Making sure that ‘digital-first’ is also ‘accessible-first’

By Lucy Ruck

Delegates at the Accessibility in the Digital Space event

The Accessibility in the Digital Space event on 28 September

There’s no question that the main way that employees and customers alike will deal with most organisations today will be digitally.

But the question remains: what does this mean for accessibility? So this is what we asked at our Accessibility in the Digital Space event which I was lucky enough to lead on Wednesday 28 September.

These events are enormously rewarding in terms of the success stories and good practice we hear about from BDF’s Members and Partners and particularly the sheer passion many of them have for making their websites and IT systems fully accessible.

Indeed what emerged very quickly at Wednesday’s event was the importance of digital accessibility for organisations. Nigel Fletcher of Tesco, who kindly hosted the event, estimated that around 20 per cent of Tesco’s 500,000 employees have a disability.

The event gave us the first glimpse of the Click-Away Pound research which BDF have produced with Freeney Williams and which will show the costs to businesses of users leaving inaccessible websites.

What we know already is stark: that over 70 per cent of disabled people face significant barriers to accessing websites and apps and often give up.

Of course, there are many challenges involved with digital accessibility, not just in terms of working around existing systems but also entrenched ways of thinking. Rick Williams highlighted the need for a change of culture at organisations so that accessibility is approached as a matter of course, rather than being included as an afterthought as often happens at present.

Then there is the sheer scale of the work involved, with Alistair Duggin of the Government Digital Service noting that making the gov.uk site accessible entailed work on some 300,000 pages of web content.

But one of the key points from the discussion was that organisations are rising to the challenge in a big way.

Marianne Matthews and Clare Davidson from Sky highlighted a major shift in the organisation towards embedding accessibility in everything they do. They have built up a massive digital product development team of 650 people to help them do this, tested every digital product with live users and linked accessibility directly in to Sky’s three design principles of ‘brilliantly simple’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘intelligent’.

Meanwhile Will Houston of Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, noted that accessibility for employees is being transformed by allowing employees to personalise the way they work on IT systems. Will also spoke extensively about the tools that the Technology Taskforce has developed, that are really helping him to embed accessibility with their organisation. Signing up to the Accessible Technology Charter and using the Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM), have really helped them to assess where they are and the areas where they need to improve.

So the key theme here is changing the way we think – as we move more and more towards being ‘digital-first’, we should also become ‘accessible-first’.

And it’s great to be part of the discussions that drive that move.

For more information about BDF’s Technology Taskforce please visit www. technologytaskforce.org/

A chance to celebrate and reflect

By Sir Ian Cheshire

There’s something about summer weather that invites a celebration, so it was just as well that it was a beautiful day for our annual Partner Group Reception at Hampton Court Palace on 20 July.

Our Partner Group Reception is an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved over the last year, and the incredible work made possible by our Partners in terms of raising awareness, sharing ideas and best practice, and in general keeping the conversation around disability and business going.

Delegates and speakers in the audience at the Partner Group Reception

More than 200 delegates attended the Partner Group Reception

This conversation is at the heart of what we do. Talking about disability in a meaningful way brings about real steps forward for employees and businesses alike.

If we as business leaders avoid talking about disability, we don’t get the best out of our employees or from the wider talent pool. This has real practical implications for the workplace: as our keynote speaker Adam Pearson put it, if the conversation around disability is limited to “We have someone with a disability starting on Monday – we’d better get them a chair”, then the relationship between employee and employer simply will not be a productive one. So why do conversations like this still take place in many businesses?

Often, it’s as simple as a lack of understanding or knowledge – this is why bringing together our Partner Group to share ideas and success stories is so crucial to the work of BDF.

Over 200 delegates from our Partner Group attended the event, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge to share. In particular, there were many stories that broke down pre-conceptions around disability and how it might affect someone at work.

One story that no doubt stuck with many at the event was that of Daniel Pruce, a diplomat with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Daniel began experiencing seizures while on a posting in Bangkok a few years ago, and after consulting a doctor found out he had epilepsy. Daniel’s story is an example of how even a life-changing condition need not present obstacles in the workplace. Because his employer was supportive, he felt able to be open about his condition and any adjustments he needed. He could carry on working effectively and using his experience to inform his organisation’s approach to disability. At the same time the FCO were able to retain someone with valuable experience and skills.

This is the kind of success that benefits both employee and employer, and it’s the kind of story we want to hear more of. We know, as Daniel rightly pointed out, that “there is a long road to travel,” even now, which is why it’s so brilliant to see the conversation and exchange of ideas around disability continue when we bring our Partner Group together.

Event round up: Technology Taskforce Megaquiz

By Dean Haynes

A raft of BDF Members, Partners and associates descended onto Canary Wharf once again on Tuesday 2 December to attend the annual Technology Taskforce MegaQuiz. Kindly hosted by Taskforce members Barclays, the evening followed the format of many well-known quiz shows, including a blast from the past in the form of Blockbusters!

People sitting at tables ready for the MegaQuiz to beginNow in its third year, the Technology Taskforce holds the annual MegaQuiz as an opportunity for ICT practitioners and others to put their disability knowledge to the test, with this year’s quiz led by CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell. Eleven teams from across BDF membership pitted their wits against one another for the glory of being named Technology Taskforce MegaQuiz champions of 2014.

Lucy Ruck, Technology Taskforce Manager at Business Disability Forum, said:

“The annual MegaQuiz is an opportunity for ICT professionals to come together in a fun environment and test their own knowledge of how disability affects business against their own peers, clients, competitors and suppliers – all while having an enjoyable evening out with colleagues”.

“The MegaQuiz is also a fantastic opportunity for Technology Taskforce members to network with other like-minded individuals and learn more about how ICT plays a vital role in making our workplaces and services more accessible to disabled people”.

The first round centred on an old classic, the Blockbusters Gold Run, with Cerrie leading the teams across the board before finally asking for “a P please, Bob”. Round two was named “8 out of 10 Guide Dogs”, where teams were asked to pick the right answers from a range of stats. The missing words round came next, where disability-related headlines taken from the news had vital words removed. A host of famous faces on the picture board made up round four, where contestants had to not only put a name to the face, but also name their disability. The last round gave all the teams the chance to almost double their scores on the Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ “Next Lines” round, with points available for the artist, the next line and the artist’s impairment. As you’d expect, there were plenty of people humming their way through the songs to get the right answer!

Just before the quiz came to a close, there was a tense tiebreaker for third place between “The Scousers” from Standard Chartered and “The Quantitative Easings” from Barclays, with The Scousers darting in at the last minute to claim the third-place hamper of goodies. The Microlink-led team of “The Chiefs” were our runners-up, and this year’s MegaQuiz champions were the team from Barclays and AbilityNet.

The final scoreboard from the event

Once again, the whole evening was a resounding success, with plenty of engagement, providing the opportunity to network and meet new people, enjoy some early Christmas cheer whilst having some fun and learning more about disability.

A gallery of professional photos will be available on our Facebook page early next week. For more information on the Technology Taskforce, visit www.technologytaskforce.org