Understanding how accessibility affects us all

Fara Muneer, The Centre for Accessible Environments

The Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) is passionate about delivering inclusive environments and a critical part of CAE’s mission is to raise awareness through training, offering consultation to organisations to create the right environment which plays many roles. Firstly, that the right environment is inclusive and comfortable for staff and secondly, will attract and retain customers.

This goes hand in hand with staff training to embed the values of being an inclusive organisation.

The payoff for CAE is seeing the impact first hand of delegates having a wider influence on diversity and accessibility with their newly acquired knowledge and skills.

‘Understanding how accessibility affects us all’ was how one of the delegates summed up her training, which was critical to her role within a leading gallery where she was responsible for visitor experience.  Jo who is a Chartered Ergonomist, recently had this to say about a course she attended: “A brilliant and informative course; including teaching and practical elements so that we could apply what we’d learnt…. the trainers, are extremely knowledgeable and provided lots of real life examples. I am already utilising the knowledge I gained.”

CAE Centre for Accessible Environments logo

Three scenes of training provided by CAE: Left - people looking at a diagram, top right, a man talking, bottom right, a man wearing glasses

Various scenes of training with CAE

CAE deliver both bespoke courses for organisations and in addition offer open courses, last year CAE trained over 400 delegates –  a win for CAE, as these delegates now have a higher level of access knowledge and understanding of the practicalities of access improvements in light of the Equality Act 2010.

One of CAE’s clients is the Government’s housing accelerator who work across regional offices throughout England. As their teams had a variety of roles including staff from office roles to more specialist housing teams CAE delivered a mix of training from half, one and two-day training courses for them on disability awareness to more specialist training.

As their training partners, CAE’s biggest outcome was not only supporting their strategic plan to put equality and diversity at the heart of their work but also the knowledge that CAE’s training will impact the housing needs of more diverse communities.

Although CAE gets a variety of requests for training, courses cover:

To see upcoming dates and to book for any of CAE’s upcoming courses please click here.

World Mental Health Day 2018: ‘Young people in a changing world’.

By Charles Clement, Business Disability Forum

When I started my first proper job for a large insurance firm about 20 years ago, I remember we had a welcome reception with wine and cheese (now that shows how long ago this was).

This was a chance for new recruits to meet senior staff and was part of the formal induction process. After quite a lot of cheese and some wine I got talking to a Director from a different part of the business. My tongue loosened by the wine, I told her that I was very unhappy in my new post. I didn’t think I fitted in, felt very anxious and I was probably depressed, having experienced depression in the past. After a few awkward moments the Director excused herself and went to mingle and I went home. The next day I went in to work and was immediately asked in to a meeting room by my Manager. I was told in no uncertain terms that he did not appreciate me talking about the department to other colleagues and that if I wasn’t happy then maybe it wasn’t the job for me. After this things were, not to put too fine a point on it, awkward – and I left soon after. To be honest Mental Health wasn’t widely spoken about back then so I don’t hold any ill will towards my Manager and as a new entrant to the labour market, I thought his reaction was pretty normal.

I contrast my own experiences to those of someone fairly new to the world of work. I recently spoke to Andrew who has been a Management Consultant at EY for about four years. Andrew, like me, had experienced depression at school and university. When looking for a graduate scheme to join, EYs reputation as a people centred business played a part in Andrew’s decision.

EY logo

EY

When he joined EY, Andrew wanted to explore whether he could create a wellbeing programme that was tailored to young people joining the world of work supporting them to manage their mental health and wellbeing, – perhaps they had moved to a new city away from family and friends for instance. Not only was this project supported by leadership at EY, it was positively encouraged. Andrew knows he can be open with his managers about his depression and has the flexibility to balance his own time with client needs in a way that works for him. So, it does appear that times, are changing.

