • 1. Motivation

    Motivation, presented by Jonathan Hassell.

    It’s entirely possible that some people on the call work in organizations who are really shy of, including people with disabilities in their diversity and inclusion strategies. You know, if you had somebody who was who had a disability, would that be a good thing for your organization if they were an employee? So that’s why I wanted to start off with this motivation because if you don’t know why this is an opportunity, you’re probably going to shy away from it. And that’s the real thing there because it is a real opportunity. Most diversity and inclusion people in organizations know that if they want to attract the best talent – and I’m thinking here about millennials coming out of universities, but also people later on in their career as well – that the key thing really is to make sure that you can portray your organization as one that is ethical and caring, and fundamentally ‘gets’ diversity.

    Here’s a quote on the left from Microsoft: “Inclusivity is not only a philanthropic imperative, but a business one. We know customers and employees prefer companies that design in ways that are inclusive, cohesive and sustainable for all human beings.” So, fundamentally, if you’re trying to get the best talent – whether they have disabilities or not – chances are they will care about these sorts of things. On the right here you have an article from Forbes: “70% of millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates inclusion and diversity in its advertising.” It’s one of the reasons why a lot of organizations are starting to get over their fears around ‘what if we get it wrong’, and actually start doing more inclusive advertising campaigns, because this stuff is what a good company looks like in 2020.

    And so what we have found is that for years people with disabilities weren’t really considered when organizations thought about diversity inclusion. But things like the Valuable 500 campaign has now signed up over 350 huge organizations into making real commitments on this. So that’s a real positive step. If you like I guess the question there is, well do they know what the benefits are? And here’s a quote from someone that I really love so Yasmin Sheikh at Diverse Matters, “Real change only comes about when people understand what the benefits are of employing people with disabilities.” And what you have on the left of the screen there is if you like the characterized version at the moment which is very much around: “Okay, let’s we’re a large organization we’ve understood that people are autistic are very good at testing. So let’s do lots for them.” Well it’s not just people who are autistic who have a lot to offer. And so I just wanted to take you through some of these things.

    I’ve actually taken these from an article that you can go out there, read yourselves – it’s from the New York Post. From September last year. And I just wanted to pull out some of the things in there, because it’s a really good summary of what organizations have to gain from getting this right. Here’s the first thing: companies that make efforts to hire those with disabilities perform better and saw on average, 23% higher revenue. That was found by an Accenture survey, last year. So higher revenue. Innovation – here’s one person with a disability talking: “my ability to build rapport to think about alternative ways of doing things, is really directly because of my disability”, she says. “I have to be day in and day out super innovative”. And what you find is most people who have a disability, they have to work around the rest of the world that isn’t always created for them, so that innovation comes with it. Similarly, customer empathy is one of the things that comes through. So this is somebody who works for CVS which is a health care provider in the States, they suffer from PTSD, and they believe that brings a unique empathy of working with, with customers, especially when people are having a hard time. Again, people who have challenges themselves in terms of their health or disability, can actually be a lot more empathetic. Also, just in the simplest sense you know, we have some massively talented people out there – you’ll actually see two of these people on the call today. People who have a disability who are incredibly good at what they do. You don’t want to limit your talent pool to those who don’t have a disability, when people who do have a disability could bring so much talent to your organization.
    And finally, people with disabilities tend to stay longer. They work harder. They are great problem solvers. That is what surveys have found.

    So there is a lot of good reasons for thinking about, people with disabilities as being a part of the workforce so you would really want to attract your organization. The other thing from an accessibility perspective is, if you have people who have a disability within your organization you’re more likely to just be authentically on-side with accessibility because it just becomes organic.

    So those are all of the reasons why it’s good, but there is one reason if you like why we believe that people with disabilities have been, if you like, sometimes forgotten when it comes to diversity and inclusion. it’s the one big difference between them and other groups which is, that they all face discrimination historically, but people who have a disability or an impairment also have accessibility issues. So that’s one of the reasons why we’re talking about what we’re talking about today – is how accessibility follows through these people’s history with you, their employment history, and how you can get on top of this accessibility challenge.

