November 14, 2023
This blog post is co-authored by Theresa Allen, Carissa Siddell & Maria Soriano Young after they attended the 2023 National Disability Inclusion Summit.
Part of an organization’s diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) journey involves an ongoing search for ways to enhance and improve inclusivity and accessibility. Adopting inclusive practices can improve an organization’s culture, creating a workplace that values diversity and empowers employees to thrive. While some aspects of this empowerment stem from creating a safe space where employees can speak up to advocate for adaptations or accommodations that would enhance their working environment, others represent proactive steps organizations can take to make that space. In this blog post, we discuss three key practices to consider incorporating into your organization that will enhance inclusivity and accessibility for all employees in virtual and in-person settings.
1. Closed Captioning: Enhancing Accessibility and Inclusion
In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, communication is vital. However, not everyone consumes information in the same way. Closed captions, particularly during meetings with a virtual component, play a critical role in enhancing accessibility and promoting inclusivity in the workplace. While closed captioning is often associated with making content accessible to individuals with hearing impairments, it goes beyond that. It also benefits those who may have difficulty understanding spoken language due to language barriers, individuals with learning disabilities, and even the hearing of anyone who is in a noisy environment where listening, in general, may be difficult. By implementing closed captioning, you demonstrate a commitment to clear communication and inclusivity within your organization.
2. Describing Your Physical Appearance: The Power of Visual Representation
As part of your introduction during virtual or in-person meetings, consider including a description of your physical attributes. You can choose to disclose any or all of the following: hair and skin color, race or ethnicity, gender, clothing, and height. Incorporating physical appearance descriptions into your introductions may seem unusual or even difficult at first, but it’s a practice that fosters inclusivity and creates a more welcoming and accommodating environment. This practice accommodates people who may be visually impaired and people (whether current employees or people who are attending a meeting from outside your organization) who may be accessing the meeting or webinar through audio only and are not watching their screens. In addition, people who are sitting at the back of a large room may not be able to see the speaker clearly, especially if the room doesn’t have any cameras and projection screens. Finally, sharing your own physical description allows you to represent your identity to viewers in the way that you choose – another inclusive practice that demonstrates how much your organization values diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
3. Build a Neurodiverse-Inclusive Workplace
“Neurodivergent” is an umbrella term that includes sensory processing disorders like autism, ADHD, OCD, and dyslexia (among many others) – disabilities that may fall under the lens of being invisible, but nonetheless have the potential to be just as life-altering as visible disabilities. Employers and colleagues should understand that neurodivergent individuals may perceive and engage with their environments in ways that differ from neurotypical individuals. Yet, they bring diverse skillsets and can enhance innovation within an organization. To enhance the recruitment and workplace experiences of neurodivergent individuals, an organization can begin by offering an educational session and raising awareness about the topic. Ensure that application forms, especially on websites, are accessible and meet ADA compliance guidelines. Organizations may also consider offering accommodations during the hiring process, like providing questions in advance or allowing written responses. Including this offer as a statement on your Careers page will create an inviting atmosphere and perhaps encourage those who would benefit from accommodations to request them.
Incorporating practices that promote inclusivity and accessibility not only benefits individuals; it also enhances your organization as a whole. Engaging in a consistent reexamination of policies and procedures is a vital part of any organization’s DEIB journey – including our own here at Dix & Eaton. We encourage you to review your policies and practices, from your daily meetings to your hiring practices, and answer the following question: Are your practices equally inclusive and accessible to all audiences? By implementing practices such as the three we mentioned above, your organization will demonstrate that inclusion is an action, not just a concept.