So what does the future hold? Undoubtedly, mental health is spoken about more widely and has a greater profile in the media. This has gone some way to removing the stigma associated with poor mental health. However, as mental health becomes more widely discussed in the workplace it’s important that it doesn’t drop off the agenda or become a ‘non-issue’. Line managers should still be equipped to have conversations with employees who look like they are struggling with their Mental Health.

Technology is developing at an incredible rate. This allows us to have more agile and flexible workplaces, which can be of great benefit to someone who needs to work from home because of their mental health. Often, this new technology allows employees to work at times that suit them, which can be very useful if sleep patterns are erratic or a person is fatigued at certain times of the day. However, it is important that we make time to ‘check-in’ with our colleagues who work flexibly, to make sure they have the support they need. As in all things in life, getting the right balance is important.

Charles Clement

Charles Clement

The future provides challenges, certainly, but also many opportunities to get it right around mental health. I have worked at Business Disability Forum for six years and the progress made in that time makes me even more hopeful that in another six perhaps mental health will be discussed in the workplace, in the same way we discuss physical health.

Interested in more about mental health?

Business Disability Forum recently undertook a survey of 16-24 year olds to gauge their attitudes to mental health and the role of businesses and universities. While a huge majority of respondents wanted to talk more about mental health, few felt able to do so at their places of work or study, showing how outdated approaches are holding back the next generation.

For the full findings, visit our Media Centre. A report on the findings will be released in January 2019.

It’s all about the talent

Jodie

By Jodie Greer, IT Accessibility Lead, Shell

 

Do you consider yourself to have a disability?

Yes?

Not at the moment?

Some of us aren’t currently living day to day with a disability. But that’s just a temporary state. Be it due to injury, illness or age, personal circumstances can change at any time for any one of us.

Would your current employer be able to accommodate your needs if your circumstances changed?

More importantly, as an employer, if one of your employees becomes disabled, are you equipped to retain them – or do you risk losing them to a more accessible competitor?

I’m sure you don’t need much more convincing. After all, it’s simply good business sense to ensure your organisation is disability smart and fully accessible. Be the one who talented individuals consider first when planning the next step in their career, not the one who some talented individuals disregard because you’re considered inaccessible and therefore a potential obstacle in their progression.

Do you value the talent you’ve already successfully recruited?

What if one of those high performers were to become disabled, would you value them less?

Would hearing loss, sight loss or a mobility impairment make them less effective?

In many cases, only if you aren’t willing or able to provide the right tools.

Not only do you risk losing out, you could also get hit by unnecessary costs for recruitment, training and the reduced productivity which comes with the induction and initial training for a new role.

We all know, there is no need to quote sources here, that some disabilities e.g. hearing or sight loss, can be age related. With the aging working population growing it’s even more essential we are fully equipped to meet accessibility needs. Imagine losing all that experience to a competitor just because you hadn’t future-proofed your solutions. This includes some very simple changes like having magnifying and screen reader software readily available.

We live in a technological world and technology is ever evolving, in fact technology is way ahead of many of us when it comes to accessibility.

Need help seeing the right colour neck tie?  There’s an (free!) app for that.

Need assistance reading the text on screen?  Guess what, there are (free!) functionalities and software for that on multiple platforms.

Need your PowerPoint presentation reviewed to ensure it’s accessible?  You’ve guessed it, there’s a (free!) built in Accessibility Checker for that.

It’s really all about making accessibility part of your organisation’s DNA, so that it’s just business as usual (BAU); and, why wouldn’t you? At the Business Disability Forum Technology Taskforce, a question we regularly ask is: how can we help organisations to understand the true business value of accessibility?