    So, to sum up. The best talent want to work for companies that care about Diversity & Inclusion. So make sure your D&I words are not just compelling, but are based on actual practices that can deliver this.

  • 2. Disclosure

    Disclosure, presented by Jonathan Hassell.

    What he was talking about there was disclosure. ”Should I say to my employer that I have a disability”. He just blurted it out, but actually what we find, from the research – this is research done by Kate Nash, who runs Purple Space, you’ll hear them referred to a few times in the next hour. She did some great research to look at why people don’t say, and there were lots of fears. And we don’t have time to go into those fears now, but fear downplays the numbers. You know, most organizations feel that they don’t have very many people with disabilities working for them. But that’s possibly because those people don’t feel like they know that they will get a good experience if they share that information about themselves. Here’s the alternative. This is research done at Channel Four, where they actually worked on their culture and said “okay, if we enable people to understand that if you share that you have an impairment that that is an okay thing, let’s see what happens.” So, they didn’t recruit anybody in this period, but their number of staff who had a disability went up from 3% to 11.5%, because that 8.5% of people who were already there, had now realized that it was okay for them to say this.

    And just to give you an example from my experience. My second in command, when I was at the BBC actually came out as saying, “look, I think I might be dyslexic.” And he was an amazing guy, incredibly productive, really brilliant at what he did. But because we had lots of people with disabilities in the team – that’s the first time he’d been in a team like that – he said, “yeah, actually, you know, my friends have said you should probably get this checked out.” He did, and found that he was dyslexic. We were able to get him loads of really great tools like Read and Write Gold and like mind mapping that took him from the already brilliant level of capability he had, to that one level up. And he’s now head of accessibility at the BBC. This is Gareth Ford Williams – he’s very open about his dyslexia. So it just gives you one viewpoint from the line manager’s viewpoint that actually if you do this well then things can go really well for you.

    So, to sum up. Create an atmosphere where staff feel comfortable telling you about their impairments. You may find you have more staff with impairments than you think.

  • 3. Reputation

    Reputation, presented by Rob Wemyss.

    Reputation. Do people believe your D&I words? Question. Are people with disabilities, you know, likely to think that your organization is a good place to work? And we need to understand the D&I view that you read on the website compared to the, to the real truth. So how do you go about that? A couple of examples here. Here’s Apple. Apple are differentiating themselves these days on accessibility and privacy as a two core values. And the new iOS 14 is incredible – some incredible new stuff in there. Voiceover, which is the built in screen reader, they’ve introduced something called ‘image detection’ using AI, where you, it’s actually going to, if, if a coder does a bad job it will actually interpret that image and read it out to the best it can. But it was surprising to everyone, a couple of years back, when Apple were actually being sued by people for an inaccessible website. How did this come about? People couldn’t find the alt text on there. when they’re going to buy a product. So on the one hand, they have an amazing product. On the other hand, they have a website where some blind and visually impaired users can’t actually buy.

    And then Metrobank. “We want to make Metrobank accessible for all customers and colleagues, and we’re always working to improve this.” That sounds positive, that sounds great. Again, a couple of years back – a bit of insight from the BBC into a number of banks including, including Metrobank who were actually blocking some disabled customers from being able to access all their different services. So what they’re saying on the website, compared to, to reality.

    So there’s a balance there about what people say is positive, and what you can actually find out that is negative in the space.

    So what you say about your values – we’ve mentioned the Valuable 500 already – that public commitment. And then building consistency into, you know, your D&I policies and your accessibility statements. It’s always a real eye opener when I look at an accessibility statement, and it’s dated, maybe three years ago. It hasn’t been kept up to date. And are organization’s members of something like Purple Space, which is a fantastic initiative we’ll come on to a little bit later.

    And how do you then… where’s the proof that these organizations are doing that? So, as part of a benchmarking exercise that I did earlier this year, we put together a number of criteria to actually understand whether or not the companies were living up to their D&I statements. So, looking at the key journey on their public web website. Are they sharing any case studies or guidelines around innovation, you know, research and development? And they contributing anything to the accessibility community? Do they have any accreditations? Are they disability confident? That’s certainly something I’ve been looking for straightaway. And are they winning any awards? And finally, lack of, you know, negative, negative stories around accessibility and diversity.

