How accessibility and inclusion impacts employee wellbeing

People's hands on the bark of a tree, the word inclusion is on the middle of the image with two red arrows pointing to it

As a global company, we have the pleasure of interacting daily with a variety of different colleagues and client partners from all over the world. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to work with a variety of human beings with different personalities, talents, and abilities. 

For this reason, we must be careful not to unintentionally create physical, attitudinal, communicational, or social barriers. Every human being should have equal opportunities and accessibilities within their society. So, we must be aware and mindful of our biases to avoid creating potential barriers for our colleague’s autonomy.

A lack of awareness of our biases can directly influence the wellbeing of our colleagues. Can you remember a time when everyone around you started laughing but you were not able to hear the joke? Decidedly, nobody enjoys the feeling of being excluded from something. Take care not to leave out information that might be important for colleagues to engage with the work we do and with other teammates. By being aware of our biases, we can create a digital work environment where everyone feels comfortable and can be their most productive and autonomous self.

One way to recognize our own biases is to follow a “don’t assume anything” mantra. We should be open to diversity and be aware that some of our colleagues and clients might not be able to:

  • see easily or at all
  • hear easily or at all
  • move easily or at all
  • speak easily or at all or
  • understand the information presented in some ways easily or at all

In addition, the “don’t assume anything” mantra also includes not making assumptions about people and their disabilities. So, don’t presume to know what someone wants or feels, or what is best for them. Rather, ask them questions about what to do, how to do it, what language or terminology to use, or what support you can provide. Remember that people with disabilities are individuals who have different preferences and needs. Most importantly, respect the individual and see them beyond their disability. Being mindful of peoples’ diversity of ability may be the difference between a person’s partial dependence on others or their complete independence.

Inclusion and accessibility tips

To create an inclusive work environment, we must ensure that our communications and the tools we use are accessible. At Emergn, we currently use Microsoft Office apps as our primary internal communications and working tools. Fortunately, these apps already have many accessibilities and inclusion features in place. They are also continuously making efforts to improve their products in this area. 

One feature worth mentioning is the ability to review Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents to check accessibility. So, we can ensure we address any errors and warnings before sharing the documents we create with others.

Microsoft Word menu, showing the “check accessibility” option under the “Review” tab

Here are some other valuable tips, collected and adapted from various sources, for collaborating with and creating documents that are accessible for people with disabilities:

Writing tips:

  • When writing, keep the following in mind: define acronyms, abbreviations and terms clearly. When possible, avoid using jargon.
  • Describe the hyperlinks you include in your documents. The link text alone should convey the function and purpose of the link. (e.g., “Access the marketing report” instead of “Click here” or “here”.)
  • Use headings to organize and structure your documents. Use headers already built into the system headers and ensure they follow a logical hierarchy. 
  • When you include images, provide a concise written summary and description of the information presented in the pictures. 

Formatting tips:

  • Ensure the organization and presentation of the content of your documents are clear and concise.
  • Use large, sans serif fonts (Arial, etc.) and pages that are as clean as possible (no background elements that can “distract” from essential information).
  • Use high-contrast colors between the text and background (useful for people with vision difficulties) and colors that can be understood without any doubt by color-blind individuals.

Content delivery tips:

  • Provide custom captions for video and transcripts for audio content or choose tools that can provide automatic ones.
  • Consider how you use motion and animations, like text or images flying in from the side. Is the motion necessary, or will it make the information easier to understand? Certain types of motion can be especially distracting for some people and can even make them sick.
  • When delivering presentations, ensure you adequately describe the information you are presenting visually to not inadvertently exclude anyone. For instance, if you say, “you can read it on the slide,” you are not considering individuals that are unable to see the slides.

Communication tips:

  • Give feedback on the work being presented by your colleagues and offer different opportunities for them to correct and present revised versions of the work. In addition, give them adequate time to complete the requested work.
  • Suggest communication and collaboration options that are accessible to people with different disabilities.

By keeping these tips and the “don’t assume anything” mantra in mind, we can start to break some of the barriers unintentionally created for our coworkers and client partners. Everybody has a part to play when it comes to making a society that provides equal accessibility and opportunity for all.