I’m sure all my “free!” references above did not go unnoticed and that’s an important factor here.  I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should not invest in accessibility, after all how would you achieve innovation without investment in your people, services and solutions?  However, I am sharing with you that many of your concerns over the commercial impact may well be unfounded.  In fact, the average cost of a reasonable adjustment is just £30.*

Circular flowchart showing 'accessibility' leading to 'best talent' which leads on to 'good business' and back to 'accessibility'

Accessibility is good business sense: Accessible practices feed into getting the best talent, which in turn makes the business better and stronger

Why not take a few moments now to look up what’s available in your work place, or to have a conversation with your local IT and/or occupational health teams on how to make improvements?  The Technology Taskforce have a number of free resources available on their website, ranging from what is expected of an ICT Accessibility Champion to what you might look to include in your assistive technology catalogue. Don’t wait until you regret it, take action now and be confident you can attract and retain the very best talent to pave the way to success.

You can find out more about the Technology Taskforce and the resources available to you via the following links:

https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/membership/technology-taskforce/

https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/membership/technology-taskforce/technology-taskforce-resources-info-az/

*Source: RIDI

Unlocking the potential of employees with neurodiverse conditions

Sign for RBS Business School, Edinburgh

Royal Bank of Scotland have just achieved Gold in Business Disability Forum’s Disability Standard.

In this blog, Louise Ferguson, Operational Manager at Royal Bank of Scotland, talks about how they worked with the consultancy Lexxic to improve support for employees.

In October 2016, we began to make referrals to Lexxic for individuals affected by dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, AD(H)D, and other neurological differences. Lexxic are Business Psychologists and specialists in dyslexia and neurodiverse conditions.

Previously, support for neurodiverse conditions had been provided through our Occupational Health providers. Workplace assessments would be carried out by an Occupational Therapist where an adult screening test would be undertaken to confirm likely-hood of a condition and its severity. In addition to this they would provide recommendations to support the employee in doing their role.

Working with Lexxic has enabled us to provide access to industry specialists who offer us the options of diagnostic testing, work place assessment, e-learning modules and one to one support training. The move to Lexxic has been incredibly beneficial for our employees with neurodiverse conditions, as well as their managers and colleagues. A clear advantage of the service provided by Lexxic is that they can run ‘lunch and learn’ awareness sessions for managers and colleagues, allowing them to better understand conditions and how best to work with and support their colleagues. Feedback from employees has been very positive.

We work closely with Royal Bank of Scotland’s employee led disability network ‘Enable’ to raise awareness of different conditions, and the support available in the workplace. We’ve really seen the benefit of unlocking the potential of those employees with neuro differences.

A Lexxic newsletter recently highlighted the story of Chris, a complaints handler in the bank who has dyspraxia. He shared his story in a post called ‘There’s a lot of things that I can do better than someone who doesn’t have dyspraxia’. He talked about the importance of raising awareness, and using the highlighted tools to make adjustments to his working practices.

The support Lexxic have (and continue) to provide has been very valuable. They have a good understanding of our business, and the employees’ needs. It’s great to hear about their new strategic alliance with Business Disability Forum.

Why every employer should see the films at the Technology Taskforce Film Festival

bdf-film-festival-event-carousel

By Jeff A. King, Assistant Vice President, European IT, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

We’ve teamed up with the Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce for a unique event. It’s a Film Festival that provides a look at the world through the eyes of young disabled students preparing to go for their first jobs.

It goes without saying that workplaces need to understand each new generation of graduates. After all they are the people who will ultimately shape the organisation and ensure it meets the future with fresh ideas and remains relevant. More immediately, this is about getting the best out of every employee in the organisation and utilising the most diverse possible pool of talent.

Therefore it is a given that workplaces need to understand disabled employees and candidates, for the same reason. It’s the right thing to do and means your business is fair and open, but, more importantly, it also means that every employee has the chance to succeed and achieve their full potential in an environment where they are valued and respected.

Judging films for this year’s Film Festival has been particularly interesting because this new generation of disabled talent has grown up or come of age with hard-fought legislation such as the DDA and Equality Act already in place.

This means they will bring a formidable range of new ideas and approaches to the workplace, but also that they will expect and want new things from their employer. This shouldn’t be a source of concern for recruiters – it should be treated as a real opportunity to develop the way we work and problem-solve.