    And this is what that piece of work looked like. This is a sort of heatmap – 10 different organizations, based on 10 different criteria, just to give you a flavor of what doing that piece of benchmarking looks like. And the client found it, incredibly useful to do this exercise in its in its evolving piece of work, as people, potentially improve, and also, as potentially, they might fall off the radar slightly. So that’s how we go about helping organizations benchmark themselves against others.

    So, to sum up. Make sure your website’s key talent user journey – the homepage, your about us page, the values page, and your vacancies page – is as accessible as what you say in it. And check how your reputation for accessibility compares with your competition for talent.

  • 4. Recruitment

    Recruitment, presented by Graham Armfield.

    So, just want to give you a few thoughts on the accessibility of online recruitment processes. That’s things to bear in mind whether you run the recruitment yourself on your own website, or whether you have another organization handle it for you. Now, it’s important upfront that we provide clear instructions and guidance, because not everybody is as happy with online forms as your developers are – they the ones who built it in the first place. Okay, so make sure you give people all the information they need, to make sure they’re applying for the job that’s right for them, and that they’re right for your organization.

    Now, sometimes there are a legal aspects to a job. So, for example, for working in the hospitality sector, you’ve got to be over 18. Okay. The other thing to note is that sometimes you’ll need to catch a piece of information that people might not expect you to have to capture, and also that might not be at their fingertips. So let people know in advance before they actually start filling out the form.

    So, when we’re when they’re actually in the form, its labels are going to tell people what each of the individual input fields are for. Labels, a little bit of technical term, but they’re the prompts for the input fields in your forms. And, of course, sighted users, sighted visitors, are going to sort of like basically look for where the text is aligned next to the input fields. But if I can’t see the input fields because I’m blind or have poor vision, I might be relying on a screen reader to tell me what’s on the screen. Then I’m going to need every label to be properly linked to an input field, otherwise the screen reader won’t be able to tell me what those input fields are for. This sort of thing is easy to test with the Wave accessibility tool. And here’s a couple of screenshots I did earlier this week. The form on the left hand side, it’s telling me that these labels are attached properly to the input fields. The form on the right hand side, less so. And the form on the right hand side is going to be a real challenge for a screen reader user to actually interact with.

    Whilst we’re talking about labels, I’ll also mention placeholders. Sometimes internet forms have used text inside the input fields to tell people what the input fields are for. Examples like here. These are called placeholders. And they’re often favored I think because they take up less space than the labels that are adjacent to the input fields. But, whilst they look nice, their use does present difficulty for some people. The first thing is that, by default, browsers will display these as light gray text, and if your input fields have a white background, then that text can be really hard to read, especially for those with poor vision or color blindness. Another problem that a lot of people find is that as soon as you start typing in these fields, the prompt for that field just disappears. So if you need to check what it said, you’ve actually then got to delete the text that you just put in, in order to see the prompt again. So that’s not great.

    So, when filling out forms, people can make mistakes. And you’re bound to have in your online recruitment process, some validation checks to pick up on that. Okay. So, when your validation picks up issues with people’s input we need to make sure that we’re telling people that something’s gone wrong and also telling people why we’re not happy with their inputs. Here’s an example I found earlier in the week. I’ve got here… I submitted this form with no input, I’ve got a list of errors at the top here which is great. It’s telling people all the issues that we have, our validation has. But it would be better to actually as well to indicate with the individual input fields here with some actual error messages… Some informative error messages, and this is an example of an informative error message – it’s telling me my password must be at least eight characters long. Of course when you’re asking people for things in a certain format, it’s a good idea, talking about the labels to tell people up front as well, rather than waiting to the error message. But there you go, at least it says it’s more informative.

    Okay, error messages. They need to be in the right place. Here’s an error message up here. And it’s actually linked to these radio buttons down here. But it’s not really obvious because they’re not positioned well. Okay, so that’s not obvious. It’s this sort of stuff so easy to test. Okay. Also here’s another this is from an insurance application form – I know it’s not recruitment – but shows you an example that there’s a problem here. I’ve got three boxes with red lines around them. But there’s no error message to tell me what’s going on here. Okay, so informative error messages can help everybody.

