Providing greater accessibility in business should be a top priority for leaders — and not just to avoid fines and lawsuits. Done right, accessibility is as good for business as it is for society at large. As I meet and consult with business and organization leaders, I find that many of them genuinely want to incorporate accessibility into their teams and workspaces. However, many of them seem hesitant to get started.
How will they gain corporate support? How will they measure success? Will it be worth it? Will it be just a big distraction? These are essential questions with significant answers. I applaud those leaders willing to wrestle with them. Too many take an agnostic approach to accessibility. They don’t oppose it, but they don’t go out of their way to address it, either. They just don’t think about it.
“Well, why not?” I ask.
At least, that’s usually where I start. And then we dive in.
7 questions for greater accessibility in business
I developed a concise list of 7 questions that help leaders think differently about building a more accessible business. Carefully considering and answering these questions helps dispel myths and bring insight. Answering these questions generates enthusiasm for making products, offerings, and work environments more accessible. After consideration, leaders quickly come to see that providing for greater accessibility in business environments is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.
So, let’s break it down.
1. What is accessibility?
At its heart, accessibility is about providing the best possible customer (or consumer) experience. Every day, we make changes to our products, packaging, websites, and services. We seek to improve conversion, engagement, and satisfaction. We hope to get a great review. Accessibility involves the same skillset.
How would someone with hearing loss, low vision, or poor dexterity experience your product? What can you do to make it better? Very often, making things more accessible makes the experience better for all customers, not just those with “special” needs.
2. What do you do every day to make things more accessible?
Your core job description likely includes making things easier or more efficient for others in some way. Products for consumers. Content for your audience. Reports for managers. Training for employees and clients. To do these jobs, we often think about accessibility, only we don’t call it that. We use other words like communications, messaging, user experience, and continuous improvement. So, every time we shorten our sentences, update our presentation graphics, or refresh our websites, we’re making things more accessible. Creating more accessibility in business is an extension of this idea.
3. Who are your customers, and what are their needs?
Lean/Six Sigma professionals encourage us to think about our customers, internal and external. So, think about how customers interact with you and the deliverables you produce. What can you do to make the process more productive and streamlined? From illegible sticky notes to outdated information systems to the number of steps it takes to get from the copier to the filing cabinet, you’ll find opportunities for improvement. Often, those opportunities will include making things more accessible.
4. What work makes you proud? Why?
I love this question because it helps us see the big picture. Our best moments usually include helping someone else. Making customers happier. Helping a team member reach their potential. Partly, it will be about serving someone — and not just for profitability’s sake (but see question #7).
5. Is that relatable and useful to those with different needs?
Think about your proudest moments, your best contributions. Can you apply those concepts for someone with low vision, hearing loss, or decreased mobility? Thinking about this question for a few minutes brings immediate possibilities. Low hanging fruit, ripe and ready for picking.
6. How can you and your team contribute to and benefit from accessibility?
With just a little more effort, you will start to see even bigger initiatives with greater impact. Perhaps you have someone on your team who could use better workspace flow, a better screen reader, or some other technology to assist with their day-to-day. If implemented, imagine how they might experience of greater freedom. How much more productive could you be — how much more productive would you want to be — if you felt more freedom to do your job?
Now think about your whole organization. Can your team or department improve the whole operation with your contribution? What do others do for you to make your day to day more accessible? What about external customers? Could any of your ideas be applied to the products you make or the services you offer?
7. How does greater accessibility in business make a positive impact to the bottom line?
It is true that we may face consumer complaints or lawsuits if we fail to properly address accessibility. However, that is a decidedly negative outlook.
Accessibility impacts our profitability in genuinely positive ways, too. It broadens our candidate pool for great employees, whose brilliant contributions might otherwise be excluded. It boosts morale and productivity in the workplace. And not just for those whose needs are addressed, but for anyone (and everyone) who craves an environment where employees truly matter.
Creating more accessibility in business increases revenue. Making products and services more accessible extends the market to more customers. More customers mean more purchases (and more repeat purchases). More positive user experiences generate more positive reviews, which in turn generate even more loyal customers. So, if you’re looking for a way to make a positive impact to the bottom line, I suggest making accessibility part of your growth strategy. If you want a little creative inspiration on how to accomplish that, you might start with the story of the blind bakers.
As always, I welcome your comments and ideas!