As the world evolves, so do our ways of conducting business. The recent shift to remote working has been a game-changer for companies of all sizes. Yet, one critical aspect often overlooked is accessibility. Ensuring that your business is accessible to all, regardless of individual abilities or geographical location, is not just a matter of legality but also a social responsibility that can significantly impact your bottom line.
Understanding the Importance of Accessibility
Accessibility in the remote business context implies that every team member, regardless of their physical capabilities or location, should have equal opportunities and means to engage in work activities. It involves providing necessary accommodations and leveraging technology to enable all individuals to perform their tasks effectively.
If you’re thinking, ‘why bother?’ then consider this. A diverse and inclusive workforce, which inherently includes persons with disabilities, fosters innovation, better problem-solving, and has a broader perspective. These factors lead to improved performance and profitability. So, making your remote business accessible is not just ethically right, but it’s also a strategic decision.
Fostering an Inclusive Culture
Inclusivity starts with the company culture. A culture of inclusivity lays the groundwork for accessible business operations. Encourage open discussions about disabilities, destigmatise them, and provide training to ensure all employees understand the importance of accessibility and inclusivity.
The leadership should lead the charge in building an inclusive culture. It involves modelling behaviours, setting expectations, and providing necessary resources and support to employees. The key is to ensure that every employee feels valued and included, which will inherently make your business more accessible.
Leveraging Technology for Accessibility
Technology has emerged as a great equaliser in the business world. It has opened up unprecedented opportunities for people with disabilities to perform tasks they might otherwise be unable to do. However, it’s crucial to choose the right technology solutions to enhance accessibility in your remote business.
Use software that offers accessibility features, like closed captioning for video conferences, screen reader support for visually impaired users, or speech-to-text technology for those who have difficulty typing. Evaluate all your business software – from project management tools to collaboration apps – to ensure they support accessibility.
Offering Flexible Work Arrangements
Another aspect of improving accessibility is providing flexible work arrangements. Not everyone can work efficiently during traditional business hours, especially those with certain disabilities or those who live in different time zones. Offering flexible hours can help these individuals perform at their best, increasing productivity and job satisfaction.
It’s important to note that remote working doesn’t just mean working from home. It can be a mixture of on-site working and home-working, or just working from different locations throughout the week. For the most part, it’s all about finding a workable solution that works for all parties involved.
Providing Necessary Accommodations
Making accommodations to meet individual needs is a critical part of ensuring accessibility. These could include providing ergonomic equipment, allowing frequent breaks, or making any other adjustments that help employees perform their duties more effectively. Remember, what might seem insignificant to one person can make a world of difference to another.
Creating Accessible Content
Whether it’s internal communication, a client presentation, or your company website, it’s essential to ensure your content is accessible. Use simple, clear language, and provide alternatives for visual or auditory content. For instance, include alt text for images and transcripts for audio or video content. Not only does this make your content more accessible, but it can also improve your SEO performance.
Creating Accessible Documents
On a similar line of thinking, slightly aside from content, you should think about the actual documents you and your business will work with. When creating documents, follow a structured layout with clear headings, sub-headings, and bullet points to make them easy to read and navigate. Use simple and clear language, and avoid jargon as much as possible. Furthermore, consider the contrast between text and background for those with visual impairments and ensure the text size is adjustable.
You should also be ensuring that you are making all forms of documents accessible. This means making your PDF documents accessible, as well as your word documents! You can find out more about accessible PDFs from AbleDocs, who specialise in this. They have tools that can help you test files to see if they meet accessibility compliance requirements. It’s important that you and your team educate yourself on this.
Engaging in Continuous Improvement
Improving accessibility is not a one-time task. It requires continuous effort and should be an integral part of your business strategy. Regularly solicit feedback from your team, identify areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments. Remember, the goal is to create an environment where everyone can thrive.
It’s unlikely that you will ever be at a place that you no longer need to have a look at your accessibility needs. There will always be more work to be done, especially as the technology improves and there will be new practices entering the industry. Not only should you be looking to engage in continuous improvement, but you should be educating yourself and team throughout the year when it comes to accessibility.
Accessibility Audit and Legal Compliance
It is also vital to carry out regular accessibility audits. These assessments will enable you to identify any barriers that might hinder accessibility and provide you with a roadmap for implementing necessary improvements. It’s best to engage experts in accessibility to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.
Moreover, compliance with accessibility laws is essential to avoid potential lawsuits and reputational damage. Countries have different laws regarding digital accessibility, and non-compliance could result in hefty fines. Therefore, understanding and adhering to these regulations is a critical step in improving accessibility within your remote business.
Promoting External Accessibility
While focusing on internal operations is crucial, do not forget about your external stakeholders. Your clients, suppliers, or partners might also have accessibility needs. Ensuring your digital platforms – websites, social media, and apps – are accessible will enable these stakeholders to interact with your business smoothly.
External accessibility also extends to customer service. Training your customer-facing teams to handle requests from persons with disabilities can significantly enhance their experience with your company.