So it’s just down to us as organisations to rise to the challenge.

Some of the most inspiring aspects of the Film Festival entries were the ways they showed how understanding and adjustments, whether this was by entire organisations or just by individuals working together, can break down any barrier.

We specifically wanted to see the entrants weave in the theme of technology and another great thing to see was how technology has enabled not only disabled people, but entire workforces to operate in a more accessible way.

Seeing the work of these talented young filmmakers, I am reminded of how successful this approach was in one of our interns, who shared her story on our website.

Mollie recently started with us as a Management Trainee Intern at our Midlands group and her experience shows how simple adjustments to the work environment can enable a talented candidate to shine. She immediately felt able to share the fact that she had dyslexia when she came to work for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and was also secure in the knowledge that she would receive any necessary adjustments in a timely manner.

This meant that a talented new trainee was able to take on every aspect of her new job to the best of her ability, and that there were no barriers when it came to hiring new talent.

758500bf-8d25-49ab-ae05-1ef6f601618bSuccesses like this are among the many reasons why I would like to encourage as many businesses as possible to see these films. Hearing what can help break down barriers for disabled people – be that technology, collaboration or adjustments – in their own words, is something all businesses should do.

We’ll be screening our own film at the Film Festival, ‘Blind Hike’, which I feel sums up what we are hoping to achieve in terms of breaking down barriers: it’s about no experience or achievement being off limits and realising the potential that everyone has.

The honest truth about red, amber and green

By Hari Sundaresantraffic lights

In our latest guest blog, new BDF Board Member Hari Sundaresan talks about his experience of revealing his disability to his colleagues and helping to maintain an open culture around disability at BT.

I started out as a graduate scientist at Adastral and have enjoyed some very interesting jobs. But for years I hid the fact I had a specific vision-related condition. It hasn’t held me back but I was often worried that it would make a difference if people found out, and not in a good way.

Then, in a team meeting a few years ago, I had no choice but to share the thing I had always felt embarrassed about. Picture the scene. My team are showing me a slide as part of a project status update…

‘Hari, you don’t seem very worried about the status of these projects?’

‘Why would I be? They are mostly green aren’t they?’

‘No! They are mostly red!’

‘Ah…then there is something I need to tell you.’

It was out. I had to admit to being colour blind for the first time in my career. People knowing isn’t a big deal these days; but it used to be a big deal for me. Now I tell everyone who I am working with, to write the words ‘Red’, Amber’ and ‘Green’ and not just rely on colours to tell me the status of their project. It works fine.

I guess this was the day I was my “whole” self at work and by being so my colleagues and I both adjusted so that we get the job done. It made me feel so much better about the whole business of having a visual condition.

This is one of the reasons I became BT’s Disability Champion.

To me this means I can personally influence BT’s journey to becoming a company who is really confident with disability:

  • I want everyone to get that difference is just part of life and we are so much better for it
  • I want us all to  feel we can be our whole selves at work and that we are much more likely to succeed if we are
  • I want us all to get the adjustments we need to do our jobs well and that most of the time it’s going to be something pretty  quick and simple
  • I want to carry on talking about disability at BT, and I want everyone to hear it, so please join in and help me share the conversation.

It’s a journey I’m now keen to influence on an even larger scale as a board member of BDF. It feels like there’s a lot more work to be done and I’m looking forward to a busy and exciting 2017!

Is there really a business case for website accessibility?

By Rick Williams

home-worker-image-obscured-person-using-a-laptop-with-mug-of-coffee

Following the publication of the Click-Away Pound Report http://www.clickawaypound.com I’ve been reflecting on why website accessibility and usability for disabled people is still an issue after all these years. It is a puzzle to me that 71% of disabled users click-away from sites with access barriers and consequently displace £11.75 B to accessible sites. Why do businesses let that happen? It definitely isn’t good business on any level.

