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Introduction

Diversity and inclusion have rapidly become a priority for organizations looking to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market. Organizational experts are increasingly becoming aware of the values behind diversity and inclusion which have an important role to play in meeting the accessibility standards. On the road to digital accessibility, it’s important to understand the fundamental takeaways that organizations will witness as a result of being inclusive. Here are a few things to keep in mind about accessibility:

The difference between diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are often used in tandem in a workplace environment. Diversity means recognizing the diverse needs of each individual within an organization. For example, providing wheelchair users with ramps to enter and exit a building and training visually impaired employees to handle assistive technologies such as a screen reader.

Inclusion is the behaviour that welcomes and embraces diversity. The focus is on ensuring each and every customer and employee is valued and cherished. Employees reward inclusive behaviour with loyalty and work to their full potential, regardless of their disabilities, identity, or background.

If you are a proponent of inclusion it’s crucial for you to find ways to to embrace and galvanize diversity of voices and identities. It’s like saying, “Where is the diversity in this conversation?” – Over-and-over again.

Why do diversity and inclusion matter?

Inclusion drives innovation in the workplace and creates healthy competition among workers to push them to achieve greater results. From a business, a diverse workforce presents businesses with new and unprecedented challenges that require quick thinking and out of the box solutions.

Hector Minto, Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Europe, speaking at Microsoft’s Ability Summit 2021 said: “Having employees with disabilities telling you the hard truths about your product drives more impact inside the business because it’s not this other-ism.” By his statement, it’s clear that Hector believes employees are the most powerful advocates for change.

How do diversity and inclusion drive business value?

Diversity accelerates growth and innovation in the workplace. When combined with efforts to create a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment that encourages the participation and contribution of all employees, workplace diversity potentially impacts the bottom line.

There is significant relationship between diversity and innovation. In a recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review, companies with above-average diversity in their workforce reported higher innovation revenues and EBIT margins.

Deloitte in its report noted that employees working in organizations with inclusive cultures were more likely to be innovative, work harder to achieve positive business outcomes, and exceed their financial targets.

The increasing migration of the physical workspace to a digital business environment can facilitate diversity and inclusion.

The missing piece of the puzzle

Digital accessibility, as it turns out is the missing piece in the digital workplace “puzzle.” Businesses operate in the the confluence of virtual and physical worlds. The digital workplace enables people to work to their full potential, cultivate knowledge-sharing and facilitates greater collaboration.

However, despite advancement in technology, the digital workplace is still not designed for people with disabilities, such as visual, auditory, or physical impairments. Potential job-seekers are left frustrated by inadequate digital infrastructure, thus minimizing their chances of seeking employment. Digital inclusion is the only solution.

Accessibility is good for business

“Many organizations are waking up to the fact that embracing accessibility has additional benefits like – reducing legal risks, strengthening brand presence, improving customer experience, and employee productivity.”

Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility, Barclays****

The components of digital accessibility are inclusive design and universal design.

Inclusive design eliminates exclusion, i.e. no one is left behind. Universal design caters to a broad audience.

Technology’s role in driving diversity and inclusion

The global pandemic has necessitated a shift towards remote work resulting in the amplification of inclusivity and the role of technology.

Several companies are sensing the business value and are championing new accessibility features:

  • Tech giant Microsoft is switching on the accessibility checker within Microsoft Word by default.
  • Microsoft Teams has enabled the feature to blur backgrounds to make lip-reading easier.
  • Spotify has rolled out a more accessible user-interface by changing the colour, text formatting and the size of its buttons.
  • TikTok has introduced automated closed captions, which automatically generates subtitles to its videos.
  • Procter & Gamble has created advertisement spots with audio descriptions.
  • Apple has launched new background sounds function to minimize external noise distractions.

Companies like codemantra are pushing the boundaries of digital inclusion, transforming documents into any output format accessible to users irrespective of their abilities.

Conclusion

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” – Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

The global pandemic has shifted the focus to inclusive practices in the digital space and the physical landscape. Organizations are taking measures to incorporate inclusive design into their digital assets to ensure each and every individual feel included in the process.

To paraphrase Steve Ballmer: Accessible design is good design – it benefits people who don’t have disabilities as well as people who do. Accessibility is all about removing barriers and providing the benefits of technology for everyone.” Digital accessibility is the need of the hour to create an inclusive world.

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