    Now, if I’m submitting a form to apply for a job at your organization, I’m hoping that all the data that I’ve put in will be transferred successfully. I’ll be looking for reassurance from you about that. So here’s a good example. Okay, so it’s telling people here, you know, thanks for submitting your application. It’s telling me that they’ve received my data. Okay. It also telling me, what’s actually happened, going to happen next. So there’s really good clear indications here.

    Obviously if I’m applying for a job in our organization, I’m going to be hoping that I’m going to get an interview. Okay? Now face to face interviews are quite rare at the moment, but if I was being brought forward for face to face interview, I’d be hoping that I could actually get in the building. Okay, so you need to think about whether or not people with disabilities can get into your building. Okay? Now as I said at the moment, very few face to face interviews are happening. So you may choose to invite people onto a video call using one of these tools, okay? It’s an assumption that perhaps that you that people think people can actually access these tools – do they have accessibility options, okay? And if you want to do online tests, like for example, with Survey Monkey, are they accessible too?

    So, to sum up. Make sure people can apply to work for you in an accessible way. And ensure your selection and interview process take people’s access needs and preferences into account.

  • 5. Adjustment

    Adjustment, presented by Toby Mildon.

    Jonathan: So Toby is going to do this section for us, which is looking at how do you make sure that when people come through that they have the adjustments that they need to thrive? So Toby over to you. I’ll do the slides for you.

    Toby: So I just wanted to share a bit of a personal story with you. So, I was born with a rare neuromuscular disability called spinal muscular atrophy, which means that I use a wheelchair and I have, ever since I since I was about three years old. Prior to getting a wheelchair, I could only crawl backwards, and that was my way of getting around. So thank goodness for wheelchairs coming along. But I want to share a personal story with you because Jonathan and I used to work together at the BBC – he was my manager. I then, after the BBC, went to work for Deloitte. And a couple of years ago, I decided to leave a corporate life and set up my own business and work with Jonathan, at the same time. And I wanted to share with you how, you know, working from home for me has always been an advantage. And a personal story was… so a year ago. I needed to go and meet with a client in Canary Wharf. The meeting was first thing in the morning, and I really didn’t fancy getting on the Tube. It would be really difficult for me to get across London on the Tube. And my partner then reminded me that we live quite near the river and like could actually take the boat to Canary Wharf from where we live. And that was such a great idea because I could have a cup of tea on the boat, and then coming back in the evening I could have a glass of wine.

    However, when I got onto the boat – I could actually get onto the deck of the boat – I wasn’t able to get inside the boat… I’ve got an attachment on the bottom of my wheelchair that most wheelchairs don’t have. Which meant that I was getting stuck on the door of the boat. So I spent the duration of the journey – which is about an hour – sitting outside on the deck of the boat. In January. And I was absolutely freezing. And when we got to Canary Wharf I could barely drive my wheelchair because my hands were so cold.

    That then led onto a blog that got a lot of interest, and got Jonathan and me talking about why the ability to work from home is a good adjustment for me, with a disability, and how technology is really an enabler for me as well. You’ll see that on the screen, for example, on the left is me on the boat, looking quite cold, but on the right is me, sat at home, working on my computer. You will notice on the main screen, I use an on screen keyboard to help me with inputting text into forms and things like that, which was what Graham was talking about. And then I use Dragon Naturally Speaking, speech to text software, to help me work as well. Next slide. Jonathan.

    Jonathan: So, organizations normally have a reasonable adjustments process. So, here’s just one example of one. So Microlink are an organization that can help you do this. Say for example, you have a member of staff who’s just arrived, either working in the office or working from home, and they need assistive technologies. Then this process if you like allows you to have an organization to assess the person and say what sort of technologies they need. Here are a few examples. So screen readers for people who are blind, and some other things.

    So, Toby, I wanted you to talk about Dragon because that’s probably an assistive technology that people don’t know about quite so much. So why is dragon particularly important for you?

