A new European research study from Forrester Research has confirmed that many employees who are Deaf, blind, vision, hearing or cognitive impaired, or who have a physical disability, find it harder to participate productively in workplaces that are not digitally accessible. However, making a workplace accessible benefits everyone.
Many organisations all over the world are committed to championing a digitally accessible workplace that’s effective and inclusive for people of all abilities. And as the 2016 Forrester Research study highlighted, the benefits of doing so are of real value to employees with a disability, as well as those without, along with the businesses and government departments they work for.
We live in an era where employees increasingly rely on technology to get their jobs done, and are always connected and able to work online from many different locations. So adopting accessible technologies and strategies allows organisations the flexibility to boost employee retention, meet regulatory needs, drive higher levels of productivity, and ensure that communications content can be used by all of your customers, members, or users.
Microsoft commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct an independent study in Europe to identify and quantify economic and socioeconomic outcomes resulting from an investment in accessible technologies, to enable easier accessibility for both employees and customers. The researchers discussed with interviewees the role they play in facilitating access both internally (supporting employees) and externally (in customer-facing applications).
Forrester defined accessible technologies as those that are “designed to provide additional accessibility and/or capabilities to individuals who have physical or cognitive difficulties, impairments, and disabilities”. As well as technology that “makes it easier for people to see, hear, and use services and access other devices.”
Examples of accessible technologies included screen readers, adaptive input devices, speech recognition, cognitive assistance tools, along with wearables (ex: smart glasses).
Over 80% of those organisations surveyed from across the private and public sectors stated that their accessibility strategies have helped them build a more inclusive workforce from a broader talent pool, or helped them retain employees who have acquired a disability.
Just as importantly, the benefits of rolling-out accessible technologies across an entire organisation were found to stretch well beyond the immediate value for employees with disabilities. Almost 80% of private sector firms along with 75% of public sector organisations highlighted that in making their office digitally accessible, they were able to increase productivity and efficiency among their entire workforce.
This research backs-up what is anecdotally apparent for web accessibility practitioners. Making a place of work technologically accessible, by providing digital access and being able to send out accessible web and digital communications, is great for staff, consumers, members, suppliers and other stakeholders of all abilities. And it’s great for business too.
If your organisation or department could use a little help making the workplace more accessible in terms of developing and then implementing a digital access strategy, contact the Media Access Australia digital accessibility services team