Ask any good gardener about the secret to growing healthy plants, and they’ll probably talk about creating optimum conditions and allowing plenty of time for plants to establish and flourish. At Sightsavers, we’ve always been keen to develop good accessibility practice. But we appreciate that building practice takes time.
We know our staff want to see more people with disabilities working at our organisation, although our IT and comms surveys conducted in 2021, demonstrated we were not as accessible as we could be in our day-to-day working methods. We needed to create the right conditions for our staff to ‘grow’ their daily accessibility practice.
Fast forward six months and we are halfway through our Think Accessibility campaign – an internal campaign designed to help staff feel confident in delivering their work in a way that is accessible to others. We’ve been able to engage nearly half of all staff directly through training, with 81% of those responding to our survey saying they have or will pass on their new knowledge to others.
We’ve seen the number of staff requests to have documents accessibility-checked triple, and a marked increase in attendance at our Disabled Employees Network (the DEN) meetings. So how did our campaign bring about the change and how can you use our lessons to help drive change at your charity too?
Recognising staff barriers
At Sightsavers, we asked our colleagues why they struggled to adopt more accessible ways of working. The responses varied and included: a lack of awareness of the functions available, a general concern around getting it wrong, the need for training, to simple forgetfulness. But by far the biggest issue reported was simply a lack of knowledge. This insight gave us clear barriers to break down and incorporate into our internal accessibility campaign and to create a more optimum learning environment.
Tip: Try to find out your staff’s barriers in building accessibility practice and build a campaign around eliminating those barriers.
Creating a simple campaign ask
At the heart of our newly created Think Accessibility campaign was a central ask; simply for staff to ‘commit to the power of two’. We encouraged everyone to incorporate at least two new accessible features into their day-to-day work. And to share that new knowledge with at least two other colleagues.
Tip: Create a simple message that everyone can easily commit to.
Developing short, practical training sessions
For us our Think Accessibility campaign was about starting a wider conversation in the organisation and for staff to share their own knowledge. Our ‘trainers’ (social media, IT, editorial, design, events colleagues) were not putting themselves up as experts but merely colleagues who had to skill up as part of their work and may have something new to share.
We asked them to devise short (30 min), practical ‘top tips’ training to share what they knew with their colleagues. These tips were then added to a PowerPoint template with a tip on each slide to dovetail as an ongoing staff resource.
Tip: Provide regular and simple ways to learn. E.g., 30 min recorded training with simple top tips and a central place for staff to find all resources and recordings.
Developing a central platform for all things accessibility
How many times have you or your colleagues been frustrated about not being able to find things? Let’s be honest, our enthusiasm to provide information and knowledge in a virtual world has created its own unique problems around information storage and connection.
To counteract this, Sightavers created a central platform for all things related to our campaign. All training recordings and presentations, manuals, upcoming events, and general accessibility resources were all found through one link to our intranet.
Reminding staff of the campaign through ‘tip of the week’
As part of Sightsavers’ accessibility push, we created 52 short think accessibility tips, one for each week of the campaign. This was published every Monday on the home page of our intranet to remind people of the importance of accessibility and make sure they could easily reach our accessibility pages and wider training offer.
Creating a campaign over 12 months
A 12-month campaign allowed training to be repeated, giving staff more time to choose when they engage. The goal was to create an environment where accessibility was something normal, and habitual.
Tip: Allow time to establish the campaign and embed staff practice.
Connecting with other initiatives
We wanted accessibility to be connected to the rest of Sightsavers’ business. And this meant linking up with other initiatives across the organisation, in particular with our IT colleagues whose survey found many staff were unaware of built-in accessibility features across the daily software they used.
We also engaged our executive team through our deputy CEO, a champion for inclusion, who fronted our organisation-wide launch. And we supported our newly created Disabled Employees Network, making them an integral part of our launch meeting. Their discussions around inclusion and accessibility reminded all staff of the very immediate reasons to ensure a more accessible approach to everyone’s daily work lives.
Tip: Connect with similar initiatives across your organisation to gain wider support.
Finally, we rode off the back of our well-established lunchtime seminar series to include talks from other organisations championing accessibility as well as inviting individuals with lived experiences of working in organisations as a person with a disability. There are so many people out there with amazing experiences to share so why not invite them to be a part of your journey?
- Find out staff barriers in building accessibility practice and build a campaign around eliminating those barriers
- Create a simple message that everyone can easily commit to
- Provide regular and simple ways to learn – 30 min recorded training with simple top tips and the central place for staff to find all resources and recordings
- Allow time to establish a slow burn campaign and embed staff practice
- Connect with similar initiatives across your organisation to gain wider support
- Make it part of your onboarding for new starters; encourage them to be part of the journey and add to your organisation’s ever-increasing knowledge base on accessibility.
- Accessible Communication resource
- Accessible communications doesn’t have to be complicated
- Top tips for accessible communications
- Making your social media accessible
This article is part of the CharityComms resource ‘Accessible communications: A starting point for fostering more inclusive comms’.
Banner Image: Chetan Kolte on Unsplash