    Toby: So for me, Dragon is a very very fast and efficient way of typing. So, I can. It works really really well, when I’m writing documents. So, using Microsoft Word for example I can just speak the text. But I think, more importantly, very easily then edit and manipulate the text. Because there’s lots of inbuilt speech to text software on laptops, but it doesn’t have the level of functionality that Dragon has. So I can literally tell Dragon in fairly natural language, you know, “select text from here to there, and delete it” or “move down a paragraph, move up a paragraph”. And I can also train it to learn words. So, it’s very good at understanding, you know, just everyday English. But of course, there’s words that are not everyday English, like names or business names and things like that. So I can train it to easily understand, understand those names as well.

    Jonathan: That’s great. And in terms of mobile usage, you you have, there are particular things you use there as well. Is that right?

    Toby: Yeah, I say I’m a mobile-first user, because I’ve got limited movement in my hands. So working from a small screen is pretty accessible for me. I find that actually… I’ve got an Apple iPhone, there’s some really useful just accessibility features that come with the phone. So I use Siri for typing text messages or emails when my hands are cold. Because I can’t really reach the top of the screen, I can use the reachability feature to kind of drag the screen down to reach things at the top. And then, it says on here ‘google keyboard’, but there’s since been an update. But I was using the Google keyboard because you can drag your finger around letters rather than kind of individually tap them. The Apple iPhone keyboard now has that functionality, so I’m now using the native keyboard.

    Jonathan: So thank you. And so just one last thing… So differences between technologies in use: mobile, in home and in the office. Just other things that are there as well in terms of adjustments process. Sometimes people will work different hours. Say, Toby works different hours for us, the times when are most convenient for him. And certainly on occasions, it can be performance targets as well.

    So, to sum up. Consider workplace adjustments across digital, built-environment or work from home, hours and performance targets. Work collaboratively with your new hire to get the best outcome for them and for you.

  • 6. Onboarding

    Onboarding, presented by Jon Gooday.

    So, onboarding, so obviously, taking you through the steps in the process of getting to this point, there are some challenges around the reality of what it’s like to actually start out, kind of the process of joining an organization. And one of the challenges, particularly with online approach, is the eLearning side of things. So often organizations have mandatory eLearning that you need to go through to be able to get onboarded into an organization. So we’ve worked with quite a range of organizations, and a lot of them have challenges around how to ensure that this is actually accessible to disabled employees. It’s also one of these areas where there has been a law case. And Jonathan, you know, obviously Sam, personally, so if you just want to kind of overview briefly that kind of the experience of someone that you know – the reality of what it’s like to not be able to use online systems.

    Jonathan: Absolutely. So, I was on a call with Sam Latif actually a couple of weeks ago for D&I leaders. And so the case here really is two things. When you’re looking at eLearning, it’s all about: can you learn the stuff, and can you prove that you’ve learned the stuff. And so it’s that learn and test. And in both cases here… In Sam’s case she was trying to learn a project management qualification. She wasn’t able to learn it in a way that was accessible, or to test it in a way it was accessible. This was a landmark case from a long while ago. Basically the organization said “oh it’s not our fault”. And they lost, basically. So they had to make things accessible. So it’s a really good idea to listen to just a couple of notes here from Jon on what you can do as an organization, either providing eLearning for your staff, or for that matter, you may be the person creating the eLearning.

    Jon: So I’m just going to focus in just a couple of areas that are really important to get right. So obviously people are aware of captions. Captions are something – we’re obviously using Otter here with Zoom. But it’s also really important to think about that for online learning. So there’s often a lot of video content, and it needs to be made accessible by having captions and transcripts. So most organizations are at least aware of that.

    What’s not so commonly properly implemented is the fact that if people can’t see, they also need information for that online content. A lot of online content has information in video format. And if you can’t see the screen you often don’t have access to that key information. So it’s really important for blind people, people that are screen reader users, that there’s some consideration about how will they access that material. And often there’s, there are options around transcripts and audio descriptions and there are more innovative options. But the main point is it needs to be considered and thought about. And that’s really important, as well as the good practice with kind of captions on video.

