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How to make our workplaces, communities, and lives more accessible for all

26 October 2021

Accessibility has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. But, as with most buzzwords, it can sometimes seem like a whole lot of talk, and very little action. It’s time we went back to basics to understand how to make our workplaces, communities, and lives more accessible for all.

With the jobs market picking up again there is an opportunity for organisations to ensure they are factoring in accessibility when recruiting. Diversity in our workforces makes us stronger and ensuring things are accessible for the talent we recruit should come as a given not a nice to have.

So what does accessibility mean and what can we do to achieve it?

What is accessibility?

At its core, accessibility means that people should have equal access to tools and resources. It means making sure that someone with a disability does not have to put in additional effort to access a tool, compared to someone without a disability.

Accessibility isn’t about right or wrong. By the very nature of our weird and wonderful world, it’s nigh on impossible to make everything accessible to everyone. Something will be accessible to some but not others. The aim is to limit the barriers wherever possible, to ensure that no one is specifically excluded.

To give you an example, imagine a world where you only ever listen to Elvis as this is the only artist that appears on your Spotify homepage. You’re missing out on other greats, such as Chuck Berry, who you would have to search more deeply to find. This is an unconscious barrier and, as not everyone has the same ability to search, some people will miss out on hearing classics such as Johnny B Goode.

This is similar to excluding certain people from your network unconsciously and missing out on the talent that they have. Would it not be better to have access and include everyone from the start?

Lack of access is rarely a barrier placed there on purpose. We tend to see the world as we move through it. Mostly, it’s a lack of awareness or knowledge about accessibility that causes issues. But this is where we need to spend time unlearning our own habits and ask “if I experienced the world like this, would I still have the same access to this?”

Here are some common issues around accessibility and what can be done to address the issues that arise.

Incorporating accessibility from the outset

Another thing to remember is that accessibility needs to begin from the outset and be considered both externally and internally. Not a lot of people think about accessibility in the context of recruitment. But there are often issues to address around communicating with those who you want to bring into your charity too as the more diverse our organisations the better.

From widespread conversations with different communities, we understand that there are certain questions that are rarely addressed during recruitment processes, and that they really matter. They are often quite basic, and include such things as whether the building has step-free access?  Are you able to provide papers, materials and communications in large print? Is your organisation willing and able to source a sign language interpreter if required?

Without proactively addressing these questions, the onus is on the candidate to ask – during what is already a challenging process for them. Many people we spoke to felt uncomfortable asking these questions, feeling as though they were put at a disadvantage even before answering questions about their work history.

One way Peridot Partners are addressing this is by including an accessibility tab on our recruitment sites. It means that these questions are answered clearly for candidates, without the need for them to proactively ask for the information. The response we have had has been very positive, and people feel more comfortable to ask further questions, even if their disability isn’t addressed directly on the site.

Some tips for creating accessible communications

Start by asking yourself:

  1. What are we doing now?
  2. What are we trying to achieve?
  3. How will we measure the impact?

Here are a few quick tips to make your communications accessible:

Use of plain and simple language.

Complex language or technical terms could stop someone from reading your communications. Using simple language will allow you to reach a more diverse audience, no matter what that means to your organization. Human Rights Watch have a great example of this for their research reports.

Use simple fonts.

People with sight impairments often use reader assistance software. This technology is currently set up to read simple, basic fonts. Using elaborate fonts can hinder these tools.

Keep emojis to a minimum.

Screen readers will read the meaning on an emoji out. Having multiple emojis will mean the software will repeat the meaning. For example, “CharityComms 😊😊😊” will be read out as “CharityComms smiley face smiley face smiley face”.

Use a gender decoder for your job ads.

Without knowing it, the language that we use can have a gender bias. The use of a gender decoder, can help to make your job adverts unbiased and more accessible to all.

If we take these simple steps, we can all play a part in improving accessibility for all. And so, in the famed words of Elvis Presley, let’s make for “a little less conversation, a little more action, please”.

To discuss accessibility in marketing, communications and digital recruitment, please do drop me an email at toby@peridotpartners.co.uk.


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Banner Image: Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

Toby Roberts

business manager, marketing and communications, Peridot Partners