This situation exists despite:

  • The Equality Act and its predecessor – the Disability Discrimination Act
  • International standards
  • Government guidelines
  • A British Standard
  • Expert guidance and discussions
  • Campaigns

The traditional business case

It seems to me there are three key aspects to the broader business case:

  • Legal
  • PR
  • Commercial

These three issues are, of course, inter-related but are worth considering individually.

In reality the legal risks of having an inaccessible website are low in the UK. To make a case a customer would need to demonstrate a breach of the Equality Act which affected them personally and this would need to be done in a County or High court which would be expensive and time consuming. No cases in this field have been pursued to their conclusion; the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has initiated several cases against businesses with inaccessible sites but the cases were settled out of court, with the organisations involved agreeing to address the issues. The lack of cases coming to court probably explains why the law has had little impact in this area since its introduction (in the form of the Disability Discrimination Act) in 1995, although challenges are always a possibility. Interestingly, in the USA the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 allows for class actions and the imposition of much higher compensation payments. Even so, the US approach has not delivered a fully accessible web presence.

There are potential PR risks if website accessibility is ignored and this has implications, albeit limited, for loss of reputation. Any business strategy based on customer-focus and inclusivity is quickly undermined by the lack of an inclusive website. Such stories are unlikely to generate significant coverage in mainstream media and result in PR damage unless a legal challenge is mounted, but they do attract attention on social media and generate ’mood music’‘ of negativity about the business’s understanding of the issues which can be damaging to the brand.

Even commercial judgements such as lost or displaced revenue has not driven business to ensure accessible websites; if it had there wouldn’t be this issue. This surely can only mean businesses don’t understand its size and implications.

Clearly this business case has failed to gain traction. What is the reality that business is failing to grasp?

The business issues

Considering the trends identified in the Survey and applying them to the national data is illuminating.

  • The most recent ONS estimate of the UK population is 65.11 million in mid-2015 of whom 87.9% (46.47 million) have internet access.
  • CAPGemini projected overall UK online spending to be £126 billion by the beginning of 2016 equating to an average spend per head of the UK population with internet access of £2710.
  • In 2016, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimated there were 8.6 million internet users with a disability in the UK
  • This Survey found that 71% of internet users with a disability have access needs; this translates to 6.1 million people
  • Taking an average spend per head of £2710, the online spending power of 6.1 million disabled people with access needs in 2016 is £16.55 billion.
  • The Survey found that 71% of the total 6.1 million disabled internet users with access needs (4.3 million people) simply click-away when confronted with a problematic website.
  • These figures equate to a click-away figure of £11.75 billion lost in 2016 from those sites which are not accessible.

These calculations are extrapolated from the Survey’s findings so care must be taken when considering them. Nevertheless, these figures are so large that even allowing for a significant margin of interpretation they are too large to be ignored.

This assessment is supported by findings from our wider work in this field which indicates that over 70% of websites present significant accessibility and usability barriers to disabled users. This means that over two-thirds of businesses are significantly undermining their own potential online customer base. This spend is not lost but simply moves elsewhere as disabled users with access needs turn to a website which is more user friendly. Two-thirds of online retailers are passing customers and sales to their competitors.

Conclusion

To answer the question ‘Is there really a business case’ I believe the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’, both nationally and at the level of the individual business.  However, business needs to get a better understanding of the bottom line implications and adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach to website accessibility rather than treating it as a ‘nice to do’ or ‘bolt-on’.

A brief look at the numbers in the Click-Away Pound report should be enough to persuade organisations that they are potentially ignoring and excluding a large number of potential customers. Also businesses need to bear in mind that if a disabled shopper clicks away from their site to one of their competitors, they show little inclination to return.

Take a look at the Click-Away Pound report and get an insight into the business issues and how inaccessible websites impact on your business.

http://www.clickawaypound.com