    So that’s one really important area. The other one that I just want to mention is also really kind of something that challenges a lot of people with disability. So the reality is, a lot of online learning has interactive elements. There’s often quizzes, there’s kind of selecting options and interacting, drag and drop. Those really important things that gives sort of interactivity to the experience of online learning. Unfortunately there’s lots of challenges with that material, that kind of approach. And a lot of organizations, a lot of people that produce eLearning, don’t necessarily consider the realities of what this means for someone that can’t see or has issues with mobility. So things like drag and drop can be made accessible. I think this is an important point to make. The creativity is part of a discipline, this kind of accessibility. You need to think about creative ways to make this possible to make these kind of systems accessible. So, the important thing is you don’t want to reduce the range of variety of options in terms of interactivity. But you do need to think about how to make those accessible. And drag and drop is one thing that can be made accessible, and other interactions. So it’s really important to know that there is good practice out there.

    So, to sum up. Ensure your hire’s familiarisation with your work environment before their starting date, and provide a
    “support buddy” when they arrive. And make sure mandatory elearning is accessible.

  • 7. Tools

    Tools, presented by Jonathan Hassell.

    So they’re now on-boarded into your organization, but the key thing that they’re going to be using in their jobs is tools. So, will those assistive technologies that you’ve given them as reasonable adjustments actually work with the tools you’re actually putting in front of them. And there’s a couple of categories that we’re going to share here. First one is core tools for their specific job. So, you know, is there a particular bit of software that they’re going to need to run? Will that work with the screen reader or whatever other tool that you’ve given them? Here’s one example, which is about the hardest I can think of, and this is stock market. You can be a blind stock market trader. But trying to make stock market software accessible for a screen reader is really challenging. So, how do you make sure that people are able to use the tools that you’ve got? So that’s just a specific tool. But we also have if you like the core tools for our jobs for things like room booking, IT help desks, being able to use timesheets. These are the things that people are using all of the time. And if these aren’t accessible, then it doesn’t really matter if you’ve given them a great bit of software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. If it doesn’t work with the tools, then people can’t thrive.

    So four key aspects here. Firstly procurement: ask questions of the person who created the tool. Is it accessible? They will provide you with something called a VPAT, which is a document that tries to encompass all of this stuff. But ask loads of questions. Don’t procure a tool which is really bad for accessibility, unless that’s the only thing that you can do. When you customize it, make sure that you’re not ruining the accessibility as you do that. Chances are you will take that tool, and you will put it in your company colors and all of those sorts of things. You can be introducing accessibility problems when you’re doing that unless you’re very careful. Training: make sure that people are actually trained in how to use the tool. And Jon will come on to that when we come look at communications tools in a moment. And finally: retention of alternatives. If you’re going to, if you like, go from room booking or holiday booking where you could call somebody on a call centre in the past, but it now all happens online, keep the call centre there as another option, to make sure that people who find difficulty using the tool, still have a means of doing things.

    So, to sum up. Ensure proof of accessibility is required in procurement of digital tools, and provide alternatives for getting tasks done if a tool isn’t accessible to all. Retain accessibility when customising tools for your workplace, and train staff to use them well.

  • 8. Communication

    Communication, presented by Jon Gooday.

    So comms is obviously a very wide range of applications we’re talking about. We’ve touched a little bit on the fact we’re using Zoom today and you can use otter. Also Office – the latest Microsoft Office has captions built in as part of it. And also Google – Google Meet also has that functionality. There’s a lot of good practice starting to come in board, becoming mainstream which is great, around the comms tools. Intranets – very, very slowly companies are realizing Intranets need to be made accessible. It’s obviously way behind the approach to websites, but that’s improving greatly.

    But what I want to just focus on in the next few minutes is the reality of what can you do as an individual to improve the kind of accessibility of documentation that you share, day to day, within your organization. So I’m going to focus just on Word for this, and just focus on a couple of key things. Now, with Word, there’s lots of things that you can do to make it more accessible when you share it, either as a Word document, or as a PDF. So I’m just going to focus on the top two – headings and images. There’s lots of other things you can do around colours, contrast. And that’s all really helpful. But two of the most important things you can get right is around creating the right structure for your document and labeling images.

