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Leading with Accessibility: Why Accessibility is an Important Part of DEI

Updated: May 4, 2023

When we talk about inclusion, we talk about actions that make others feel valued, respected, seen, and heard. One specific way that we can be inclusive in our day-to-day actions as well as our policies and practices is by increasing accessibility across our organizations.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility involves eliminating workplace and systemic barriers to equitable opportunities for individuals joining a work group, organization, or community. Accessibility is often discussed in the context of those with disabilities, or physical or mental impairments that substantially impact how an individual performs one or more major life activities.

What does accessibility have to do with DEI?

Accessibility is a key aspect of disability inclusion. By prioritizing inclusion for people with disabilities, you signal that your workplace is one that values and respects them. A disability inclusion policy ensures that all employees, of any disability status or identity, are supported and have access to the same opportunities.

Systems in place in your organization may operate under a set of assumptions about everyone’s level of ability. For example, your team meetings on Zoom may have a “cameras off” policy. While this may be favorable for some employees, if you have team members that are hard of hearing and rely on lip reading, this norm can be exclusionary.

Increasing accessibility is just one part of a sound approach to disability inclusion but it’s an important step that can help people in your organization today.

What can you do today to be more accessible?

Actively integrating accessibility practices into your daily work and practices is a simple way to exercise inclusion. I have provided 5 examples below for ways you can get started:

  1. Be sure to achieve compliance for all documents to be able to be read by screen readers.

    1. At a minimum, all organizational materials should be 508 compliant. The Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

  2. Utilize the tools that are available to check accessibility.

    1. Microsoft Office provides accessibility trackers across their various products that provide a quick check for 508 compliance and the ability for your materials to be read by screen readers.

  3. When you are giving a presentation, give verbal cues for which slide you are speaking on or which page you are on in a document.

    1. This simple act of inclusion provides those who are utilizing screen readers or other visual assistance to keep up with where in a document or presentation you are.

  4. In virtual meetings, be mindful of those that rely on reading lips.

    1. Where possible, consider turning your camera on while you are speaking to accommodate those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Zoom also offers live close captioning and transcripts.

  5. Be transparent and open to learning more.

    1. Remember that being open and listening to what your employees need is the best way to show that you are inclusive.

Do you want to learn more about stepping up your inclusion game? Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn more about the Mattingly Inclusion & Belonging Assessment (MIBATM).


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