    So things like headings. People aren’t necessarily fully aware of what the kind of features of Word are, and you have these inbuilt heading styles. One of the reasons it’s really important to get this right, is it’s what screen readers use to navigate. And also, when you convert it to PDF, those headings give structure to the PDF. So it’s really important to be aware that there is a reason why these things are here. And there’s lots of benefits. So if you set up headings, and styles in your document, you can just change them all in one place and not have to change them individually. So just a little change, a little shift, to have and use headings appropriately, goes a long way to improve the accessibility of your documents. So that’s one really important thing to do.

    The next thing is around images. Now, with the latest version of Word, Microsoft is making good attempts for it to automatically come up with assistive kind of automatic descriptions for images. But they’re not great. So it’s really important to review and check them. So you can edit images within your documents, and you have the option to review. So often within Word you’ll come up and you’ll have something already put in which, unfortunately, isn’t always very descriptive. And you have the choice to change it, which is really important. So it’s something I would definitely recommend that you review, and you can change. And if it’s just decoration, you have the option to mark it as decoration and just remove that. So really important basic things you can do to improve the accessibility.

    The other thing, just to bear in mind, that Word, Excel, PowerPoint all actually have an accessibility checker built in. So again, this is something I’d recommend that you use. It will help you identify issues before you share and send out your documents to other people.

    And lastly, just to touch on the whole point of what I was talking about. When you create a PDF, a lot of that good practice goes into the PDF to make it a lot more accessible for people when you send it out. So within the features, you’ll have things like document structure, accessibility, things like headings are being used, which means they’re reflected in the PDF, images will have been labeled, and there’ll be much better experience for those that you share it with.

    So, to sum up. Ensure your video conferencing and Intranet are accessible. And train people in accessible meeting etiquette and creating accessible content to support the needs of all.

  • 9. Support

    Support, presented by Rob Wemyss.

    Wwe’re gonna touch on support. Can people within your organization with a disability actually get the support they need? So organizations need somebody to set up and lead, you know, a disability network. And for that person to be successful, they need access to resources, toolkits, and other network leaders within other organizations. And Purple Space is a fantastic resource, which I highly recommend that you go and check out. And just finally, can people with disabilities get support from your IT help desk? Have the people in the helpdesk been trained? Do they know what assistive technology is? If somebody called them up and said “my computer isn’t speaking to me” would they be scratching their head? Would they know what to do? And do you have links with software vendors such as Microsoft to get that actual deep support that you need for your employees with disabilities?

    So, to sum up. Provide personal support via disability support networks and employee resource groups. And ensure IT support desks understand assistive technologies provided as workplace adjustments.

  • 10. Progression & Exit

    Progression and Exit – Jonathan Hassell interviews Mark Webb.

    Jonathan: I’ve got Mark Webb with me now. Mark, you and I met last December. And the reason I wanted to share your story with a wide audience is because it’s so positive. Your background is in media relations. You’ve worked at Disneyland Paris and David Lloyds Clubs. We pick up your story when you were at Dixons Carphone, and the MS condition that you have developed. For those who don’t know what MS is, can you explain it to people?

    Mark: So MS is multiple sclerosis. It’s a disease with no cure. And it’s one of those pesky autoimmune diseases where your own body, your own immune system, gets a bit confused and attacks yourself, attacks itself. And, in MS’s case, it’s your nerves in your brain and your spinal cord to get attacked. For me, I have heavy issues with mobility. I’m talking to you from a wheelchair, you can’t see. I have cognitive dysfunction so my attention span is shot. I have bladder and bowel issues. But generally it’s progressive disease… doesn’t kill you… just gets a bit more yuck every year.

    Jonathan: So you’re there at Dixon’s Carphone, and the disease develops. And you have that moment where you kind of think actually this is impacting on my work. And so you bring it to the attention I guess of your line manager there. Can you take us through what their reaction was?

    Mark: Yes, actually it dates back to Dixons retail so pre-merger. And, like many with MS, and because I’m a bloke, I hadn’t been accepting of something being wrong. But all of a sudden the, the nasty stars aligned and I had bladder issues and I was walking a bit drunk. And all sorts of things made me think, with my wife, let’s go to the doctor. I got sent to a urologist and a neurologist. And very quickly, they concluded in relative terms, they concluded I had MS. Now I’m quite an open, transparent person, and without really thinking about it, I blurted it out to my line manager when probably I might have got away with it for a year or two. But actually, in retrospect, it was the best thing I did because they just enveloped me with love and support. You know, love is probably a bit of a strong word, but just the wonderful support and understanding they gave me. They gave me some time off. And very soon after that, and treating me as a human being – which is very important, they didn’t see me as suddenly “that cripple” – they promoted me. So I had been, I can’t remember my title, Senior Manager Media Relations. I became Head of Media Relations for a FTSE 100 company. And they were also very all over it in trying to understand my issues and how they could help.

    Jonathan: Can you just take us through, maybe a couple of the adjustments that they made for you?

    Mark: Yes. So, um, well, first of all, bladder was great fun. So I was always at the time walking fine, but needing to race to the disabled loo which was, I don’t know, 100 yards away. And they started to make it very clear to people who were using it because it was the cleanest loo, that that wasn’t appropriate. So they did some behind the scenes stuff. But most importantly, I think, as my disease progressed, and I was fatigued – that’s another symptom – and just struggling to maintain the high pressure role that involved getting into London, having a few drinks with journalists, long hours etc. They came to me and suggested two things: one, move to a four day week, but not reduce pay. Woo hoo! That was wonderful. But secondly, social media was exploding and I was talking to those same journalists that I used to get bladdered with… But I was talking to them on Twitter, and finding a new avenue to stay in touch with these journalists, maybe even more than I would have done before. So I had to let go of the media relations role. But we created a Head of Group Social Media. So I could tweet away with these journalists. And my CEO started to tweet regularly, with me nagging him, and very authentically. And he became the most followed CEO, the FTSE 100 CEO, on Twitter.

    Jonathan: At some point you decided to move on from Dixon’s Carphone. But, you sent a LinkedIn that went viral…

    Mark: So, at some point, it was just getting even too much. And the company were very clear that they would have made it work more well for me if they could. And they suggested avenues and everything else – the company just couldn’t have done more for me. But at the same time, it was time to go. And they gave me a wonderful package. They didn’t have to. I asked to leave and they still looked after me very well, to help me sort of transition. And, yes, I like sending out authentic social media rather than planned things. And I wrote something that took me all of 10 minutes, and it just talked about exactly what we talked about. But the end line said, “Be like Dixon’s Carphone”. And that flew! I think it’s become very trendy now to say nice things about your employers on LinkedIn. But at the time that wasn’t particularly done. And it went to 850,000 views. Wonderful! So, great for Dixon’s Carphone. Actually, great for me because it’s led to me going, that phrase, multiple now. So I’ve got so many fingers in so many pies. And that’s directly from that, that LinkedIn post. I’m three years or so since I left. But I’m still an employee advocate about Dixon’s Carphone and Dixon’s Retail and everything in that area, because of how I was treated. So I’m a free extra advert.

    Jonathan: So a free extra advert. That’s what you can get. If you do this right you can get loads of good things coming out of it.

    So, to sum up. The right support, tools and environment will enable people with disabilities to thrive and grow their career with you. Get this right, and even after they leave, they’ll still say great things about you to help you recruit the next generation of talented staff.

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Jargon buster

  • AI - Artificial Intelligence
  • Assistive Technology - software or hardware that helps a person with a disability to use a computer, tablet or smartphone (e.g. screen reader, voice control)
  • Alt-Text - text added to an image on a website or app to explain its purpose to blind people using a screen reader who can't see it

  • D&I - Diversity & Inclusion
  • Native keyboard - the on-screen keyboard that comes as standard on a touchscreen device (tablet or smartphone)
  • Radio button - an icon representing one of a set of options, only one of which can be selected at any time
  • Screen reader - software that allows a blind person to use a website by reading out its words and allowing the person to interact with it via the keyboard or gestures